Taboo. təˈbuː/. adjective: proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable. Think punching a puppy in the face. Stepping on the grass. Farting in an elevator. Or practicing sadistic dark arts in the quest to seek vengeance for your father's death.
Admittedly, the latter is specifically related to Taboo, an unflinchingly dark TV series set in 1814, starring Tom Hardy as James Keziah Delaney, an "insane, crazy and evil" antihero who is on a mission to uncover a family conspiracy. Delaney is presumed dead, but following his father's passing he returns to London after a life-changing expedition to Africa.
During his travels, Delaney has been introduced to the supernatural, dabbling in black magic and claiming to "know things about the dead." As he attempts to inherit his father's shipping empire, Delaney is required to use his new found skills against those who have other plans for the future of the enterprise.
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How Tom Hardy's TV Show Will Break Taboo
That's where the title comes in: By #TomHardy's admission, there are no limits to what Delaney will do. The catalyst of the story was dreamt up by the Hollywood leading man following his role as Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist. Hardy imagined a protagonist who was the sum of classical characters such as Sikes, Sherlock Holmes, Hannibal Lecter, Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights) and Charles Marlow (Heart of Darkness).
Hardy approached his father, Chips Hardy, asking him to help create the world of #Taboo. An in-depth synopsis was then passed on to Steven Knight, the screenwriter who worked with Hardy on Peaky Blinders and Locke. The result is a nuanced character who at times identifies with every part of the spectrum between good and evil.
In an interview with Digital Spy, Hardy explained how, despite his apparent depravity, he has faith that the audience will still be rooting for Delaney across the show's eight-episode run. He said:
"He seems insane, crazy, evil, wrong... and then we find out he's actually probably the sanest, most honest man in the room and everybody else, the bastions and the pillars of society, are wearing masks."
James Delaney Could Be Hardy's Best Role
Whether Delaney gets the audience onside or not, the role of Delaney is perfect for Hardy — not least because he created it. Over the past few years, Hardy has transformed from a talented but low-key actor to one of the most prominent faces in Hollywood, thanks to films such as Inception (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and The Revenant (2015).
In some ways, Hardy is an unconventional A-lister, almost carving his own niche as a formidable oddball, playing characters both physically intimidating and psychologically torturing; all the while suggesting something much deeper below the surface.
Although each of his performances feel wholly unique, Hardy has a trademark sneer and endless charisma, contradicted by an aggressively fragile demeanour that lends itself well to both the hero and the villain.
Add all the attributes that make Hardy such an allure in the industry, place him in the murky backdrop of 19th century London, sprinkle some mythical qualities on top, add a strong family vengeance narrative and Delaney could be one of his most memorable performances to date — if not the best.
'Taboo' Won't Hold Back
That's not to say Taboo is for everyone, though, despite its lead's popularity. In typically frank manner, due to the nature of its protagonist, Hardy believes the show might not appeal to lovers of period dramas such as Downtown Abbey, adding:
"But it's the period drama that I desire to watch. People might not like this - so accept that, and push that. People will either like it or hate it, but it won't be middle of the road. Either it's going to go well, or it's going to go really f*cking badly. But it was an effort made in the right pursuit, I believe."
Taboo will premiere on BBC on January 7, 2017 and FX on January 10, 2017.
(Source: Digital Spy)