The Outlaws on BBC: cast of Stephen Merchant’s 2021 TV show starring Christopher Walken, and when is it on TV?

The BBC’s latest drama tells the story of seven strangers who are united in unlikely circumstances, as they meet while carrying out community service

BBC One’s latest contemporary drama, The Outlaws, tells the story of the coming together of seven strangers with one thing in common, they are petty criminals.

Written and produced by Stephen Merchant (The Office, The Ricky Gervais Show), the cast includes American film legend Christopher Walken (Hairspray; Catch Me If You Can).

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The series delves into the characters, culture and qualities of Bristol and shows that even when people seem world’s apart, there is more that brings them together than divides.

So, who stars in the cast and when is it on TV? This is what you need to know.

The Outlaws cast

Rhianne Barreto as Rani

Rani (Picture: BBC)Rani (Picture: BBC)
Rani (Picture: BBC) | BBC

Barreto’s previous work includes Share (2019), Hanna (2019) and Honour (2020).

For Outlaws, she plays high flyer Rani who gets caught up in shoplifting and is sentenced to provide community service.

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She has brought shame on her pushy, overprotective Sri-Lankan mother and Polish father and put her Oxford scholarship in jeopardy.

When she becomes involved in the renovation of a derelict community centre, she learns there is more to life than textbooks and academia.

Barreto said of accepting her role as Rani: “I was on another job and it was a really sad, true story about honour killing.

“I was in the props trailer when I found out I’d got it and it was like, Stephen Merchant, drama comedy series… I thought that’s great, he’s great, and I don’t want to cry anymore.

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Further complimenting series creator Merchant, she added: “Knowing that it was going to be helmed by such an icon of comedy meant a lot and I think I just knew that character straightaway. I understood that experience really quickly.”

Gamba Cole as Christian

Gamba Cole as Christian (Picture: BBC)Gamba Cole as Christian (Picture: BBC)
Gamba Cole as Christian (Picture: BBC) | BBC

Cole has previously worked with Barreto on Hanna (2019), while also having starred in His House (2020) and Guerrilla (2017).

His character, Christian, is at the heart of the criminal gang incident which brings the seven strangers together. Christian is attempting to care for his younger sister Esme, but ends up stealing a large sum of money for a gang member in his neighborhood.

When the rest of the outlaws find the money, they all put their safety at risk and become embroiled in organised crime.

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Bristol born Cole also revealed he’s the only one that hasn’t committed a crime and is doing community service because he’s pretending to be somebody else. His name is not actually Christian - it’s Ben.

He said of being involved in the series: “In terms of the level of realism in there, myself, Stephen and the other guys in that gang world - we wanted to make sure that it was centered as closely as possible to what actually goes on in Bristol.

“It was about honouring and showing how these things happen in so many different places. So we made sure, especially with dialogue, language, dress designs, all of those kinds of things, that we kept as honest and as true as possible.

Stephen Merchant as Greg

Stephen Merchant as Greg (Picture: BBC)Stephen Merchant as Greg (Picture: BBC)
Stephen Merchant as Greg (Picture: BBC) | BBC

While Merchant is at the helm of the series, he also features as one of the seven strangers.

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For his role, he plays an unlikely criminal. An inept lawyer who got caught soliciting in a car park.

Merchant grew up in Bristol and likened it to San Francisco, telling the BBC it is a diverse and creative city which doesn’t get the airtime it’s due.

Asked what his inspiration was for the series, he said: “Growing up, my parents used to work for Bristol Community Service. My mother was always careful, she would say, “I can’t tell you about specific cases…” I was always intrigued because it was such a mix of people.

“You’d have the businessman who’d got caught drink-driving or some student who’d got in trouble for some minor thing. Or there was an old guy who was stealing cabbages from allotments just to get community service, because he was lonely and he liked the social aspect of it.”

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Merchant is critically acclaimed, with his credits including Hot Fuss (2007), Dwayne Johnson’s children’s comedy Tooth Fairy (2009), and animation Gnomeo and Juliet.

His most impressive work includes as a writer and producer of the UK and US version of sitcom The Office, for which he won BAFTAs, Emmys and Golden Globes.

Christopher Walken as Frank

Christopher Walken as Frank (Picture: BBC)Christopher Walken as Frank (Picture: BBC)
Christopher Walken as Frank (Picture: BBC) | BBC

American actor and Hollywood star Walken is best known for portraying psychologically unstable individuals in dozens of movies.

He starred in The Heist (2009), Balls of Fury (2007), Stepford Wives (2004) and Catch Me if You Can (2002).

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For Outlaws, he plays the role of Frank, an American who settled in England 40 years ago and has a family but struggles to stay within the lines of the law.

Walken told the BBC he got involved in the role due to being a fan of Merchant, adding that all actors in the series are “terrific”.

Asked how he found working with Merchant, Walken made two complimentary points: “One: I like him, so it’s easy.

“But two: he’s very good at making adjustments. Fixing, tweaking and getting everyone comfortable. Sometimes writers are very strict, you know, they insist on it being exactly what it is. And he’s very flexible, which I’m all in favour of.”

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He added that he finds community service to be a great way to rehabilitate nonviolent offenders and make use of them, rather than having criminals “sitting about all day behind bars”.

Eleanor Tomlinson as Gabby

Eleanor Tomlinson as Gabby (Picture: BBC)Eleanor Tomlinson as Gabby (Picture: BBC)
Eleanor Tomlinson as Gabby (Picture: BBC) | BBC

Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson joins the cast as Gabby, though viewers may also recognise her from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008), Jack the Giant Slayer (2013 and Love Wedding Repeat (2020).

Gabby is a social media influencer who hides her reliance on drugs and alcohol, for which resulted in her being arrested for drink driving and vandalising her ex’s car.

Speaking of her latest character, Tomlinson said: “Ultimately, she comes from a very broken background. There’s her mother’s suicide in there, and her very complicated relationship with her father, and never feeling that she was quite good enough.

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Gabby, a socialite with inherited wealth, has been raised by nannies as her workaholic father is absent and takes very little to do with her.

Tomlinson added: “She’s just grown up to be very broken and insecure.”

Clare Perkins as Myrna

Myrna (Picture: BBC)Myrna (Picture: BBC)
Myrna (Picture: BBC) | BBC

Perkins is best known for her roles as Denise Boulter in Family Affairs from 2003 to 2005, as well as in EastEnders as Ava Hartman in 2012.

Perkins has also had guest appearances in Death In Paradise; Casualty; Holby City; and Doctors.

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In Outlaws, she stars as community activist Myrna. She set up a group called the Bristol Justice Collective, before hijacking a police trailer and making a mockery of them.

Speaking of the embodiment of Bristol in her character, Perkins told the BBC that her character is what makes Bristol ‘front and centre’ of the series.

“The other characters are Bristolian, but to me they don’t really have that full, angry heart that I find in Bristol,” she said.

“I really like the city. I lived down there for a bit, and though I’m back in London now I miss it, it’s got a really nice vibe. People seem to care about stuff, there seem to be a lot of independent high streets and when you have to queue for stuff, everyone seems much more chilled in Bristol than they do in London.”

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Darren Boyd as John

Darren Boyd as John (Picture: BBC)Darren Boyd as John (Picture: BBC)
Darren Boyd as John (Picture: BBC) | BBc

Boyd is a British actor, best known for his BAFTA award winning role in Sky 1 series Spy.

In Outlaws he plays the role of John Halloran, who has been accused of racially aggravated assault.

Boyd revealed his character initially isolates himself from the group as he sees them as legitimate criminals, while viewing himself as a victim of the broken justice system.

He told the BBC: “He’s very much the son of an Irish Catholic: someone who’s grown up in the shadow of a very dominant, aggressive, opinionated, paternal figure. And someone who hasn’t really seen or experienced much support and love and affection. As a result, at the outset of the series he is very defensive, very standoffish, a loud mouth and an antagonist.”

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Boyd added: “I don’t think of John as a racist, although that’s one of the stereotypes that some might draw in those very, very early stages. I do think John represents this idea of this sort of inherited worldview.”

Jess Gunning as Diane

Jess Gunning as Diane (Picture: BBC)Jess Gunning as Diane (Picture: BBC)
Jess Gunning as Diane (Picture: BBC) | BBC

Gunning, best known for her roles in The Scandalous Lady W (2015) and What Remain (2013), plays ‘jobs worth’ Community Payback Supervisor Diane.

Gunning told the BBC that Diane is suspicious of everyone and quite petty, but fails to cotton on to what’s really going on.

She also revealed Diane is a former offender and there is reason for her power hungry behaviour.

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“She has a past as well. At first you just think she’s quite power hungry, but there’s something more at the heart of it: she’s trying to prove herself,” she said. “The journey with the group as a whole is that she ends up having a bit of a soft spot for everyone, reluctantly.

As the series progresses, Gunning said her character begins to relate to the characters, but she’s already rubbed them up the wrong way.

When is The Outlaws on TV?

The Outlaws begins on BBC One at 9pm on Monday 25 October.

The six-part series will air weekly and episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer.

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