The short and sweet and sour history of the 1970s British punk band the Sex Pistols is told in a six-part limited series—the FX on Hulu show is appropriately titled Pistol—based on lead guitarist Steve Jones’ book, Lonely Boy. (Jones is played by Toby Wallace.) The working-class kids with rebellious lyrics, ripped clothes and permanent sneers rocked the establishment and gave aimless youth new role models for questioning authority. But their personal lives were in turmoil—as the cast told TV Insider.
Take Pistols guitarist Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge) and his American girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Emma Appleton), whose doomed romance was covered in the 1986 film Sid and Nancy. Here, it’s woven into the bigger story of the band. “She had that same hell for leather, all-or-nothing attitude, so they egged each other on,” Partridge says.
The Pistols hung out at a King’s Road London boutique called SEX, run by designer Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley), whose bondage styles became emblematic of the norm-challenging punk movement. The shop served as their sometime workplace and sometime crash pad. It also offered a home to the young singer Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler). The punkiest of punk fashionistas was Clerk Jordan (Maisie Williams). “She came from a place of turning the male gaze in on itself, and it was confrontational the way she dressed,” Williams says. “It was a power move.”
Some shows turned into all-out brawls thanks to the contagious feral energy of lead singer Johnny Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten (Anson Boon). Like many fans at the time, “I became obsessed with him!” Boon says. Keeping things from going totally haywire: drummer Paul Cook (Jacob Slater), Jones’ longtime friend/partner in petty crime. “That friendship is the original seed of the whole thing. He was the rock—not just as a drummer but as a person. He was a family-orientated guy,” Slater says.
The Pistols would not have been famous without the guiding hand of Westwood’s partner at SEX, Malcolm McLaren (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), who became their manager. “He fell in love with their energy and unapologetic sense of self,” Brodie-Sangster says. “He wanted to use them to wake up the world.”
Pistol, Limited Series Premiere, Tuesday, May 31, FX on Hulu