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Apple TV+’s new farce turns one of 18th-century England’s most feared outlaws into a charmingly inept wannabe who bumbles his way into the pages of history

When you experience the delight everyone appears to take in the creation of The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin, the comedic perspective on a not-so-lovely guy, it is hard to believe the concept was not devised inside a pub. “No, we get paid for this s***,” beams exec producer Kenton Allen. “We were not drunk. We were in the office playing ‘casting bingo.’ Who would play Marilyn Monroe? Who would play Queen Elizabeth I? Then somebody said Dick Turpin.”

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin on Apple TV+. Pictured: Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville plays Jonathan Wilde, a corrupt lawman who takes aim at Turpin, only to wind up on the run alongside his enemy.
Applt TV+

As far as Allen was concerned, the real-life highwayman who has previously inspired a late-’70s TV series and a 1980s pop song by Adam Ant seemed an ideal fit for 50-year-old comedian Noel Fielding — best known to North American viewers as host of The Great British Baking Show. Something about the dashing comedian struck the producer as perfect, despite Turpin meeting his maker at 33. “Is that how old he was?” asks a surprised Fielding, as Allen waves off his concerns: “We never checked. We don’t really care about the true story of Dick Turpin. He was a murderer. A nasty murderer. He rode from London to York on a horse called Black Bass, and he was mythologized in a novel in the 18th century, which took the myth of Dick Turpin and turned him into some sort of antihero, some man of the people.” The real Dick Turpin appears to have been a far cry from the jovial chap we now see onscreen. “He wasn’t a nice man, just like the outlaw Jesse James wasn’t a nice man. Billy the Kid was Billy Not Nice Kid. Dick Turpin is not a hero,” says Allen. “But he’s a hero in Noel’s hands.”

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin. Pictured: Episodes alum Tamsin Greig plays Lady Helen Gwinear, leader of the Syndicate — a criminal cabal that has its “fingers in every pie from illicit eel husbandry to diamond smuggling.”
Apple TV+

Indeed, in this series, the leader of the Essex Gang is inclusive and woke. “He’s a pacifist and a vegan,” explains Fielding. “He’s just a nice guy. It’s difficult because he’s surrounded by hardened criminals and he’s always trying to get the best out of them and be kind and generous.” Turning Fielding into the antithesis of the real-life Turpin quickly became the mandate. “What if he’s frightened of guns and violence and can’t really ride a horse and all the things that you think Dick Turpin can do? What if he couldn’t do any of those things? And he accidentally ends up running the Essex Gang, the most fierce gang of highwaymen in all of England,” Allen muses. “You go, well that’s a show, isn’t it?”

It’s also a show full of cameos from other hilarious Brits. Connor Swindells, Tamsin Greig, Greg Davies, Asim Chaudhry, Jessica Hynes and Hugh Bonneville are just a few of the actors that come face to face with Fielding in this six-episode series. “Everyone wants to do a cameo in it because it’s dressing up and we know that British comedians love to dress up,” says Fielding. “It does lend itself to a good guest character act and it lends itself to lots of great cameos. It’s just one of those things where the more characters you can have in it, the better, really.”

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin. Pictured: Dick Turpin (Noel Fielding) and his Essex Gang (left to right): Marc Wootton as gentle giant Moose Pleck; Duayne Boachie as Honesty Courage, a man who has both the virtues of his name, but not much common sense; and Ellie White as Nell Brazier, a woman who abandoned a life of luxury to chase her dream of becoming a swashbuckler.
Apple TV+

It also allows an actor usually known for other talents to explore their inner action hero. Now, whether or not one takes to it is another matter, altogether. “It’s physically very demanding, all the action,” admits Fielding. “It gets harder to do stunts when you’re older. When you are young, you’re fearless.” In one scene, Fielding and Bonneville, best known as the uptight patriarch from Downton Abbey, had to jump off a bridge together. “I used to be able to do that stuff, because I was probably a bit reckless and young, and I got up there and thought, ‘Oh wow, this is a lot higher than I thought,’” Fielding recalls. “I was a little bit scared and I looked over at Hugh thinking, he’s going to definitely not be scared. He’s Hugh Bonneville. And I just went, ‘This is quite high, isn’t it?’ And he went, ‘Yeah, I’m f***ing sh****ing myself.’”

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin on Apple TV+. Pictured: Asim Chaudhry as Craig the Warlock, who has tried and failed multiple times to secure his wizarding credentials.
Apple TV+

Joking that his own knees are 107, even though he feels closer in age to 33 than 50, Fielding can now laugh at that moment right before jumping into the Thames. “I think my knees were knocking,” he chuckles. “I remember thinking, this is like a cartoon where your knees were shaking, and you go, ‘Oh, I used to be able to do this.’ It’s funny, it’s when you have kids that your fears become [bigger]. I did so many reckless things as a younger man and now I’m just very careful and I think, ‘You’ve got to stay alive for the sake of the children.’”

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin premieres Friday, March 1 on Apple TV+

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