Douglas Booth Shares Special Connections With That Dirty Black Bag's Cast - Exclusive Interview

Whether fans loved Douglas Booth in the film adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" or shipped the actor with his leading lady Hailee Steinfeld in "Romeo and Juliet," the actor has clearly mastered the art of playing the classic leading man. Booth's roles have alternated between modern characters in films like "LOL" opposite Miley Cyrus and working with Elle Fanning on the classic tale "Mary Shelley." Now, Booth has moved with the new Hollywood movement toward the Western genre, starring as Red Bill in the new AMC+ series "That Dirty Black Bag." 

In an exclusive interview with The List, Douglas Booth shared some of his favorite parts of working on the new series. A longtime fan of the Spaghetti Western, Booth was more than ready to ride horses and work with the show's all-star cast, which includes "Mamma Mia" alum Dominic Cooper. Though the AMC+ series only has its first season streaming, Booth has plenty of hopes for his character in a potential Season 2. 

He got to show off more than one talent on set

I wanted to know, first off, if you were a fan of Westerns before you heard about this role, and what kind of research went into the genre for you?

I very much enjoy Westerns and Spaghetti Westerns and Spaghetti Western influence across cinema. Tarantino's one of my favorite filmmakers, and you can see a little bit of his work [in this one]. I love to ride [horses]. Growing up, I started riding when I was five years old. Anything that had horses, I was obsessed with, so naturally, I gravitated toward Westerns. 

When this came through the letter box ... Things don't come through letter boxes anymore. Things come through email. When this script came on my email, I loved it. I loved the story. I loved the character. I loved the tension and these characters where you couldn't really tell who was good or bad, and they were all flawed and there were no heroes. I found it interesting.

Research-wise, I watched some Westerns for it, but it wasn't really [at] the top of my list. I wanted to focus on the character, and all that definitely pays homage to Spaghetti Westerns, but that was more in the director and the director of photography. That was more their job, the referencing with shots and stuff like that. I was staying in my world because I can't play Spaghetti Western really? I play the character.

I was going to ask about horseback riding, but you are already super familiar with it, so it was easy. Were you the most experienced rider on set besides the trainer?

Yes. Guido [Caprino], who played Bronson, he owns a bunch of horses, so I'll give that title to him because I don't own horses. He's very experienced with riding, but ... I definitely had ridden the longest. Dom was pretty good on a horse, too.

There's more to his character than meets the eye

I wanted to know what drew you to your character in the series, and since you're familiar with Westerns, if you see reflection of your character in any characters you admire.

The way I started was quite a simple way. He's gone through some trauma. He lost his mother, and I'm very close with my mother. I'm a bit of a mother's boy. When I was a kid, I remember I used to have recurring nightmares about losing her, so I remember I always had that fear as a kid about what it would be like to lose your mum. 

This is a young boy. The young actor, who plays young me in the show, was so cute. For him, to deal with that trauma, what it does — and people deal with grief and trauma in different ways — clearly, Red Bill does not deal with it in a particularly good way because when you find him, he is not particularly in the happiest of places. It was really finding out what happened between his mother's death and when we first meet him in the story, and what took him to that dark place. It was exploring that and then running with it in the show.

It's interesting because then, as the series progresses, you start to learn a bit more about him, and he softens up. You see the softer side of him. I love in Episode 6 when he goes into the Red Lantern and plays the piano. That tells you a lot about his character ... I don't think the audience would expect him to decide to sit down and play some Chopin, which I thought was a nice thing and surprising, and I liked that about him.

A complex character for sure. I wanted to know what kind of response you've had since the series came out, since Westerns seemed to be making a huge box office comeback on TV and in film.

Most of my family and friends live in the UK, and it hasn't come out in the UK yet, so I'm waiting for a lot of them to see it, but the response has been really good from all my American friends who have seen it and the people online. It seems [that] people really like it and seem to think it's strong, and it's weird, and it's violent, and it's committed. I personally think it's beautifully shot and a beautiful homage to Spaghetti Westerns. The Wall Street Journal that said it has a "mother lode of insanity" in it. If I read that, I'd watch it.

Douglas Booth and Dominic Cooper have a surprising connection

How do you see Red Bill moving forward in a potential Season 2 for the series?

Ultimately for his sake, I'd like to see him find some peace. He's probably going to get very angry first. He's got some scores to settle. In the first season, you get glimpses of what he can do physically with a weapon in his hand. It's quite satisfying when that happens, so I'd really like ... I can't wait to see him fully square up with these baddies, for want of a better word, but these people that are doing very bad things, these twisted folk that are abusing people left, right, and center.

That does sound very exciting. Speaking of people you square up against, what was it like working with Dominic Cooper?

It was great. Dominic and I have been friends for a long time. His mother was my nursery school teacher — yes, I know, very random. Julie Cooper. I've known her actually for longer than Dom, so when we actually met [about] 12 years ago, we bonded over that, and we've been great friends ever since. That was part of what drew me towards making this job. He was on it. We have great chemistry together. We know how to wind each other up. We have a lot of fun together. I thought these characters were perfect for us to play opposite each other.

Well, it definitely shows. There's a lot of onscreen chemistry between you guys, for sure. 

Douglas Booth is looking forward to his next project

For fans who have seen you in more film roles, are there any upcoming projects they should look out for or characters you're excited to bring to life?

In a couple of weeks, I'm headed back to Italy, back to Puglia, to work with Michael Winterbottom, who is a fantastic filmmaker. I'm very excited about that. It's set in Palestine in the 1930s. I'm playing a British Palestinian police officer. It's a really interesting story, and Michael has a really interesting and specific way of working. He's definitely one of the great British auteur directors, so I'm very excited about doing that.

[I'm also working with] Harry Melling, who is one of my oldest friends. When I first auditioned for junior drama school, like Junior Guildhall, when I was like 13, he was in my audition. It's quite funny, the full circle. We're both going to be playing the leads opposite each other in this Michael Winterbottom film. That's quite special.

Are you going to take any lessons from playing Red Bill into this future character?

They're pretty different people, but I know my character, Tom Wilkins, has a bit of a mystery in his past, so that's something they have [that's] similar. He doesn't really talk about his past, and you don't really know quite where he came from exactly in our story, so that's a crossover, but that's mainly as far as it goes. I like to switch it up and play very different things, one after the other, so he'll be quite a different character you'll get to see.

All episodes of "That Dirty Black Bag" Season 1 are currently streaming on AMC+.

This interview has been edited for clarity.