“Queenie” author Candice Carty-Williams, “Everything I Know About Love” writer Dolly Alderton, “The Virtues” creator Shane Meadows and Michaela Coel are among the creatives delivering the next slate of dramas for the BBC.
Piers Wenger, drama controller for the BBC, teased a new project with Coel on Tuesday during a showcase of the Beeb’s upcoming drama offerings, though details were sparse. The “Chewing Gum” creator’s recent BBC collaboration, “I May Destroy You,” a searing portrayal of a woman rebuilding her life following her rape, has won international acclaim.
More from Variety
Other forthcoming dramas include Alderton’s adaptation of her popular autobiography “Everything I Know About Love” and BIFA-winning “Rocks” writer Theresa Ikoko’s adaptation of her forthcoming novel “Wahala.” (Details on all new commissions below.)
BBC drama has been on a steady clip of high-profile, critically lauded commissions in the last year. The public broadcaster recently topped the BAFTA TV nominations with a record-breaking 15 nods for “Small Axe,” 8 for “I May Destroy You” and 7 for “Normal People.” Meanwhile, the latest season of Jed Mercurio’s cop thriller “Line of Duty” became the U.K.’s most watched drama in the last 21 years.
“I am incredibly proud of drama on the BBC and how its popularity, range and ambition is being recognized by viewers and critics alike,” said Wenger on Tuesday. “Seeing ‘Small Axe,’ ‘I May Destroy You’ and ‘Normal People’ receive a record number of BAFTA nominations and ‘Line of Duty’ becoming the biggest drama of the 21st Century is staggering and humbling.
“We pride ourselves on the creative contribution we make and the value we offer to audiences. We will continue to build on the momentum of recent years to ensure that the BBC is and continues to be the home of the very best of British drama,” said Wenger.
The BBC gave a sneak peek into a raft of new titles rolling out on the BBC over the next few months, including Jamie Dornan-led “The Tourist,” Ben Whishaw-starring “This Is Going to Hurt” and Gugu Mbatha-Raw-led “The Girl Before.” Other shows featured in the preview include “A Very British Scandal,” starring Claire Foy, and “Chloe,” which is led by another talent from “The Crown,” Erin Doherty.
Wenger, who headed drama for Channel 4 before joining the BBC in 2016, underlined that while there are now “many places for audiences to access premium content” — a clear nod to the expanding streaming might in the U.K. — it’s the BBC’s “commitment to creative risk and our passion for Britain’s stand-out writing talent which ensures that even in the age of global streamers, we are able to win big.”
Wenger highlighted that in the next few months alone, BBC drama will feature talent including Emily Blunt, Ben Whishaw, Paul Bettany, Claire Foy, Colin Farrell, Jamie Dornan, David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Martin Freeman, as well as rising stars Erin Doherty, Bukky Bakray, Malachi Kirby, Connor Swindells, Shalom Brune-Franklin and Nicôle Lecky.
Of his latest commissions, Wenger said the new shows come from “writers who are already striking a chord with the British public: Cash, Dolly and Candice with their incredible books; Theresa with the astounding ‘Rocks’; Stefan, who following the huge success of ‘Mum’ and ‘Him & Her’ is turning his hand to hour-long drama; and not least of all the legendary Shane Meadows, who is working with the BBC for the first time on a historical drama which is destined to feel utterly of the moment.”
New commissions are detailed in full below:
An original drama series from Candice Carty-Williams, the award-winning writer of Sunday Times bestseller “Queenie,” “Champion” tells the story of what happens when fame collides with family. The series follows Bosco Champion, a once prodigal son and a U.K. rap sensation before he was jailed, is home from prison, and ready to dominate the music industry once more. But he’ll have to compete with his sister Vita, Bosco’s former personal assistant who has stepped out of his shadow and signed with his rival to become a performer in her own right.
“Champion” is described as a “love letter to Black British music” that is set in south London. “’Champion’ is a celebration of Black music and a Black family, however fragmented that family might be,” said Carty-Williams.
“Since I knew what music was, I’ve loved grime and U.K. 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,” added Carty-Williams. “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 All3Media-backed New Pictures; and Carty-Williams. The producer is Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor. Further writers include Isis Davis, Emma Dennis-Edwards, Ameir Brown and Edem Wornoo.
EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT LOVE
Adapted by award-winning journalist Dolly Alderton from her internationally bestselling memoir of the same name, “Everything I Know About Love” gives an unflinching account of surviving your 20s.
The show follows Maggie and Birdy, two best friends since school, who finally land in London to live it large when the unexpected happens – dependable Birdy gets a steady boyfriend. Billed as a “warm-hearted and uplifting ‘Sex & The City’ for millennials,” the show covers bad dates and squalid flat-shares, heartaches and humiliations, and unbreakable female friendships.
“’Everything I Know About Love’ is a semi-fictionalized adaptation of my memoir of the same name,” said Alderton. “It’s a messy, boisterous, joyful, romantic comedy about two best female friends from childhood and what happens when they move in to their first London house share and the first phase of adulthood. I cannot stress enough how thrilled I am that it is being made by Working Title and the BBC.”
“Everything I Know About Love” is executive produced by McClellan for the BBC, Alderton and Surian Fletcher-Jones, alongside Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner for Working Title Television, which is part of NBCUniversal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group.
THE GALLOWS POLE
Shane Meadows makes his BBC debut with “The Gallows Pole,” a period drama based on the novel of the same name by Benjamin Myers, which fictionalizes the remarkable true story of the rise and fall of David Hartley and the Cragg Vale Coiners.
Set against the backdrop of the coming industrial revolution in 18th-century Yorkshire, the drama follows the enigmatic David Hartley as he assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a revolutionary criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history.
“’The Gallows Pole’ is an incredible true story, little known outside of Yorkshire, about a group of very naughty men and women who started clipping and counterfeiting coins out in the Moors, as a way to keep themselves and their community alive,” said Meadows. “I’ve never made a period drama before so I’m absolutely buzzing, and to be doing it with Piers at the BBC, his incredible team, and Element Pictures is nothing short of an honour.”
“The Gallows Pole” will be produced by Element Pictures and executive produced by Wenger and Tom Lazenby for the BBC.
BAFTA-winning “Him & Her” writer-director Stefan Golaszewski delivers his latest offering with “Marriage,” a four-part drama about a couple who need each other, and find salvation in their marriage despite the fears and frustrations that go with it.
Golaszewski said: “Marriage is a show about a couple but there’s more to it than that obviously! It’s great to be working with the BBC again. They’ve been amazing during the development of the idea and encouraged me to write what I want to write. It feels like a real privilege.”
“Marriage” is executive produced by Tommy Bulfin for the BBC, Beth Willis and George Faber for The Forge and Richard Laxton and Golaszewski for The Money Men.
CASH CARRAWAY (W/T)
Inspired by Cash Carraway’s book, “Skint Estate,” “Cash Carraway” (w/t) tells the story of what it’s like living below the poverty line and doing everything it takes to escape.
Daisy May Cooper (“This Country”) stars as a young, working-class single mum living with her 10-year-old daughter in the brutal landscape of austerity Britain. The show skewers stereotypes of what it means to be working class and underlines the importance of love, dreams and friendships.
“The show is about a brash yet intelligent working-class single mum who not only lives in extreme inner-city poverty but a state of ridicule and humiliation as she attempts to improve her life,” said Carraway.
“She’s immoral and shocking and purposefully vile, and swaggerous and quite amazing really — but obviously I would say that as it’s inspired by my life,” added Carraway. “Luckily the role will be played by the brilliant Daisy May Cooper who I know will give her warmth and humour and a performance that says ‘f-you’ to the expectations of how women perceived to be at the bottom of society are expected to behave.”
“Cash Carraway” (w/t) is executive produced by McClellan for the BBC and Sally Woodward Gentle and Lee Morris for Sid Gentle Films, alongside Carraway. Sid Gentle’s head of development, Henrietta Colvin, will serve as associate producer. BBC Studios will distribute the series internationally.
Adapted by BAFTA-nominated writer Theresa Ikoko from Nikki May’s soon to be published debut novel of the same name, “Wahala” follows three 30-something Anglo-Nigerian female friends living in London, successfully navigating a world that mixes roast dinners with jollof rice.
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.
Ikoko said: “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.
(Pictured: Theresa Ikoko, Dolly Alderton, Candice Carty-Williams, Shane Meadows)
Best of Variety