FX’s pistol premieres on Hulu May 31, where it will unveil the legend of the Sex Pistols for a new generation. The series comes from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and screenwriter Craig Pearce (Moulin Rouge), and it’s been adapted from the memoir of Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. Though it is focused on Jones as he helps found the band and makes his way through the new world of punk rock, it naturally explores the fiery and chaotic lives and careers of all the band members.
But it was not just the Sex Pistols themselves who were loud, proud, and determined to succeed. The punk rock scene was full of iconoclasts looking to make a mark on society, several of them women who had to jump unimaginable hurdles to succeed. Among them were Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler), a founding member of The Pretenders; Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley), who created the Kings Road boutique SEX; and Pamela Rooke – AKA Jordan (Maisie Williams) – an icon in the world of punk.
Chandler, Riley and Williams spoke to Screen Rant about how they approached telling a fictionalized version of some very real women, and how their characters pushed the boundaries of the time period for the better.
Screen Rant: Maisie, your first scene is amazing and really bold. What did it feel like? Is there something freeing about the ability to play a character who just does not care and who’s always pushing boundaries? Does it get you to push past any fears as an actor?
Maisie Williams: Yeah, absolutely. I felt like my presence alone, whilst dressed as Jordan, was enough to make people forget what they were coming over to see or need to avert their eyes. And it’s not really a way that I’ve been greeted before, so it just was very interesting to see the way that you can dress and how that can affect the way that people communicate with you or approach you.
It’s such an incredible opening for Jordan. But this is what she did; she would ride the train, and they would take her into first class, because people would be so awful to her. People would be so confrontational and so angry with her, and they wanted to protect her, because she would ride the train every single day to go up to work. An incredible opening, but historically accurate. She was an incredible woman.
All three of you in your ways on the show push boundaries at a time that wasn’t always kind to women. Vivienne Westwood has such a great scene where she screams at Malcolm that she wants to burn the city to the ground. And even though Chrissie is a little bit more level-headed, she’s the one that looks around and keeps everything on an even keel. Do you find that after you two have played these characters, it has inspired you to do that in your own lives as well?
Talulah Riley: I do, yeah. I feel like the beauty of being able to play someone like Chrissie, being in the skin of a character who is really confident in herself – really has her own back, is there for herself and believes in herself; keeps pushing and keeps going – was really helpful for me. I like to think that I’ve been able to keep a piece of that with me.
That was a really nice thing to be able to kind of create and then inhabit and keep as well.
Sydney Chandler: I really admire Vivienne’s work ethic. You see her every day at home, she’s raising two children and she’s making all the products to sell in the shop and trying to make Malcolm McLaren’s vision a reality. But she’s the one doing all of the hard work, and all of the pressure falls on her.
But it’s her life, and she does it and makes it work. And I think that’s why it’s inspiring.
For all three of these characters, we see them as kind of frozen static images because they were a generation ago. Is there something that you feel is a little bit more meaningful about bringing these characters to life so they feel real?
Talulah Riley: We all acknowledge that we’re not going for historical accuracy, and we are story-telling to an extent. It’s a fictionalized version of what was occurring at the time, as it must be. Just because we’ve been discussing the weight of responsibility that comes with this – I’ve never played a person who exists in the real world before, so I don’t want to say this is definitively Vivienne Westwood or what she did.
Maisie Williams: It did feel like we would try to find the humanity in it all. We had a preconceived idea of so many of the characters and so many of the relationships, and we were telling something that was fictional. I think it was just trying to understand the decisions that we did know, and the things that we did witness, and understand what goes into that decision. How do you portray someone and give them their own thoughts and feelings and actions whilst also knitting in the parts of the story that we do know are accurate?
It’s just that searching that you do as an actor in any role, really.
Talulah Riley: And so much of it was there on the page with the writing as well. Which is so nice to just lean on as actors, because Craig’s done… [Laughs]
Sydney Chandler: Yeah, all of the characters were so developed on the page, and it just gives you so much to bite into. And then we had such a great research team for the show as well, so that was a really fun part of just diving in and learning.
Talulah Riley: And to your point, Vivienne Westwood now is a huge icon. But seeing the archive footage and seeing the origin story of her and the sex boutique? How she spoke then and was then, as opposed to the grandame that she is now, is fascinating.
Sydney Chandler: Yeah. It reminds you that they’re just humans.
Talulah Riley: And your point earlier; they were just kids, really. With the band and Chrissie.
Sydney Chandler: Yeah, they had no idea that they would make it; make anything. And they still kept going.
FX’s Pistol is a six-episode limited series about a rock and roll revolution, available exclusively on Hulu. The furious, raging storm at the center of this revolution are the Sex Pistols – and at the center of this series is Sex Pistols’ founding member and guitarist, Steve Jones. Jones’ hilarious, emotional and at times heart-breaking journey guides us through a kaleidoscopic telling of three of the most epic, chaotic and mucus-spattered years in the history of music.
Based on Jones’ memoir Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, this is the story of a band of spotty, noisy, working-class kids with “no future,” who shook the boring, corrupt Establishment to its core, threatened to bring down the government and changed music and culture forever.
Check back soon for the rest of our interviews with the cast and crew of pistol,
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FX’s pistol premieres Tuesday, May 31, 2022, exclusively on Hulu.
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