Names that come to mind in connection with the British punk rock ‘n’ roll revolution in the mid-‘70s include the likes of Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. The six-episode FX series “Pistol” – now available through the streaming service of Hulu – shows that there also were a lot of women who had a major influence on the era of punk rock.
Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler), Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley) and Jordan Mooney (Maisie Williams) added their own distinct marks to one of the most distinct eras in music. They are a major part of the series that focuses on the Sex Pistols, particularly founding member and guitarist, Steve Jones (Toby Wallace). The production, based on Jones’ memoir, Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, looks at how a group of noisy working-class kids who appeared to have no future shook the boring, corrupt Establishment to its core.
Chandler was honored to get to play Hynde because she showed so much resilience and bravery during this time period as she fought to make her musical mark in a male-dominated music world. Hynde would eventually become a major player through her work as a founding member of the Pretenders.
“Playing a character who has so much bravery, to be in that skin, I took that personally afterwards. To keep a bit of that with me,” Chandler says. “There were so many obstacles that all of these women came up against and continued to push forward.
“To really know who you are and to stand in that and know what you want is really inspirational.”
Chandler came to the series having worked on such projects as the TV series “SKAM Austin” and the film “Don’t Worry Darling.” Getting to portray Hynde is one of her biggest acting credits to date.
Her co-star, Talulah Riley, has a much more extensive acting resume that includes “Westworld,” “Thor: The Dark World” and “Nearly Famous.” She had no idea before being cast in “Pistol” how influential Vivienne Westwood had been.
She quickly learned the English fashion designer and businesswoman has been credited with being one of the largest influences on the fashion world of that time as she brought modern punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream world.
“The factoid that I found most fascinating was that Vivienne Westwood created the anarchy symbol,” Riley says. “You see it everywhere now. We think of it as being part of this big political movement, which it was, but she designed it.
“The ethos behind the clothes she was making at the time tied in perfectly with the Sex Pistols and promoting that.”
Maisie Williams went into “Pistol” knowing Jordan Mooney – who is better known simply as Jordan – as being one of the biggest Punk icons of that era. She learned that all Jordan was doing at the time was just trying to be a “fashion girl.”
Williams discovered that Jordan’s visions for fashion were instinctual.
“She was really resourceful with the pieces that she would wear,” Williams says. “They were parts of her dance costumes she had worn while growing up. Once they had become too small she chopped them up and changed them.
“So, it was just really interesting trying to find her. We look at her with the lens of today with her image being this punk image but it was fun to dive into what she was doing at the time internally.”
The iconic wardrobe Williams got to wear while playing Jordan ended up being a dramatic change from the costuming she wore while working on “Game of Thrones.” The look was also very different from many of her other credits including “Two Weeks to Live” and “Gen: Lock.”
Research for the three actors included archival footage, books and the music. Although Jordan died earlier this year, the three actors did have the chance to speak with the women they were playing while they were filming.
Williams found her performance to be particularly influenced by her meeting with Jordan.
“She had a huge impact on the show and was a consultant on the show,” Williams says. “She gave me so much of her time and gave me so much insight. She filled in a lot of the blanks that the script missed because the story is so massive you can’t tell everything.
“To be able to text or call her whenever there was a question was a huge help.”
Getting to talk with the people they were portraying ended up being a major help. Chandler has high praise for how helpful Hynde was in getting ready to make “Pistol.”
“She was so generous with her sharing of memories,” Chandler says. “I found it interesting while talking to different people that their versions of the story would be so drastically different.”