Tyrone Rashard landed his first professional credit, co-writing season two of the UK’s acclaimed crime drama series Top Boy.
Due to his own life’s story growing up in Hackney – where the show’s fictional Summerhouse Estate is based – Tyrone fully understood the assignment of contributing storylines and dialogue to this hit series, alongside the show’s creator Ronan Bennett.
Since co-writing the series, Tyrone has become a sought after script-writer and currently has other scripts in development including a crime action thriller series based on a real-life event.
We spoke to Tyrone about Top Boy, his life experiences and how they influenced a creative side to him that he didn’t always know he had …
Please introduce yourself …
I’m Tyrone Rashard, a screenwriter and creative.
Describe your current life situation in a word or a sentence.
Progressing positively and grateful for it.
Talking as a Homerton boy myself, to you, a Stokey bruddah, why is Hackney the sweet spot at the moment?
From Homerton to Stokey and everywhere in between, Hackney – ‘the ends‘, has always been vibrant. The regeneration has contributed to turning it into a creative hub. Shoreditch, where I first lived, is now a thriving bedrock of creativity which is great to see. The talent coming from the ends is both plentiful and exciting. That said, I gotta shout out ALL the other areas because I’ve come across an abundance of talent from North, East, South and West!
How has Hackney influenced you creatively?
Hackney gave me both good and bad experiences in abundance. The bad strengthened me whilst teaching me resilience, which in itself gave me stories to tell. This ultimately sparked my creativity and inspired me to tell such stories through scriptwriting. The irony is, Hackney is littered over my first professional credit in Top Boy, from being inspired to write scripts after watching the first series in 2011 (filmed in Hackney whilst I lived there), to writing on it 8yrs later, then to celebrating it at the premiere, in Hackney! The borough has certainly been instrumental in my journey and whilst I no longer live there, it will always be home.
Why do you think there is now such a spotlight on the Black British culture?
The “spotlight” is well overdue. We’re a beautiful and exciting culture full of exceptional creativity and talent so it’s only right we showcase our limitless abilities. The media are slowly coming to terms with the realisation that inclusion is essential, especially at a senior level. That said, they still have plenty of work to do.
What kind of stories would you like to see come out of our community, where do you feel the spotlight needs to shine?
There’s many positive stories to be told within our culture. Of course not everything should be the stereotypical ‘shoot ’em up gangster lean ting‘. From students leaving school with exceptional grades, going to universities and doing degrees, entrepreneurs building businesses to new and unique storytellers, all super inspirational and talented folk with serious aspirations they’re working hard towards. I’d love to see their stories spotlighted.
How do you keep the authenticity in your writing but still make it appeal to a global audience?
In terms of Top Boy, there’s the saying ‘keep it real‘ which we champion. Personally, when I write, I do so from a true to life perspective so aside from drawing from my own experiences, I talk and listen to people about their real life situations whether good or bad and that conversation usually sparks an idea to implement into whatever I’m writing. The global audience relate to this because they’re wise enough to recognise authenticity when they see it, hence why many of Top Boy’s storylines stem from real life scenarios.
Do you organically present the social commentary or is it something that you plan in order to get a message theme or concept across to the audience?
The social commentary always comes from an organic place. We’re very much in tune with social and political issues, which we regularly discuss, with a view to applying to story. We do plan the series direction and its topics meticulously with this in mind.
Can you comment on the importance in exploring the relationship between violence and vulnerability in your characters?
Intrinsically, at the very core of these characters, good or bad, they’re humans with emotions we all relate to. In real life, we’re flawed whether we choose to admit it or not. We’ve all battled with conflict and hypocrisies and similarly, our characters do too. Jamie (Micheal Ward) didn’t ramp to buss his gun, kill his bredrin’ and sell kilos whilst ensuring one younger brother did his homework and the other washed the dishes! Sully (Kane Robinson) doing the most dirt on road, then dropping everything to go defend his niece from gangbangers, after dropping his daughter to school. So our character’s actions, albeit amplified for the show, are based on aspects of real-life human imperfections so their “layers” are as flawed and complicated as human nature itself. Our job as writers is to encapsulate all that into story for entertainment purposes.
How important is your team to you and what are the essentials to a vibrant and successful production when working with them?
Teamwork is essential as nothing happens without the team and each member, from cast to crew, producers, directors and Netflix, plays a crucial part to ensure a smooth production and a successful show.
What understated skillset do you feel that aspiring writers, that come from where we come from, need to pin down?
Originality is an ultimate skillset. Pin that down, make whatever you’re doing slicker than your average and you’ve got a head start. Another understated skillset is actually ‘doing it’ instead of talking about doing it.
What barriers have presented themselves to you as a black screenwriter from ends and how have you removed them?
Barriers have certainly presented themselves, believe me I’ve had more than my fair share, both in life and within this entertainment business. Don’t get me started on fighting to have your voice heard – but that’s a whole other interview! But if I spent life letting barriers stop me, I’d never have gotten anywhere. If you’re determined and persistent enough to do something, you inevitably will, no matter the barrier. Ultimately, you can’t deny good talent no matter what. Make whatever you do so exceptional, they have to pay attention. And if the front door ain’t opening, find another door.
You have collaborated with Skepta, Asher, Kano etc, why do you think there is such a synergy between musical artists and this type of storytelling?
I love working with musicians, not least because music is my passion so working with the likes of Ashley, Kane and Skepta, is inspiring for me. They’re giants in the game so to be in a position to merge their creativity with my own is an incredible experience. These artists are storytellers in their own right. Kano’s “Typical me” ft Ghetts or “Three Wheel Ups” ft Giggs, Ashley’s EP “Test the Walters” and Skepta’s “Nirvana“, are examples of brilliantly crafted short stories from creatives who express themselves via their art. I do the same thing via a different medium so I feel that makes the collaboration effortless.
What can you tell us about your upcoming feature with Skepta and what is that collaborative relationship like?
I’ve since finished my role in that project but Skepta and his team have an exciting TV series in development for which I wrote the first draft episode of it. The collaboration between us as creatives was a cool experience.
What can we expect from the last season of Top Boy?
We’ve finished writing it, filming is nearing completion and I can confirm that Season 3 – ‘The Final Chapter’ is going to be one for the history books! Co-writing the scripts and knowing the storyline has truly given me goosebumps. I’m obviously limited to what I can say at this stage but understand this, if you think last season’s ending was a madness, well it’s only right that we top that!
What is next for you?
I’m currently writing a thrilling action-drama based on a high-profile real-life event. Again, I’m limited to what I can say about it but it’s a hugely anticipated story that has never been told and is a long time coming.
Aside from that, I’m all for connecting with other creatives and working on projects that excite me, so more collaborations, co-writes and co-productions in the UK, America and Africa, primarily within film, are all ongoing discussions as well as one off music projects too. There are exciting times ahead.
Getting to know you …
- A book you have in your collection? Robert Greene’s 48 Laws and John Grisham’s The Testament
- A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? There’s a list. Firm and Strong by Popcaan, U Don’t Know by Jay-Z, Bugzy Malone’s M.E.N. 2, Last, Last by Burna Boy and we can’t forget the masterpiece that is Stormzy’s Mel Made Me Do It.
- A film/TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? Another list… Top Gun Maverick, Harder They Fall, Snatch, Django, Shawshank Redemption, City Of God and the Bourne films … I could go on …
- The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? I’ve been lucky enough to have attended many breathtaking events over the years but Buju Banton’s Homecoming concert, in Kingston Jamaica 2019, was an unforgettable one for me.
- What has made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Daily realities naturally make me all three on a weekly basis, but that’s life. And I love life.
Top Boy will be back on our screens in 2023