Emily Blunt is westward-bound.
The actress will next star in Amazon Studios and BBC’s The English, an “epic chase Western” that follows an aristocratic Englishwoman, Lady Cornelia Locke (Blunt), and a Pawnee ex-cavalry scout, Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer) as they come together on a dangerous journey in 1890 America. Written and directed by The Honourable Woman’s Hugo Blick, all six episodes of the series will premiere on Prime Video in the U.S. in November.
Over the last two decades, Blunt has appeared mostly in films (including notable hits like A Quiet Place and The Devil Wears Prada), but she was “compelled irresistibly” to The English, which she also executive produces.
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“It had me in its grip from the first page turn,” she tells ELLE.com via email. “I was sort of powerless; I think that’s how I remember feeling when I read that first episode! Achingly beautiful yet propulsive and surprising.”
Here’s how Blunt views the project: “This is a journey of a quest for vengeance and yet it is a love story. An epic love story between two characters, an Englishwoman and a Native American warrior, both have suffered terrible loss and who come into each other’s lives unexpectedly like a couple of comets meeting, and together, they find that all that matters to them now is that they survive. And it’s such a gauntlet that they need to survive! And each needs the other to do that. It totally swept me away. It has the pace of a chase thriller and yet at its core is deeply tender.”
Spencer was also moved. He says that he was inspired most by Cornelia and Eli’s journey, “and their incredible connection while traveling in a brutal new world.”
You might recognize Spencer from The Twilight Saga (he played Sam Uley), the Cinemax series Banshee, or the 2021 acclaimed indie film Wild Indian. You’ll probably see more of him when he appears in Disney+’s Marvel series Echo, but until then, he’s embodying The English’s Eli, “a tortured soul who is looking for answers and possibly even redemption,” he tells ELLE.com.
Blunt’s Cornelia Locke completes their unlikely pair. She “arrives like a complete fish out of water into what feels like Alice in the Wild, Wild West,” the actress explains. “And surprisingly, she’s seeking a blood revenge for the death of her son. At the beginning she’s spirited and buoyant, however ill prepared she is for the violent journey ahead. But along the way, and with the help of Eli Whipp at her side, she goes through an awakening. I admired her guts and the empathy that reigns supreme in her, even after suffering the loss of a child in a way that stops the heart. She seems to live fearlessly and love fearlessly. And yet being the mystery that she is, possesses this fevered intent on revenge, and in doing so, she sees this as reclaiming her identity.”
The destination of Cornelia and Eli’s trying voyage is Hoxem, Wyoming. But when they arrive, an investigation led by the local sheriff, Robert Marshall (Stephen Rea), and a young widow, Martha Myers (Valerie Pachner), unveils a string of bizarre unsolved murders that prove Eli and Cornelia have a shared past. Ciarán Hinds, Rafe Spall, Tom Hughes, and Toby Jones round out the ensemble.
The synopsis promises that The English will “tell a uniquely compelling parable on race, power, and love.” According to writer and director Hugo Blick, “At its best, the Western allows us to escape the reality of who we are and how we live today. Something about its huge landscapes, mythic heroes and villains, and the epic violence and love they pursue speaks directly to our souls. It’s certainly why we made this one, and why we hope you’ll watch.”
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.