Spy Satire Slow Horses Debuts on Apple TV

Gary Oldman stars as a foul-mouthed, burnt-out MI5 agent leading a group of disgraced secret agents

Gary Oldman stars as a foul-mouthed, burnt-out MI5 agent leading a group of disgraced secret agents

Having inhabited characters as varied as Lee Harvey Oswald, Winston Churchill, Sid Vicious and Dracula in film roles, Gary Oldman is unquestionably an able onscreen chameleon. And he proves it again playing a crotchety MI5 agent in this espionage comedy for Apple TV+.

Based on a Mick Herron novel of the same name, the six-part Slow Horses finds the Oscar winner disappearing into the skin of Jackson Lamb, leader of a team of British intelligence agents at Slough House—a dumping ground of sorts for MI5 agents who have made career-ending mistakes. It’s a department where they’re expected to perform menial, paper-pushing tasks before they quit from sheer boredom.

Chief among them is Cartwright (Jack Lowden, Dunkirk), whose botched training mission that resulted in a high-profile embarrassment for the agency opens the series. Others in the talented ensemble cast include Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes).

As Lamb, Oldman brings to life an unkempt, slovenly, chain-smoking curmudgeon who is none-too-happy about being the leader of this department of screw-ups, which he refers to as “M.I. F***ing useless.” Graham Yost (Justified) is an executive producer of the series and considers the actor to be a case of truly inspired casting.

“You know, it’s one of the most fun characters ever written…,” Yost opines. “He is Jackson Lamb. Not in real life. He’s an actor; you know, he doesn’t pass gas and yell at people and swear and smoke. He’s a fun guy who tells great stories and just loves being Jackson Lamb. And Jack is great. Everyone in the show, seeing the cast come together and then seeing these scenes on the feed, it was just an incredible joy.”

Indeed, assembling a cast that includes Oldman and Oscar-nominees Thomas and Pryce for a TV series would have been unthinkable a decade ago. But in the era of peak TV, where the writing quality rivals that of film, such scenarios are becoming more and more commonplace.

“It’s sort of [a case of] is it TV anymore? Kind of. Or is it just filmed entertainment?” Yost muses. “So, I think it’s the changing landscape.”

Slow Horses debuts Friday, April 1st on Apple TV+