David Heyman is a busy man; in addition to boarding Quentin Tarantino’s next film, the Harry Potter producer is adapting Andrea Levy’s novel The Long Song into a high-end drama for BBC One.
The Long Song, which tells the story of dying days of slavery in Jamaica, is produced by Heyman’s Heyday Television, a joint venture with NBC Universal, and will be written by Sarah Williams, who co-wrote BBC One’s Small Island with Paula Milne and ITV’s Case Sensitive.
The project had previously been in development as a feature film with Film 4 before being turned into a television.
Levy’s The Long Song starts in 1838 on the British-ruled Caribbean island as three hundred years of slavery came to a chaotic end. The series follows July, a strong-willed young female slave on a Jamaican plantation, who goes from being a slave to the mother of a gentleman. The story is told from July’s perspective as she looks back over her life.
The three-part series will be exec produced by Heyman, Levy, Williams and Rosie Alison as well as the BBC’s Elizabeth Kilgarriff. Roopesh Parekh serves as producer and the drama will be distributed by NBC Universal International Distribution.
It is Heyman’s latest project for the BBC; he was responsible for producing white collar crime trilogy Worricker, which starred Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Christopher Walken, Helena Bonham Carter and Winona Ryder across three television movies for BBC2.
He said that The Long Song, which was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, “cries out for dramatization”. “It’s a novel full of surprise and unpredictable twists, upending any easy stereotypes of slave and master. We’re delighted that writer Sarah Williams has been able to capture the wit and verve of Andrea’s fiercely original heroine, July.”
BBC Drama Controller Piers Wenger added: “July’s story is heart-breaking, inspiring and utterly unforgettable. Sarah’s script perfectly captures the unique tone of Andrea’s novel and skilfully brings this story of slavery in a British colony to life.”