The English’s Chaske Spencer the Return of the Western
Chaske Spencer wants people to talk. The actor, a member of the Fort Peck Tribe, knows that his new Amazon Prime Video/BBC series, “The English,” will get people talking. Written and directed by award-winning Hugo Blick, the Western drama is led by Spencer and Emily Blunt, who portray Pawnee ex-cavalry scout Eli Whipp and Englishwoman Lady Cornelia Locke, respectively. They come together in 1890 mid-America as they search for the new town of Hoxem, Wyo. They only recognize their differences not knowing their pasts are woven together.
What drew you to this story and to Eli?
I was excited and intrigued by the character of Eli and the story. What drew me to him was his past and who he was and just the weight of that — the weight of someone in transition, because when we meet Eli, he’s off to go home. He wants to go back home. I love the quote, ‘Sometimes you have to see a thing to let it go.’ I think that’s where he was going. I love the stillness of the character. I love the way Hugo Blick wrote it and I liked working with him to help me create that character and bring him to life.
How did you form your chemistry with Emily Blunt?
We didn’t meet until the audition. She’s a wonderful, wonderful woman and the chemistry just came about. We hung out and talked. We went to coffee a few times. What I love about being an actor is you get to meet some very interesting people and try to find things to relate to. We talked a lot about the work, the character, our families — things we can all relate to. She’s so easy to work with.
Some of these themes are very timely. Why does “The English” work as a series now?
What I love is it’s the birth of America — it’s a story within the story of America. There’s been some amazing things this country has done. There’s also been horrific things in this country, like any other country. It opens the conversation about that and where we’re at today. There are things that still haven’t changed. There’s still a lot of things we can work on. I think people who watch this will have a good time watching the adventure. I just think that people can relate to the struggles of what’s going on in the story.
How was it filming in Spain?
I’ve filmed a lot of Westerns and I was really blown away by the Spanish countryside and how it was captured on film. It could take place anywhere, which I loved. The challenge for any Western is the elements. It’s not so much the characters or the acting, it’s the dust flying in your face or the horse not wanting to be in the scene with you when you’re trying to deliver the monologue. Those are the challenges.
Why do you think the Western genre has made such a comeback?
Look at the world right now, we’re kind of in the wild West. There’s a lot of uncertainty going on, and I think people can relate to that. At the same time, you can tune into the show and drop out of reality for an hour or two.
What kind of roles are you interested in playing?
There’s a lot. “The English” is a pretty big role for me. As an actor, I just always see myself as a journeyman, a character actor who goes from gig to gig. As an artist, I’ve lived a pretty eccentric life, a pretty good life where I can put all those experiences into different characters in different roles that are not necessarily just Native Americans.
“The English” premieres on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, Nov. 11.