If you like dramas packed with violence, intriguing characters and thrilling action scenes, a new Sky show should be next on your list to binge-watch.

Gangs of London - a nine-part series - is the brainchild of Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans and his creative partner, cinematographer Matt Flannery (they previously worked together on award-winning film The Raid).

The stellar cast (Joe Cole, David Bradley, Michelle Fairley, Emmett J Scanlan, to name a few) takes us on an immersive journey into the capital, which is being torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of the international gangs that control it.

Here, Londoner Cole, 31 - best known for Peaky Blinders - tells us all about his leading role.


As the series begins, we discover Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney) - the head of London’s most powerful crime family - has been assassinated.

The problem is, no-one knows who ordered the hit, and so it’s up to his son Sean (played by Cole) to find out - as well as take his father’s place when it comes to business, causing ripples in the world of international crime.

Willing to help Sean is ally Elliot Finch [Sope Dirsu], who has a mysterious interest in the Wallace family. Until now, he’s been one of life’s losers, a lowlife chancer.

Then he finds himself transported to the inner workings of the largest criminal organisation in London and discovers there are more shadowy, higher powers than the Wallaces at play ...


Impulsive Sean is a dominant character who really commands the room - something Cole “really relished”.

“They’ve written such a well-rounded character,” notes the charismatic actor, who’s also starred in shows Skins and Black Mirror, and films Offender and A Prayer Before Dawn.

“When I receive scripts, I read the whole thing out loud, and I really get a sense of who I’m playing, just from my voice and my tonality. And with Gangs of London, because it’s so well written, it came to me very quickly.”

He adds thoughtfully: “There’s a rhythm to this guy, there’s an urgency to this guy. He’s always on the front foot. He’s the Tyson Fury in the ring. He’s not letting anybody come back at him, and that’s how I wanted to play it, with the rhythms.

“It was almost like a play in that sort of way. There’s a flow to the writing and I thought it was important to try and capture that.”


After four years playing John Shelby in BBC hit Peaky Blinders (which his younger brother, Finn Cole, also stars in), Cole says: “I’ve spent the last few years turning down gang-related shows, because when a show does well, you get offered a lot of them.”

“I actually asked to leave Peaky Blinders because I wanted to explore new avenues and new characters and new stories,” he continues.

“When I received this, initially I read the title, Gangs of London, I thought, ‘No’. I thought I knew what it was going to be.

“I spoke to my agent, saw that Gareth Evans was attached, read the first episode and a synopsis and I was like, ‘This could be something special’. It really excited me.”

He’s discovered it’s a unique show, in lots of ways. For instance, the cast spent an entire day talking with the writers about the plot (they were even given a family tree as part of the preparation) and Cole comments: “I’ve never been in a room on a project where you’re getting that sort of depth.”

Another difference is that Peaky Blinders is “a writer-led show” (it was created by Brummie Steven Knight) while Gangs of London “is a director/writer-led show”.

“It’s not just coming from dialogue and character, it’s coming from this real artistic, creative place,” he adds. “It’s incredibly visceral and it’s not been done before.”


Cole muses he never “really got out the gates” in Peaky Blinders (which stars Cillian Murphy as gang leader Tommy Shelby).

“It’s Cillian’s show, really, you know,” he elaborates.

“This show is more ensemble, it’s following more characters on a deeper level. So, for me, it’s an opportunity to really show a bit more of what I can do.”

The star says he’s put any reservations about being typecast aside.

“I remember when I first started acting, people are like, ‘You’re playing this one role, you’re in a box’, and I’m like, ‘OK, well, I’ll be in a box and then I’ll play a northern version, and then I’ll play an American version, and then I’ll play a posh version’ - and then pretty soon, the box is gone.”

While he’s “very comfortable in his range and ability to do different things”, the crime drama genre is “the most interesting, the most exciting stuff” in Cole’s eyes.

“I grew up on gang shows,” he says. “The Wire was my favourite show. Boardwalk Empire was another one. The Sopranos... they are, for me, the seminal pieces of television.

“They’re also American; Peaky Blinders is doing it in the UK now and I think Gangs of London is another one that is going to move the conversation forward.

“I just feel very, very lucky to be a part of it.”

n Gangs of London launches on Sky Atlantic on Thursday, April 23.