HBO To Co-Produce Michaela Coel Drama ‘January 22nd’ As Series Casts Rising British Stars

Michaela Coel
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EXCLUSIVE: HBO is co-producing Michaela Coel’s sexual consent drama January 22nd (w/t) as the drama casts a slew of rising British stars.

The series, which was initially announced by the BBC in August 2018, consists of 12 half-hour episodes and is a co-production between the WarnerMedia-backed premium broadcaster and the British public broadcaster.

It is a “fearless, frank and provocative” that explores the question of sexual consent in contemporary life and how, in the new landscape of dating and relationships, we make the distinction between liberation and exploitation. It was created by Chewing Gum creator and Black Earth Rising star Coel.

It stars Weruche Opia (Inside No9), Paapa Essiedu (Kiri) Aml Ameen (Yardie), Adam James (Belgravia), Sarah Niles (Catastrophe) and Ann Akin (Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams).

Coel plays Arabella Essiedu, a self-assured, care-free Londoner with a group of great friends, a holiday fling turned aspirational boyfriend in Italy and a burgeoning writing career. But when she is spiked with a date-rape drug, every element of her life and identity is called into question.

Opia stars as Terry Pratchard, Arabella’s best friend from school days. She’s a struggling actor but always hopeful her career’s about to pop. Essiedu plays Kwame Acheampong, the best male friend to Arabella and Terry. He’s an exercise class teacher and Grindr regular.

Ameen, who also starred in Mazerunner, plays Simon, one of Arabella’s party friends, he’s always trying to lure her out mid-week.  James is Julian, Arabella’s literary agent, who tries not to show how much he’d like Arabella to finally deliver something. Niles stars as Officer Funmi, a caring and committed police officer, and Akin palys Alissa, a woman Simon and his girlfriend meet though a sexual encounters app.

The cast is rounded out by Harriet Webb (Plebs), Ellie James (Giri/Haji), Franc Ashman (Peep Show), Karan Gill (Flesh & Blood), Natalie Walter (Horrible Histories) and newcomer Samson Ajewole.

Filming has started in London on the series, which is produced by Coel’s FALKNA Productions, and Sally4Ever producer Various Artists, which was founded by Peep Show creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong and former Channel 4 execs Phil Clarke and Roberto Troni.

It is executive produced by Coel, Clarke, Troni and the BBC’s Piers Wenger and Jo McClellan for BBC One. Simon Maloney (Peaky Blinders) will produce episodes one to six and Simon Meyers (No Offence) will produce episodes seven to 12. Coel and Luther director Sam Miller direct.

Warner Bros. International Television Distribution will sell globally, excluding the UK and Ireland, where it will be distributed by BBC Studios. BBC Studios brokered the deal with HBO for U.S., Canada and International distribution.

Coel said, “We’re incredibly lucky to have pulled together such a talented cast to bring these scripts to life and I look forward to sharing this work with you all next year.”

Amy Gravitt, EVP, HBO Programming, said, “It’s been thrilling to be a part of bringing Michaela’s vision to life. She writes with such intimacy and immediacy about how we treat one another, while always surprising us with moments of levity.”

BBC Drama boss Piers Wenger said, “We’re thrilled to be working with someone as bold and fearless as Michaela, she has created an ultra-contemporary show which explores the issues of her generation with huge compassion, humour and a raw truthfulness. It’s an incredibly urgent story which the BBC are proud to be telling.”

Various Artists’ Clarke added, “It’s incredibly exciting to be working with Michaela again. She has a brave and original vision, and something mature and relevant to say about gender politics, about consent, about gratification, about social media, about her generation. It’s an explosive package.”

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