BBC’s Director of Drama Piers Wenger has announced new projects coming to the BBC during a virtual live event.
After successful recognition during this year’s award season, the BBC is gearing up to give audiences more drama and excitement that pushes the boundaries. And for those of us screaming for more racially diverse stories with the announcement that Michaela Coel, BAFTA-nominated screenwriter Theresa Ikoko, and acclaimed author Candice Carty-Williams having upcoming projects it would seem the BBC isn’t ignoring us. Or should we say, considering Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series which landed a record-breaking 15 BAFTA nominations and the international impact of Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You – it’s extremely apparent that narratives that explore the British Black experience have an eager audience from the UK and beyond, and the BBC possibly is beginning to recognise the power in responding to this.
First up, alongside the 6 new BBC Drama projects commissioned, Wenger revealed that BAFTA award-winning actress and screenwriter Coel will team up with the BBC again after the success of I May Destroy You (Independent Spirit Award, GLAAD Media Award, Gotham Independent Film Award, x2 RTS Programme Awards, NAACP Image Award and currently awaiting which of its 7 BAFTA TV nominations it’ll win)
Wenger said of the project: “It’s in relatively early stages but I just wanted to let everybody know, for the fans of I May Destroy You, that there was a new show coming along… I think there is a relationship between Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You. There’s a sort of through-line to Michaela’s thinking and I suspect that there may be elements, but it’s really too early to say anything too specific.”
Then we have Candice Carty-Williams’ project Champion. The author of the bestselling novel Queenie makes her screenwriting debut.
Champion tells the story of what happens when fame collides with family. Bosco Champion. The golden boy of the Champion family and a UK rap sensation before he was jailed is home from prison, and he’s ready to dominate the music industry once more. Since she can remember, his younger sister Vita has been his personal assistant, running around after him, getting him out of trouble, and hiding his various misdemeanours. But when Vita’s own talent is discovered by Bosco’s rival, Belly, she steps out of her brother’s shadow to become a performer in her own right, setting the Champion siblings against one another in their quest to both reach the top spot in the charts and to be the star of the family. Even their parents, soundman turned radio DJ Beres and nineties R&B one-hit-wonder Aria, can’t stop Bosco and Vita from splitting the Champion family down the middle as they go head to head in a very public and messy battle. In fact, it might be in their best interests to keep Bosco and Vita apart…
Champion is described as ‘A love letter to Black British music set in south London, Champion is the celebration of a sound that has long been the beating heart of our culture.’
Carty-Williams says: “Champion is a celebration of black music and a black family, however fragmented that family might be. Since I knew what music was, I’ve loved grime and UK rap and neo-soul, to the point of obsession, and to bring to a primetime slot a series that gives these genres of music life and texture is absolutely amazing, as is getting to work with some of the best producers making music today to create original tracks for the show. I can’t think of anywhere else Champion could sit but the BBC and I’m looking forward to everyone seeing a show that they have never seen before.”
Champion is executive produced by Jo McClellan for the BBC, Bryan Elsley, Dave Evans and Danielle Scott-Haughton for Balloon Entertainment, Charlie Pattinson, Willow Grylls, and Imogen O’Sullivan for New Pictures, part of theAll3Media Group, and Candice Carty-Williams. The Producer is Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor. Further writers include Isis Davis, Emma Dennis-Edwards, Ameir Brown, and Edem Wornoo.
Last and by no means least at all, Award-winning playwright turned BAFTA-nominated screenwriter of the groundbreaking film Rocks, Theresa Ikoko’s project is called Wahala.
Wahala is adapted from Nikki May’s soon to be published debut novel of the same name and follows three thirty-something British-Nigerian female friends living in London, successfully navigating a world that mixes roast dinners with Jollof.
Simi, Ronke, and Boo have been best friends for years, sharing every aspect of their careers, family lives, and relationships with one another. But when the beautiful, charismatic and super-wealthy Isobel infiltrates their friendship group, mounting tensions, unravelling bonds and unearthed secrets have shocking and tragic consequences.
Theresa Ikoko says: “I can’t wait to bring Nikki May’s amazing book Wahala to the screen with BBC and Firebird. It is a fantastic, intriguing, suspenseful story of friendship, rivalry secrecy and revenge, think Big Little Lies meets Girlfriends meets Peckham! It’s also a really amazing celebration of Nigerian British culture, which I’m a proud flag-bearer of, so it’s going to be a lot of the correct jollof rice, awe-inspiring geles and breath-taking moments, we hope you love it!”
Wahala is executive produced by Mona Qureshi for the BBC and Elizabeth Kilgarriff for Firebird Pictures. BBC Studios will distribute the series internationally.