Blackface With David Harewood will explore the origins of blackface in early 19th-century America and how the form of entertainment, which acted as a delivery system for racist tropes, made its way to Britain. According to the logline, he will seek to understand how it shaped ideas of blackness in popular culture and why it endured so long.
The hour-long film is made by historian David Olusoga’s Uplands Television. Harewood is writing and presenting, while the producer and directors are Eric Haynes and Nia Campbell. Executive producers are Olusoga, Mike Smith, and Harewood.
Comedy faced a reckoning over blackface last year, when the BBC and Netflix removed episodes of Little Britain from their libraries after the Matt Lucas and David Walliams sketch show featured blackface sketches. Other shows caught up in the scandal included Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys and Summer Heights High.
Harewood is becoming a familiar fixture on BBC documentaries, having also presented Why Is Covid Killing People of Colour? and David Harewood: Psychosis and Me in recent months.
Blackface With David Harewood was announced as part of plans to grow the BBC’s arts and music output over the coming years. The UK broadcaster has committed to double investment in arts and music on BBC Two, diverting funds away from BBC Four, which will increasingly focus on bringing together collections of content from the BBC’s archive.
As part of the changes, BBC Two controller Patrick Holland is transitioning into a new role as director of factual, arts, and classical music next month. The BBC is scrapping channel controller roles and empowering genre heads as the corporation looks to a streaming-first future.
Harewood is repped by APA, Conway Van Gelder Grant, and Authentic.