Toby Wallace on recreating the Sex Pistols for TV series, Pistol
Toby Wallace talks to us about playing guitarist Steve Jones in Sex Pistols series, Pistol.
In the new miniseries Pistol, directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) Steve Jones (Toby Wallace) and his friends form a band originally known as The Strand (and later The Swankers). They're not professionally trained, they don't know many chords, and almost all of their equipment is stolen — but from these humble beginnings, the band gradually evolves into the Sex Pistols and changes the face of British music.
The six-part TV show is based on Steve Jones' (and Chrissie Hynde's) autobiography Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol. It follows the group, after a chance meeting with impresario Malcolm McLaren (played by Game Of Thrones star Thomas Brodie-Sangster) allows them to unleash their true potential and become a voice for their generation.
Here Toby reveals what it was like to play a Pistol...
Toby Wallace on playing Steve Jones
"I felt quite blessed because obviously the script is based off Steve Jones' autobiography, so I always had the book as a guide for everything — especially towards his relationship with Malcolm. He talks a lot about their kinship together and how similar they were. I remember at one point him saying that Malcolm came from a very similar kind of childhood as him. They both had broken families and were both from a kind of broken world and they were seeking some sort of way to express their past."
"I also got to meet and hang out with the real Steve quite a bit [...] I think at the heart of him and at the heart of our story, was this traumatic experience that he had gone through, that birthed a type of anger that I think he shares with Malcolm and out of that anger was birthed the Pistols."
What was it about the Sex Pistols' music that appealed to you when you first heard it?
"For me — and it's something that Steve says in the TV show as well — it's the simplicity behind the music. The music always felt to me like a really raw expression of a class that was underserved and underrepresented. They expressed it in their own way, from the streets — that's what everybody related to. They didn't try to overcomplicate it or make it this big, showboating, performance-type thing, it felt very truthful."
What was it like filming the gig scenes in the show?
"It was very planned and careful chaos, but chaos nonetheless! There was loads of improvisation going on all the time, I was confused, I didn't know where we were. We did two months of band camp where we all worked with Rick [Smith] and Karl [Hyde], who are part of the band Underworld — they basically taught us how to be the Sex Pistols. We got pretty tight by the end of it, we were a full-on band."
"The gigs that we played in the TV show were crazy because we'd play at all these actual venues. We'd get 100 extras in, and Danny [Boyle, director and executive producer] would do these speeches beforehand to rile them all up. They would go crazy, they loved it, and I think, for me anyway, every show we did was kind of guided by how far the extras would take it. They were the guiding force behind every single one of those shows that we did."
- Pistol launches May 31 on Hulu in the US and on Disney Plus in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore
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Steven Perkins is a Staff Writer for TV & Satellite Week, TV Times, What's On TV and whattowatch.com, who has been writing about TV professionally since 2008. He was previously the TV Editor for Inside Soap before taking up his current role in 2020. He loves everything from gritty dramas to docusoaps about airports and thinks about the Eurovision Song Contest all year round.