Stephen Merchant is one of the most celebrated comedy writers of our time, responsible for the creation of the British version of The Office alongside Ricky Gervais. Over the course of his career, Merchant has won several prestigious accolades, including two Golden Globe prizes, an Emmy as well as three BAFTAs, among others.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Merchant’s new series, The Offenders, will be available on Amazon Prime and BBC. Set in Bristol, the show follows the lives of seven strangers who come together during a community service sentence. Although the first season will only have six episodes, The Offenders has already been renewed for a second season.
Christopher Walken will star as Frank, a despicable man who attempts to reach out to his family, while Merchant himself will play the role of a lonely lawyer whose life is tragicomic. The show’s cast will also feature the likes of Rhianne Barreto, Gamba Cole and Darren Boyd and more.
“Stephen is very impressive and intelligent – a brilliant man,” Walken said. “He’s got a big brain and he writes very good dialogue. On some projects you’re encouraged to improvise, but I’ve done some Quentin Tarantino scripts and every word I ever said in those movies was what was in his script, and that works best for me. And that’s the same with Stephen’s scripts.”
Merchant’s co-creator is Elgin James, director of Little Birds and creator of the TV series Mayans M.C. In an interview, Merchant revealed: “My parents used to work in the Community Service world and I was always intrigued that the many and varied people they dealt with only had one thing in common: they’d committed a crime. Ever since The Office, I love finding ways to bring unlikely groups of people together and watch the sparks fly.”
Adding, “As a writer, I always include humour but with The Offenders, I also get to add drama, pathos, crime genre thrills and say something optimistic about the common humanity that unites us all, whatever our background. The Offenders’ mix of light and shade, dark and comic, middle-class angst with inner-city grit, reflects the unlikely partnership of me and Elgin. I grew up in suburbia whereas Elgin spent his early life building a national street gang until a police investigation landed him in prison. Despite coming from different sides of the tracks, Elgin and I share a love of convincing characters and authentic, engaging, human stories.”