Emily Blunt talks shooting action scenes in a corset in ‘The English’
Emily Blunt has danced through London, sung her path through the woods, and given up during an alien invasion. Nothing is more satisfying than having to perform an action scene in a corset. This was a common occurrence on her new Prime The English.
“It’s so horrible,” she exclaims. It’s so terrible, especially since we shot in Spain in summer when it was so hot. The corset was like an oven for my organs. There was no breathing room. ”
The Western drama from creator Hugo Blick (The Honourable Woman) stars Blunt as Lady Cornelia Locke, an aristocratic English woman who teams up with a Pawnee ex-cavalry scout, Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer) to cross the violent landscape of the American West in 1890.
As they travel closer to Hoxem in Wyoming, they encounter increasingly terrifying obstacles as they try to uncover their intertwined past. Cornelia and Eli are brought face to face with their pasts and futures by a local sheriff Robert Marshall (Stephen Rea), and Martha Myers (Valerie Pachner).
Blunt makes her debut on the project as a producer. It hits Prime Video in November. 11.
Blunt spoke to us about why now was the right time to produce, why she loves Westerns and why Cornelia Locke is her favorite role.
The English Emily Blunt as Lady Cornelia Locke and Chaske Spencer as Eli Whipp
Credit: Diego Lopez Calvin/Drama Republic/BBC/Amazon Studios
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You have done so many different genres and types of stories. This is your first Western. What made you decide to play in this space?
EMILY BLUNT: I’ve always really loved the Western. It’s a mythic story space so you can escape from a strict reality in some ways. It’s possible to do something very elevated, and it’s a place that is built on power, identity and brutality. It’s a mythic world, and I was always excited about the possibility of playing in that. This gave me a multitude of reasons to do it. It was beautiful when I read it. It was so piercing. It was a thriller-like read.
I would say Cornelia is not quite what we have seen before from women in this genre. Did that appeal to you about Cornelia?
Very much. She was quite surprising to me. She isn’t the damsel tied down to a tree. Because she arrives looking like the feminine ideal, it’s clear that she’s curious. She seems to be in an impossible situation. She has a spark of vengeance that runs through her and she travels to the West to exact revenge on the man she believes is responsible for her son’s death. She is far more resourceful and capable than anyone could have imagined in survival matters. This is what I adored most about her. Despite her loss, she is resilient, buoyant, positive, and lives with no fear. As we go along, we discover why. I love characters with a secret.
You’re also producing for the first time. This was part of the package you received? Did you fall in love with the story enough to accept that role?
For a while now I feel like I’ve been playing that role and maybe not asking for the credit. Creatively, I take great pleasure in developing projects and putting my stamp on as many of the things I’m responsible for. I love the process of developing stuff. Post production is my favorite part. All of it is my favorite part. I have never asked for this role before. This opportunity presented itself as a pilot and I signed up as a pilot. It seemed like I was going along for the ride, even in its earliest stages. Hugo Blick is the one I’ll credit — he doesn’t really need notes because his scripts are so exceptional. I have never had so many notes on anything I did in the development of it. I felt a great responsibility in making it happen. This project is the one that I feel closest to. This project is something I am proud of and have been so involved with. I can’t wait to see it come out.
Would you say it’s the closest because of that producer involvement, or is there something about Cornelia that made you feel that way?
It’s all of it. It’s difficult to describe the experience, it was so beautiful. This is my first time doing long-form storytelling in the wild. I felt like I spent more time with this character and the project than any other projects. It stayed with me for so many years, and it still feels like a part now.
I know you’ve done plenty of action scenes before but were there things that you had to train for or prep differently for this, whether it was handling the rifle or something else?
The rifles and stuff, I was more familiar with that sort of thing. Everyone thinks they can ride a horse, but then you realize that you can’t. The horse tells you that you are the worst rider in all of the land. I trained because it was all I could do during COVID. We were delayed, pushed, and pushed. I rode horses for months every week. It was the best. It was like an escape from the inside world. It was the first time I rode out and it was the best part in my training. I learned how to ride and not just hold on for dear.
Were there either real women from the historical West or characters from other Westerns that shaped or influenced your portrayal?
Not particularly, to be honest. Hugo recommended that I read books about the period. The script was so real to me, and it kind of kidnapped me, that I didn’t want to base her on any other historical figure or another character from another movie. This show is different than other Westerns. It doesn’t feel outdated, or only one note or tone. It is very modern. So, I approached her in a very modern way. It just so happened that she was wearing a corset or a bonnet for some parts of it.
Can you elaborate a bit more on the relationship between Cornelia and Eli? Is it a relationship between two souls who recognize something? Or is it something born of survival?
It’s a bit of both. You have actually captured the essence of the story. She says at the beginning that it was “in the stars” and that we believed in them. They found each other unexpectedly, like two comets. They find that their only concern is that they survived. It’s a tough task for them to survive and they need each other to do it. They do share a deeply romantic love story. It’s an epic love story between these two people. She is an English woman. He is a Native American. Both have suffered great loss. They have much to learn from one another.
It’s also still rare to see a Western that gives us this Native perspective and actually has Indigenous actors in the roles. How important was this to you as a producer?
It was vital to us to find our Eli. This is the first time in film and television history that a Native American character is basically Paul Newman. He is just Native American. Chaske was excited and encouraged to play this role. I believe Native Americans can be restricted to certain identities that aren’t fair. It’s not liberating and it’s also not expansive. It doesn’t matter what these characters do, it just matters that they survive. They need each other to do this. He is the bright light that will get her to where she needs to go, and she sees him as the most kind man she has ever met.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.