Douglas Booth on that dirty black bag and working with Dominic Cooper

Inspired by class spaghetti westerns, the drama series That dirty black bag (available to stream on AMC+) is a brutal story about the clash between Arthur McCoy (Dominique Cooper) a sheriff who is not who he claims to be, and Red Bill (Douglas Booth), a bounty hunter known for keeping the decapitated heads of his victims in the bag he carries with him. In a city where the line between good guys and bad guys is not so well defined and where threats are ever-present, survival and revenge can get very dangerous and very violent.

During this one-on-one interview with Collider, Booth talked about the experience of spending time hanging upside down in the first episode, what makes Westerns so appealing, why the evolution of this character l wowed, the fun of working with co-star Cooper, the brutality of the old west, and her reaction to reading the script for the season finale.

Collider: I’m very curious what the experience was like, being chained up and tortured by Aidan Gillen. Was it a crazy experience to live?

DOUGLAS BOOTH: It was wild and it was the first thing I shot, which was intense. It started with the very practical thing of “Let’s hang Douglas upside down and see how long he can stay upside down”, which turned out to be about three minutes, but I don’t think that should be more than a minute. To be honest it was fine. I had a harness underneath. It made the whole game for me, really, because it was really uncomfortable. My eyes were bulging out of my head. It was fun. It was good. Although the place was absolutely disgusting. It was strewn with real maggots, so I was covered in real maggots and hung upside down. But Aidan is such a pleasure and dream to work with that I really enjoyed the experience of being suspended upside down, amazingly.

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So, the pain in your eyes was real?

BOOTH: It was. By the time you are down, your head appears to have tripled in size.

Did you have any idea how bad it was really going to be?

BOOTH: Sort of. When I first read the episode, I was hung upside down for the entire episode. And then the stunt coordinator said, “We might have to start him on the floor, tie him up, and then drop him a little bit.” Otherwise they would have had to shoot for a huge period of time or they would have killed me.

What was it like working on that character dynamic?

BOOTH: To be honest, once I was hanged, that’s what helped me the most. It was one of the easiest things to play on the show, I have to say. Aidan has always been a gentleman. I enjoyed the dynamics. I loved it when I tried to reach it, I just swayed. It was quite fun to play. I had never acted as a pendulum before, but I liked it.

A lot of actors talk about how they would like to do a western and not only did you do one, but you did a series and spent eight hours making one. What makes westerns so appealing to actors? Is this just the ultimate sense of childhood play?

BOOTH: Maybe it’s child’s play. Maybe it’s having been a fan of movies in the past. For my part, when I was a child, I loved horse riding. I rode a horse, and if my imagination could get carried away, that’s where I would go. Having a trusted steed on the road is just cool. There’s something about them that’s cool and fun, just to be outdoors. And we were very lucky, we were able to shoot in Italy, Spain and Morocco, so the trip wasn’t too bad either.

What was your experience working in these places?

BOOTH: We shot in Fort Bravo/Texas Hollywood and mini Hollywood, where we created our own sets and reused some sets. We mainly shot interiors there. And then, we wanted to go to Morocco because it gave this immensity and this dry landscape that was part of our story. We wanted it to have a post-apocalyptic feel.

Because not much is known about this guy initially, what was your first impression of this character when you first read him on the page?

BOOTH: In the fourth episode, you will learn more about the origin of Red Bill and McCoy. And then, in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth episodes, you will know more about their destination. For my part, it took me a while to understand what he was doing. It all came down very simply to it being about this boy who lost his mother and in the process he lost himself. He’s stuck in this purgatory where he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He thinks he wants revenge because he thinks it will bring him some kind of peace, but it won’t. He begins to wonder why this happened to him and why this happened to his mother. It is really about a boy who is completely lost. He wandered off and lost his soul, and how he will begin to find it.

It says a lot about a person’s place in life when their only companions are heads in a bag.

BOOTH: And his horse. It does. When you learn where he is from, his background, what happened after his mother died, and who raised him, you will have a little more insight. The writers wanted it that way. At first, I wanted to put more emotion, and they were like, “No, you can’t give anything.” It must really feel stripped of all that color and life. As the series progresses, you see him fall, and you see some life coming back to him.

It’s such an interesting story because as a viewer, you find yourself, at least initially, trying to figure out who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and if there really are any good guys. Is he the type of character who sees himself as the hero of his own story, or is he being honest enough with himself about who he really is?

BOOTH: He can’t look at himself for a moment. He’s so lost, and he’s stuck in such a rut. He actually goes from town to town, trying to find these wanted people. Anyone who walks around talking to a bunch of heads in a bag has lost touch with reality. My question has always been, if and when he finds the person who killed his mother, and if he manages to get revenge and kill that person, so what? Does he kill himself? What’s interesting is that everyone on this show is missing something in their lives. They are all looking for contentment. That’s what makes it a spaghetti western. They are not American heroes. It is a group of people who are discontented and who seek contentment.

It also makes the character dynamics really interesting because if you don’t know if someone is good or bad, then how do you interact with someone? What was it like exploring that dynamic with Dominic Cooper?

BOOTH: So much fun. I have known him for many years. His mother was my kindergarten teacher, so he is a very good friend of mine. We had a lot of fun with it. We played with it a lot and it’s something we struggled with while we were filming. This ambiguity is interesting. As the series progresses, these are two people whose destinies you find have aligned. Once they meet, they are on an accelerated trajectory between themselves, their past and their future. That’s the fun thing about what will be revealed in this series.

There’s a brutality to the Wild West that’s very apparent in this show as well. What is this hard reality to explore? How does that motivate the characters? How does this affect the characters? What kind of environment does that create on set?

BOOTH: It’s a show where there are no heroes and where the predators can become the prey. When you meet Red Bill at the start of the first episode, he’s really in one position, and at the very end of the first episode, he’s really in another position. What’s funny about the show is that it can change at any time. You can’t quite predict what will happen. It creates a fun dynamic where anything is possible, and it gives you freedom to play, as an actor.

What was your reaction to reading the final script of the season? When did you read this and how did you feel about learning what the end point would be?

BOOTH: My reaction was, “Wow, that’s fun.” He builds and builds and builds. The ending is surprising. It was surprising to me. I feel like this brings some clarity to Red Bill and will potentially send him in a more direct direction.

That dirty black bag is available to stream on AMC+.


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