Slow Horses Break Down stars bring natural comedy to spy thriller
slow horses offers a uniquely sardonic take on the spy thriller. The Apple TV+ series, starring Gary Oldman and adapting the book series of the same name by Mick Herron, focuses on MI-5 agents assigned to Slough House. Effectively a house of detention for agents who have humiliated themselves on assignments, the group find themselves in an unlikely race to preserve their existence when they are embroiled in a potentially embarrassing nationwide incident. Some of the show’s best moments come courtesy of Dustin Demri-Burns and Rosalind Eleazar, who play unlikely partners Min and Louisa as they do their best to help the mission.
Following the season finale of slow horses, streaming now on Apple TV+, CBR sat down for an exclusive interview with Dustin Demri-Burns and Rosalind Eleazar. The pair opened up about their partnership in the spy/comedy thriller and the important trick to balancing comedy and drama on the show.
CBR: Much of what makes comedy in slow horses work is otherwise serious tone. It is indeed a pure spy thriller, just punctuated with clumsiness and idiocy. As performers, how do you approach a project like this – do you overtly lean more into the comedic elements or do you play it completely straight?
Dustin Demri Burns: It’s a good question.
Rosalind Eleazar: What appealed to me was that I couldn’t really place it in a genre. It wasn’t quite a spy story, and it wasn’t a comedy. There was a bit of both. I felt like most people…it sounds really frenetic, but just played for what it is. The truth is, if anything, I’d probably lean towards more drama and then the comedy comes out because the lines… Will Smith is a brilliant writer. Only the lines are funny, so you don’t need to… you don’t really need to do much more than that. I think if our intentions as actors/characters are good, then the comedy bounces off the surface nicely.
Demri Burns: Totally. It was kind of like, “What’s the tone of that?” reading the books, but because it’s its own thing… That’s what makes it a hit book series, and then hopefully a hit TV show. You like to say it’s serious, you play it for what it is, and you play. The truth is that even if you do great and broad comedy, sometimes, depending on the character, you still serve comedy. Comedy is a fun situation, and there’s still some truth to that. So it’s tricky because sometimes you’re tempted to [play up the comedy]. You just have to play it for what it is, and in that, in this world, I guess you’re probably leaning slightly to that side of caution.
Eleazar: I don’t think this show would work if we were doing it for comedy because then the stakes are removed. So I feel like everyone played it seriously.
Demri Burns: If a character is having fun, if it’s written that the character is having fun at that moment or trying to be funny, then you inhabit that and you start having fun… If a situation is very funny, but the character is in a dark place, then you have to play it dark. That’s what’s going to be funny is that it’s this contrast.
What do you think surprised you the most about Min and Louisa during those first six episodes that you might not have expected when you first signed on to the show?
Eleazar: I mean, to me — that’ll be a nice compliment to [Dustin]. I think what surprised me was that our off-screen relationship mirrors in some ways [our relationship] on screen… Yeah, that’s pretty much what we are in real life with each other. So I think for me it was a very good surprise that it was very easy for us to fall into that kind of cute friendship there.
Demri Burns: It is very natural to perform it. Yeah. It didn’t look… Yeah, sure. That’s a good answer.
Eleazar: It will steal that answer and use it later.
Demri Burns: Definitively.
Catch Slow Horses, streaming now on Apple TV+.
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