The race to capture British Black history in the arts is on!

Variety magazine this week exclusively announced that British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beyond the Lights) has been cast to play Mary Seacole in a biopic about the Jamaican nurse who defeated odds to tend to wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War 1853 – 1856.

The biopic will be brought to screen by producer Billy Peterson (Shenandoah, Ping Pong Summer) via his new production company Green Pictures. The project being first on their slate.

Seacole’s legacy has been met with controversy in the UK, with her legend being overshadowed by English nursing icon Florence Nightingale – who was also on the battlefield tending to wounded soldiers. There are conflicting historical narratives that say the two were friendly, yet had a rivalry – with Nightingale disapproving of Seacole’s traditional healing methods. In 2012 the UK’s then Education Secretary Michael Gove proposed to remove Seacole from the school curriculum. A counter protest lead by Operation Black Vote scuppered his plans and Seacole remains part of the curriculum particularly celebrated during the UK’s Black History Month in October.

This project is said to focus on Seacole’s work on the battlefield and her rivalry with Nightingale.

Filming is taking place now.