Lenny Henry, the British comedian, actor and diversity campaigner, is collaborating with A Very English Scandal scribe Russell T Davies on a deeply personal ITV drama series inspired by his mother’s move from Jamaica to the UK in the 1950s.
Henry’s Douglas Road Productions and Tiger Aspect — both part of the Banijay group — will make Three Little Birds for ITV, with Davies consulting on the script and serving as an executive producer.
The six-part series will narrate a Windrush-era story of two sisters, Leah and Chantrelle, and their Bible-loving acquaintance, Hosanna, as they leave the Caribbean to embark on a new life in Britain.
On arriving in Notting Hill, they quickly realize that London is not for them and flee to the Midlands, overcoming racism and integration issues to make a new home for themselves.
ITV drama head Polly Hill said Henry’s scripts are funny, moving and life-affirming, while the Doctor Who and Broadchurch actor said the show was a “life-long dream” come true.
Henry, who has just been cast in Amazon’s epic Lord of the Rings adaptation, added: “My mother spoke often about how difficult life was back in the day when she first arrived in Britain to begin her new life.
“The stories she told and indeed the narratives my brothers and sisters beguiled me with over the dinner table made me think about writing a fictional account of three Caribbean women; all with differing yet complementary attributes.
“Although these are fictional accounts, my mother’s narrative will run throughout these stories and hopefully, the stories of other post-Windrush arrivals will trigger memories, smiles and tears too.”
Three Little Birds will be executive produced by Henry, Davies and Angela Ferreira, as well as Tiger Aspect’s head of drama Lucy Bedford. Banijay Rights will handle international sales.
The series was announced as part of ITV’s advertiser upfronts Thursday, during which the broadcaster finally confirmed its reboot of classic drama The Darling Buds of May from Objective Fiction, Genial Productions and OMG Scotland.
Based on the original H.E. Bates novel, Bradley Walsh (Doctor Who) and Joanna Scanlan (No Offence) have been cast as the iconic fictional characters, Pop and Ma Larkin, who head a golden-hearted 1950s working-class family with six children.
Titled The Larkins, the new six-part series is penned by Simon Nye (Finding Alice). Executive producers are Ben Farrell and Charlotte Lewis for Objective Fiction; Sophie Clarke-Jervoise and Nye for Genial Productions; and Toby Stevens for OMG Scotland. Walsh is also an executive producer.
The original show became one of ITV’s all-time highest-rated television comedy dramas in the 1990s and helped launch the career of Catherine Zeta-Jones. David Jason and Pam Ferris played the elder Larkins.
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