Daniel Ings, Kaya Scodelario, and Theo James sit on a black stage together.


The stars of The Gentlemen perfect Guy Ritchie’s explosive world.

12 June 20247 min read

For Guy Ritchie, the writer-director famed for such gleefully explosive hits as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, too much is often never enough. So maybe it’s not surprising that when he wrapped his 2019 feature The Gentlemen, Ritchie found himself ruminating about the film long afterward, wondering how he might revisit the story, a violent, drug-fueled romp set against the unlikely backdrop of elite British society. 

Then he had a creative revelation — a spin-off series of the same name set in the same world, with all new characters. “If anything, I had too much material to work with rather than too little,” Ritchie says. “There was such a deluge of characters and narratives in my head that squeezing them all in was always going to be the real problem.”

Filled with all of the director’s best-loved hallmarks, from fast-talking gangsters to rapid-fire editing, The Gentlemen sees straight-arrow army man Eddie Horniman (Theo James) called back to the English estate where he grew up to assume the title of Duke of Halstead after his aristocratic father’s demise. The position is freighted with responsibility: caring for the expansive grounds, the family fortune, and Eddie’s errant older brother Freddy (Daniel Ings) — not to mention placating Susie Glass (Kaya Scodelario) and her family of ne’er-do-wells, who run an underground cannabis enterprise on the property. 

Theo James wears brown pants, a white shirt, and gray blazer.

Theo James

Virtually overnight, Eddie finds himself torn between living up to his upper-crust inheritance and learning to navigate the labyrinthine pathways of the criminal underworld, and he proves to be a natural. Eddie’s discoveries make for a thrilling and hilarious journey that unfolds over eight kinetic episodes. For James, the British actor known for his starring turns in the acclaimed series The White Lotus and the Divergent film franchise, taking Eddie from military man to budding kingpin made for a truly enjoyable artistic challenge, as he was frequently called upon to toggle between action and comedy, sometimes in a single scene.

“The idea of man-versus-beast — and both forming part of a man’s nature — runs through The Gentlemen, and Eddie has strong elements of both,” James says. “He’s a good man, yet you can also believe that once he’s stepped into the dark side, he could easily remain there and become quite a dangerous person, which was fun and fascinating to play.”

Entering Guy Ritchie’s world was exciting for James, who saw Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as a teenager and was taken by Richie’s taste and style, which bleed into the work. On set, he was initiated into the director’s way of filming. “If you haven’t worked with him before, you read this [script] and you’re like, ‘Okay, but where’s this bit? Where’s that bit?’” James remembers. “And he’s like, ‘Nah, don’t worry about it. We’ll sort it out.’ So you have to take a leap of faith in that way. With comedy, the off-the-cuff nature of it really helps. It makes it more zingy, faster faster-paced. You can find things within the moment.”

Kaya Scodelario wears khakis and a red shirt.

Kaya Scodelario

Susie Glass actor Scodelario found Ritchie’s spontaneity to be well suited to crafting her character, the daughter of incarcerated drug lord Bobby Glass (Ray Winstone). “I like to be in the moment and react to all the surroundings, the costumes, the emotions, and the other actors,” she says, “and Guy’s style really lends itself to that.” 

Known for her work on Skins and in The Maze Runner, Scodelario brings smoldering sex appeal and deadpan attitude to Susie, a performance which has been recognized with a Gotham Award nomination. “That dry, dark humor and that sarcasm is something that we Brits do uniquely well and is probably why Guy grounds himself in British projects,” Scodelario says. “We all really loved being able to play into that absolute dryness — I know I did. I’ve never enjoyed getting to roll my eyes so much on camera.”

Upon meeting Scodelario, James immediately recognized she was the ideal person to play Eddie’s foil, inducting the newly minted duke into the seedy family business. “She has that great pithiness that was so perfect for the tone of the drama,” he says. “Really, she was born to play Susie Glass.” 

Daniel Ings wears jeans and a white shirt.

Daniel Ings

Eddie and Susie’s onscreen chemistry is palpable, if ultimately platonic, and their schemes and goals propel the series forward. The dynamic between the two characters grew organically from the unspoken connection Scodelario found with James upon first meeting. “The first time we met we were discussing our characters with Guy at a welcome drink,” says Scodelario. “We’d only just said hello, but without looking at [James], I handed him a glass of champagne. He said thanks and sipped it. We were already speaking without words, which was how we worked together through the show. It worked brilliantly.” 

The final ingredient to the cocktail of humor and intrigue, and the actor tasked with delivering the series’ most overtly comedic moments — including the one involving that chicken suit — was Daniel Ings (Lovesick, Sex Education). As the eldest Horniman sibling, passed over by his father as heir, Ings relished the opportunity to work with the sprawling ensemble cast and keep them laughing. “Everybody is super funny, great at ad-libbing and improvising, and just making things feel loose,” he says. “One of the fun things about [acting] is feeling comfortable enough to change things around, throw in little jokes here and there. Guy is super open to those contributions. He’ll always tell you when something’s just the wrong side of the line or just not quite far enough, when to push it and when to pull it back.”

In Freddy, Ings was given a character with deep-rooted insecurities that bubble up through eruptive histrionics. “He’s a man with no filter and he’s quite an extreme character,” says Ings, “which is super fun to play. He’s always pushing for more: more coke, more money, more status, more laughs. Underneath it all, though, he is a sensitive boy who never got the approval he sought from his father. And now he’s seeking that approval from his brother and trying to make his mark on the world.”

As brothers, James and Ings are quite the duo, effortlessly capturing the family dynamics. While the relationship between Eddie and Freddy is fraught with tension and condescension, the one between the actors was much more congenial. “Dan and I loved working together,” says James. “He’s very funny and happy to take risks, so we were able to improvise and cook stuff up and find things on our feet. There were some really pivotal scenes with Dan, and Guy was able to push the envelope with him into a darker space while maintaining comedy — a trademark of all his films. It’s funny, but it’s also pretty dark, and Dan achieved that balance perfectly.”

Daniel Ings, Kaya Scodelario, and Theo James look playful in this gif.

Daniel Ings, Kaya Scodelario, and Theo James

The Gentlemen required the entire ensemble cast to perfect the multiplicity of tones and genres expected from Ritchie’s films, a task James, Scodelario, Ings, and their co-stars mastered. “If you tip too much into drama, it becomes melodrama,” James explains. “If you tip too much into comedy, it becomes too farcical. And if you tip too much into action, it becomes a straight-up action film. The challenge was to maintain that tone throughout because it’s so specific. We worked really hard on threading all the needles, and I think we succeeded.”