‘Slow Horses’ Stars Introduce Jackson Lamb & the Agents of Slough House

Gary Oldman and Jack Lowden in Slow Horses
Apple TV+

They’re the British intelligence agents who don’t quite have the stuff to be part of the big leagues. But if we’re honest, that’s probably where the most fun is for a TV show, right?

That’s the story of Apple TV+’s new espionage drama, Slow Horses (based on Mick Herron’s books), following those who serve in MI5’s dumping ground department (Slough House) after making career-ending mistakes. (You’ll have to wait to find out the specifics for each of the characters.) Jackson Lamb leads them, and according to Gary Oldman, “I do enjoy being there because I am my own boss and I can torture all these people that get dumped on me.” While they may be “dumped” on him, he does think that Jackson has a say in who joins.

Gary Oldman in Slow Horses

Apple TV+

So what does that mean for Slough House’s newest member, River Cartwright? He’s “at the top of the game when we first meet him, and then he’s stuck in this place,” says Jack Lowden of his character. “He went ‘definitely send him to me because I’m gonna ride him very hard,'” Oldman adds. Jackson does see the “potential” in the young agent, he admits. “I think he likes him in spite of himself. He despises the grandfather [a retired MI5 agent played by Jonathan Pryce] and that irks him because there’s all that baggage and all that history that comes with him.”

As Oldman sees it, there’s a bit of “tough love” for Jackson with River: “If he cracks, I want to see him crack, and he doesn’t bend. I have a small amount of respect for that.” And “spite” plays a role in that as well, according to Lowden. “He sulks quite a lot, but he never quite throws the towel in and I probably think he starts to do that just to spite Jackson Lamb.”

River “loathes everyone,” especially Jackson, Lowden continues. It’s a case of “never meet your heroes” because he’s “enormously disappointed” by the “legend of the service.” As for being at Slough House and the rest of the team, “he absolutely does not enjoy any of it. He thinks everybody’s an idiot that’s there.” The others likely feel the same way about him, as Lowden calls his character “the whipping boy” for Slough House. “Everyone takes the piss out of River.”

Olivia Cooke and Jack Lowden in Slow Horses

Apple TV+

River does like fellow agent Sid Baker (Olivia Cooke), “but even then he doesn’t show it,” Lowden admits. But how does Sid feel about him? “It’s quite hard to really trust anyone completely. You have to be somewhat reserved and keep some cards close to your trust,” Cooke explains. “But she trusts River to an extent. I think she knows he’s not telling her everything, but then in turn she could probably get that information out of him quite easily and he probably trust her quite a lot as well.”

As for Catherine Standish, “I don’t know if she trusts anyone as a friend,” Saskia Reeves says. “But as a professional, River, Sid, and Jackson.” She also came up with her own backstory that Catherine is “a bit nervous of Louisa [Rosalind Eleazar].”

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The offbeat spy drama stars Gary Oldman as the cantankerous head of Slough House, a dumping ground for disgraced British agents who refuse to be put out to pasture.

Cooke says that being at Slough House “becomes a bit of Stockholm Syndrome at a certain point [for the team], where you’ve been there for so long that you don’t really know anything else.” But for Catherine, that’s a good thing. “I think she’s very grateful for the work,” Reeves shares. “Otherwise I think existence would be even harder even though she has to put up with someone like Jackson Lamb. I think she’s just grateful to have a job, but she’s so full of shame that she’s just glad that she hasn’t been left on the scrap heap. But it’s not pleasant.”

Slow Horses, Series Premiere, Friday, April 1, Apple TV+