Tom Hardy’s artfully realised anti-hero, James Delaney, is the centre of new BBC series Taboo and the perfect antidote to predictable protagonists.
In 1814 Delaney reappears in a grittier, dirtier London than period dramas typically offer. The setting isn’t the only thing that’s harsher than your usual dramatic 1800’s romp however, the characters are equally earthy. Jonathan Pryce and David Hayman appear in notable roles, as a sinister East India Company executive and Delaney’s man-servant respectively.
Beyond those central characters though, casting is remarkably fitting across the programme and in combination with Hardy’s brooding performance and a fantastically dirty depiction of 19th Century London, it creates an atmospheric tension that is ever-present in Taboo.
The series was created in part by Hardy himself, having envisaged the character of Delaney.
Speaking about what he sees as a sad trend in film and television heroes, Hardy told The Times: “Now you’ve got to look like you’ve just come off a vegan diet, gone to the gym, part Navy Seal, really clean-valued, clean-living, moralistic – and then you go out and save the world from an impending danger that isn’t really dangerous at all”. Taboo feels a lot like Tom Hardy’s effort to tackle this trend.
James Delaney is anything but moralistic. He’s a force of nature with a mysterious past and a talent for biting threats. Episode one offered hints about Delaney’s past- he spent time as a soldier for the East India Company before heading to Africa and going very much under the radar, unpleasant rumours surround him and his return causes a lot of ripples in London.
The series was created in part by Hardy himself, having envisaged the character of Delaney. Hardy’s father Edward Hardy and Steven Knight were drafted in to fully realise the drama and have created something that stands out among the myriad of period dramas.
The first episode of Taboo aired on the 7th of January and is available on BBC iPlayer.
By George Storr