‘The Outlaws’: Stephen Merchant Explains How Street Artist Banksy Got Involved
[Warning: The below contains mild spoilers for The Outlaws‘ first season.]
Seven troubled souls of varying ages, races, and backgrounds pay for their misdeeds with community service sentences in The Outlaws, a new series that’s part dark comedy and part heist thriller. “I very much like shows that juggle different tones,” explains cocreator and star Stephen Merchant. “Sort of like The Sopranos, which I think is very funny as well as being dramatic.”
Among the motley crew: geeky lawyer Greg (Merchant) and veteran thief Frank (Christopher Walken). The connections they forge while cleaning up a run-down building in Bristol, England, could change their lives for the better — or push them further off course.
Merchant thought Walken would bring a nice blend of charm and menace to the show’s American character and secured the Oscar winner during a visit to his home. “He had lots of smart questions and he made me an omelet,” Merchant recalls. “So if nothing else had come of it, I could tell people that I had an omelet made by the star of The Deer Hunter.”
Another famous name got involved behind the scenes. Street artist Banksy put one of the rats he’s known for on the building the group was sprucing up, although you don’t see it until the final scene of the last episode.
“We thought it would be remiss of us not to see if we could get Banksy involved, partly because Bristol’s renowned for its graffiti art,” says Merchant. He never saw the artist — the rat was just there one morning when he came to work.
The piece was hidden for a couple of months, until it was time to shoot the scene. That morning, Merchant says, “I had to go and explain to Chris, ‘Hey, Mr. Walken, do you mind painting over a Banksy?’”
And fortunately, the first take was successful. “We only had one chance to get it right, so it was very nerve-wracking,” adds Merchant, who also directed the episode. “But it worked.”
He hopes the second season will too. When the pandemic initially interrupted filming after 10 days, Merchant wrote a second season that was shot back-to-back with the first. Criminally good news.
The Outlaws, Season 1 Premiere, Friday, April 1, Prime Video