The first season of Stephen Merchant’s new comedy thriller, The Outlaws, hit UK TV screens on BBC One in October 2021, and is available on BBC iPlayer.

Set and filmed in Bristol, the extensive shoot took place on location across the city assisted by Bristol Film Office and at The Bottle Yard Studios in Whitchurch, to the south of the city.

The Outlaws follows seven strangers from different walks of life forced together to complete a Community Payback sentence in Bristol. At first, they seem like archetypes we can easily pigeonhole, but gradually we see behind their façades, understand their hidden depths, and what made them the people they are today. We are reminded that no one is all good or all bad. Everyone has a story. As their unlikely new friendships intersect with their complicated private lives, The Outlaws must unite to protect one of their own from Bristol’s most dangerous criminal gang.

Watch the series trailer:

Academy Award-winning actor Christopher Walken stars in his first lead British television role, alongside writer and director Stephen Merchant (The Office, Jojo Rabbit), with Rhianne Barreto (Honour, Hanna), Gamba Cole (Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle, Hanna), Darren Boyd (Killing Eve), Clare Perkins (EastEnders), Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark), Jessica Gunning (Back, Baby Reindeer) and Charles Babalola (Bancroft).

The Outlaws filming locations in Bristol

Made by Big Talk Productions and Merchant’s own company Four Eyes, the production team behind the new BBC One and Amazon Prime series based its headquarters at The Bottle Yard Studios where sets were built for key interiors. Sea Mills Community Centre in North West Bristol served as the main city location and was decorated for the role by Bristolian graffiti artist ‘Inkie.' Bristol Film Office facilitated filming at a host of other city locations throughout the two series shoot which took place over 18 months, a period that was lengthened due to the pause in production brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Top fact: Originally announced with the working title The Offenders, the series was renamed during production, with the final title confirmed in September 2021. This was reportedly because the BBC were worried about confusion with their coming-of-age comedy series, ‘The Young Offenders’

Rhianne Baretto filming season 1 of The Outlaws (2021) at The Galleries Shopping Centre in central Bristol - credit BBC, Amazon Studios, Big Talk, and Four Eyes
Image: Rhianne Barreto films at The Galleries, Broadmead, Bristol 

The Galleries, Broadmead

The shopping centre is the setting for the series opening stunt sequence in episode one, where “academic highflyer” turned shoplifter Rani (Rhianne Barretto) is chased by police.

Sea Mills Community Centre

The disused building stars as the community centre that the outlaws are tasked with fixing up as part of the Community Payback scheme.

Other Bristol locations include:

  • Park Street and College Green
  • Princess Victoria Street and Berkeley Square, Clifton
  • University of Bristol Library, Tyndalls Avenue
  • Wills Memorial Building
  • St Nicholas’s Street, Old City
  • Welsh Back and Redcliffe Wharf
  • Bristol’s Floating Harbour, including Prince Street Bridge area, Mardyke Wharf
  • Old Bank of England Building, Wine Street
  • A Bond Warehouse
  • Windsor Court, Hotwells
  • Armada House, Dove Street
  • Stokes Croft
  • Colston Street and Colston Avenue

Christopher Walken filming season 1 of The Outlaws (2021) in Lockleaze, north Bristol - credit BBC, Amazon Studios, Big Talk, and Four Eyes
Image: Christopher Walken films at Highmore Gardens, Lockleaze, Bristol

  • Redcliffe Hill Underpass
  • Fairfax Street, Broadmead
  • Temple Way underpass
  • Moon Street, Brighton Street, Little Bishop Street, St Pauls
  • Lucky Lane, Southville
  • Sunny Bank, St George
  • Avonview Cemetery, St George
  • The George Inn, Shirehampton
  • The Oldbury Court Inn, Fishponds
  • St Bedes School and The Giant Goram pub, Lawrence Weston
  • Highmore Gardens, Lockleaze
  • Pill Towpath

Christopher Walken filming season 1 of The Outlaws (2021) at The George pub in Shirehampton, north west Bristol - credit BBC, Amazon Studios, Big Talk, and Four Eyes
Image: Christopher Walken films at The George Inn, Shirehampton

  • Look out for: In episode one, the outlaws are transported to the community centre through Bristol in their minibus. Look out for the 'Love Bristol' Love Songs to the City lyrics on Park Street when they drive through!

What some of the stars of The Outlaws thought about Bristol

Stephen Merchant (Greg) on filming in Bristol:

“Obviously, I know the city quite well, but I'd never worked here. It's a very visual city, covered in graffiti (it’s where Banksy got started) and it has a real mix of people. You've got the gentrified Clifton neighbourhoods and the more inner-city urban bits, the Suspension Bridge and the vast gorge. And yet it still hasn’t played itself on screen very often; it's used mainly for period pieces or doubling as somewhere else. So it's fun to try and make the city a character in the show.

“I know this is going to seem like a slightly fanciful comparison, but a number of people have said it to me independently: there's some comparisons between Bristol and San Francisco. I don't mean it has the grandeur and the glamour; but it's on the water, it has the very striking bridge, it has the hills and the colour and a sort of bohemian, artsy side mixed with money and inner-city drabness. The more people have come to Bristol, whether it's American executives or otherwise, it's turned out to be a comparison that’s not as absurd as it might seem on the surface. What's always important to me - and we realised this with the success of The Office - is that often, the more specific you are, the more universal it becomes. When you're trying to be too general and you live in a no man's land people find it harder to dial in because they sense it seems inauthentic.”

Christopher Walken filming season 1 of The Outlaws (2021) at The Bottle Yard Studios in south Bristol - credit BBC, Amazon Studios, Big Talk, and Four Eyes
Image: Christopher Walken filming at The Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol

Christopher Walken (Frank) on filming in Bristol:

“It's a terrific place. It's a university town. I live in Connecticut in America, which is rather close to Yale University, but there's a theatre there that I've worked at many times when I was young. Bristol is very much like that. It's a campus with lots of students walking around, but the Old Vic is here. I like it here very much. There’s a strong counterculture here. First time I was here there were riots, a lot of noise outside. Second time there was also a lot of noise outside, but I think it was on account of the soccer.”

Eleanor Tomlinson & Stephen Merchant filming season 1 of The Outlaws (2021) at Sea Mills Community Centre in North Bristol - credit BBC, Amazon Studios, Big Talk, and Four Eyes
Image: Eleanor Tomlinson & Stephen Merchant film at Sea Mills Community Centre, Bristol 

Eleanor Tomlinson (Gabby):

“Bristol is a fantastic city: a real hub of energy and excitement. And so much of this will resonate with the people who know the city well. It provides so much more than a backdrop: it's one of the key characters.”

Jess Gunning (Diane):

“Bristol is such a vibrant place. Obviously, there's a huge graffiti scene, so quite a lot of buildings show up. I think they even got local Bristol artists to do a bit of graffiti on the community centre itself. And there's quite a lot of scenes out and about, even on the community payback bus, where we're driving in and out of Bristol. So hopefully you'll get to see quite a lot of the city.”

Clare Perkins (Myrna):

“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. I do think it's definitely got a big heart, that city. If it's not in all the characters, it's definitely in the story.”

Gamba Cole & Aiyana Goodfellow filming season 1 of The Outlaws (2021) at the University of Bristol - credit BBC, Amazon Studios, Big Talk, and Four Eyes
Image: Gamba Cole & Aiyana Goodfellow film at the University of Bristol Library

Gamba Cole (Christian):

“I was actually born in Bristol. My family are from Bristol and my grandma, aunts and cousins are all still there. It was funny because my character is from St. Pauls in Bristol and that's where a lot of my family are. I spent a lot of my childhood summers growing up there so to come back there as a character, I knew exactly where to place myself.

I also spoke to a lot of Bristolians to get familiar with the accent and to make sure it's as authentic as possible, as there's such a variance in accents anyway, depending on the generation that you're in. I feel like what's so beautiful about Bristol is it feels like there's so many different types of people, but we all have an understanding and a mutual respect. It's a really, really lovely city to be in.”

Rhianne Barreto (Rani):

“On this show I'm the youngest person on the set. I’ve learned so much. And Bristol’s so colourful. The director of photography, Nick, has done such a gorgeous job of capturing the colour and vibrancy.”

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All images credit: BBC, Amazon Studios, Big Talk, Four Eyes