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“I’m not a massive Spaghetti Western fan,” begins pop culture fave Dominic Cooper (Preacher and the MCU’s young Howard Stark) promoting his new series, Spaghetti Western offering That Dirty Black Bag.
“I didn’t want to jump on horseback and don a sheriff badge – that was not my thing as a kid,” he confesses.
So, how did the English actor find himself filming in harsh desert locations, portraying incorruptible sheriff Arthur McCoy in the AMC series?
It was longtime friend, actor Douglas Booth, who plays the menacing, solitary bounty hunter Red Bill in the series, whose passion for the genre eventually rubbed off on Cooper. And so, the two became on-screen enemies, the series telling the story of an eight-day clash between their characters.
Cooper offers that his first impression of the script was that it was “weird” and that he found it “quite hard to follow everything that was going on it”.
“But… I read it and I couldn’t help but turn the page,” he adds, “why does [McCoy], after finding today’s equivalent of 50 million [dollars], go and chase a bloke who’s got some smelly old heads in a bag, who stole his horse? Why doesn’t he just get out of there?
“And this is a really good indication, it’s really simple, but do you want to keep reading it, and do you want to see what happens? Really simple. More often than not, you don’t, but you still persuade yourself to do the job anyway, for some reason. You’re like, ‘No, but I bet when they film it will be interesting.’”
Arthur McCoy isn’t someone you’re meant to like, but he’s a complex character who, despite being irredeemable in many ways, is still somewhat likeable (probably thanks to Cooper’s charm). Cooper describes him as “an interesting weirdo”. In episode one, he does something there’s no coming back from. McCoy and the other characters in the story, brought to life via Travis Fimmel (Vikings) and Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) and more, blur the lines between right and wrong.
“In that world, they’re all surviving, and they’re all pretty disgusting,” Cooper comments. “And maybe the idea of the hero, maybe it’s much truer to [real]life that everyone’s just out for themselves and they want what will help them and their family – mainly them – succeed. What is success?
“McCoy only wants to find [Red Bill] and hang him in front of an audience to prove his strength. But that’s not far from what many people are doing in the world now. So, it does bring up an interesting question. Maybe the idea of the hero in that storyline is old and too obvious. But there’s a reason for it, in film and TV, because we like it as an audience, and we want to know who our hero is. But there certainly aren’t any in [That Dirty Black Bag], from what I can gather.”
Perhaps those blurred lines are what separates That Dirty Black Bag from others in the genre that have come before it. “Yeah,” Cooper agrees, “there’s [usually] a clarity on who you’re meant to be following – good guy, bad guy.”
That Dirty Black Bag is now available exclusively via the AMC+ streaming bundle.