Christopher Chung hacks into AppleTV+’s ‘Slow Horses’

Christopher Chung in See-Saw Films' 'Slow Horses' for AppleTV+.

In episode two of AppleTV+’s Slow Horses, one of the characters describes their colleague, fellow British intelligence officer and tech specialist Roddy Ho, as an “insufferable prick”.

The prick in question is played by Australian Christopher Chung, who relished his “excellently obnoxious”, know-it-all role in the spy drama.

Based on Mick Herron’s series of novels and produced by See-Saw Films, Slow Horses is a darkly comedic thriller set within Slough House, a dumping ground department of MI5 where officers are sent after making career-ending mistakes.

Slough House is led by boss Jackson Lamb, played by Gary Oldman. Starring alongside in the ensemble are Kristin Scott Thomas, Jack Lowden, Olivia Cooke, Saskia Reeves, Dustin Demri-Burns, Rosalind Eleazar and Jonathan Pryce.

As Slough House’s tech guru, Chung’s Ho is often leaned upon by the other agents for information they can then go and take out into the field.

While on the surface Ho fits the geek archetype, Chung found him an intriguing character to play because he serves that role in an abrasive way – as one character notes, Ho once put someone on a sex offenders list for taking his seat on the bus.

“He marches to the beat of his own drum. He’s very much the smartest guy in the room, who knows better than everyone else, knows all of their secrets because he can go into their Facebook, their Instagram, to see all their messages,” Chung tells IF.

“He’s not physically confrontational, but he’s like, ‘I can do things to your life that are going to hurt so much more than any physical pain could.'”

Slow Horses was adapted for screen by Veep and The Thick of It writer Will Smith. For Chung, this was among the biggest drawcards of the project – he’s a big Veep fan.

“The scripts lifted off the page for me straight away,” he says.

“Immediately when I started reading through the first drafts of episode one and two, I understood the language and I got exactly what kind of tone they were going for – something that was going to be really tricky to do, walking that line between comedy, drama and thriller. But it all made complete sense to me.

“It kind of comes out of nowhere, the wit about it. Gary’s character… when I got sent the production drafts for each episode, his are the lines I immediately, genuinely laughed out loud for. Seeing them translate on screen, in the way that he plays them, is just brilliant.”

Christopher Chung as Roddy Ho in AppleTV+/See-Saw Films’ ‘Slow Horses’.

Chung hails from Melbourne, but has been based in the UK for nearly a decade now, working predominantly in theatre – he is also a singer.

Most recently, he portrayed Kurt in the West End debut of Heathers, a musical adaptation of the cult classic. He also acted in David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s Imelda Marcos-themed disco musical Here Lies Love, for the Royal National Theatre, and Romeo & Juliet for Shakespeare’s Globe.

He feels his grounding in the UK theatre tradition helped his performance in Slow Horses.

“It’s such an important foundation to have for an actor, especially in Britain,” he says.

“When I was in Australia and I had an agent out there, I told him I was going to move to London and he was like, ‘Why are you going to move there? You should just go to LA. That’s where it’s at.’ But for me, knowing how I wanted to approach my career, if I didn’t have that foundation of an being able to command an audience, then I didn’t know if I’d have the goods.”

Prior to moving permanently to London in 2012, Chung spent time between the city, New York, Philadelphia and Australia completing his acting training.

He initially tried to kick off his career in Australia, but found there wasn’t a depth of opportunities for actors of diverse background – he is of Chinese and Irish descent – and felt that he wouldn’t be able to have longevity.

Once landing in London, he was quickly cast as series regular Archie on the BBC’s Waterloo Road, which affirmed his decision to move.

“I can’t say that wouldn’t have happened in Australia, but I think the opportunity in Australia back then for someone like me was very minimal.”

However, it remains “a dream” to return home to star in a project; Chung was excited to have an Australian tie on Slow Horses in the London/Sydney-based See-Saw Films.

“Every time I audition for or work on something, I always try and look for an Australian connection,” he says.

“There would be nothing more full circle than being able to come back from the UK to work; I would love to. I’ve never really gotten to experience what the industry is like properly out there, and I think it has moved a long way away from where it was when I was trying to break through in my early 20s.”

In that sense, Chung is thrilled to see Aussie projects like See-Saw Films/AMC’s Firebite, and SBS/Matchbox Pictures drama Hungry Ghosts. “Those projects that I never would have dreamed would be coming out when I was a kid.”

“One of the movies that I used to go back to as a 20-something-year-old back in Australia was Tony Ayres’ The Home Song Stories, because I was like, ‘Oh, I see myself reflected in this. I see people that look like me on screen in an Australian-centric film’. It just felt so inclusive, and it felt right to me. But it was like a one-in-a-million thing,” he says.

“But now you start to see the diversity of people that are getting cast in things and the way that the projects are moving out there. I think it’s exciting. So hopefully in the future there will be something that will warrant me to come back for.”

Slow Horses airs on AppleTV+ Fridays.