Black Panther star Letitia Wright and Star Wars‘ John Boyega will lead cast in Steve McQueen’s upcoming BBC TV drama Small Axe, about London’s West Indian community between the 1960s-80s. As we reported yesterday, Amazon is co-producing in the U.S.
Production is now underway on location in London. Also starring are Malachi Kirby (Roots), Shaun Parkes (Lost In Space), Rochenda Sandall (Line Of Duty), Alex Jennings (Victoria) and Jack Lowden (Mary Queen Of Scots).
The long-gestating series will comprise six parts and tell five different stories. Its title is derived from a Jamaican proverb: “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe,” meaning that relatively marginal or small voices of dissent can successfully challenge more powerful ones. It is also the title of a Bob Marley song from his 1973 album Catch a Fire.
McQueen created the series’ stories with Alastair Siddons and Courttia Newland. Novelist Alex Wheatle is a writing consultant. Turbine Studios is producing with Lammas Park. Anita Overland is also producing, as is Mike Elliot for EMU Films. Tracey Scoffield and David Tanner will exec-produce for Turbine. The show was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, director of BBC Content, and the executive producer for the BBC is Lucy Richer.
The series will bow on BBC One next year and BBC Studios is handling international distribution.
“I felt these stories needed to be shared,” said 12 Years A Slave and Widows director McQueen, who will also exec-produce. “I wanted to relive, reevaluate and investigate the journeys that my parents and the first generation of West Indians went on to deliver me here today calling myself a black British person. What’s important about our stories is that they are local but at the same time global.
“I think audiences will identify with the trials, tribulations and joy of our characters as well as reflecting on the present environment in which we find ourselves,” the Oscar-winner added. “The dynamic nature of the series allows us to confront injustice in the face of adversity.”