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15 November 2020 22:34

Small Axe

Small Axe cast and episodes from new BBC One series

Mangrove is one of five films from Small Axe, a drama anthology which comprises five original films by Academy Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen (Hunger, 12 Years A Slave). Set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, the films each tell a different story involving London's West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped The director and members of his brilliant young cast talk about his new BBC films, each one set in London's West Indian community before most of these actors were born Amarah-Jae St Aubyn plays Martha, a churchgoing girl who sneaks out of her bedroom window into the endless possibilities of the night in Lovers Rock, the second episode of Small Axe. It's a coming-of-age tale inspired by the blues parties of the late 1970s and early 80s – club nights held in homes because young Black people weren't welcome in nightclubs. When she got the Lovers Rock lead last year, St Aubyn carefully researched turn-of-the-80s London (the drama is set in 1980) – the fashion, the segregation, how these parties existed because Black people weren't allowed into white nightclubs. Raised in Brockley, south-east London, Alexander James-Blake (AKA Blakie) is a 22-year-old actor and musician who has appeared in Top Boy and EastEnders, where he played Zayan Scott. His character Parker B provides the soundtrack to Lovers Rock, and James-Blake's heritage and passion for reggae music made the role feel natural.

McQueen says James-Blake and his fellow soundman, Kadeem Ramsay, were vital to the party scenes in Lovers Rock. Their commitment to the role and the vibes which were reverberating round the room were infectious." James-Blake is now working on music, with a few tracks due soon; he also has a role in Ashley Chin's forthcoming film Faith, about a gang member whose life changes when he discovers Islam. Plays Lovers Rock ladies' man Bammy, one of the most unsettling presences in the film. Francis-Swaby is keeping busy with his new production company, which has secured Arts Council England funding for a film about a 16-year-old Black kid who befriends a seventysomething white woman. "When I read the Lovers Rock script and the way Cynthia looks at certain people, I realised what kind of person she is," George says.

Through his actor friend Shone Romulus he landed his dream role, in Top Boy, playing Kit, right-hand man to ruthless dealer Jamie (Micheal Ward, who also appears in Lovers Rock). Cole is the lead in Alex Wheatle, episode three of Small Axe, which tells the true story of the acclaimed novelist, from his youth in the care system to the streets of Brixton, where he finds music and community. A heartbreaking but endearing story about being Black in the care system in 1980s Britain, the film traces the time Wheatle spent living in a children's home and, as a young adult, in a hostel in Brixton. Callaghan plays racist policeman Beck in Red, White and Blue, the third Small Axe film, which tells the true story of Leroy Logan, a forensic scientist who joined the Met in the 1980s to tackle police racism from within. "Calum was working on a building site before his role in Red, White and Blue," McQueen points out.

The star of Education, the 1970s-set story of a 12-year-old Black boy labelled "disruptive" and sent to a school for children with special needs. The 13-year-old star of McQueen's Education, Kenyah Sandy plays Kingsley, a 12-year-old boy with reading problems who is sent to a special needs school in the 1970s. Sandy, whose family is from Kenya and Grenada, got his start on stage, appearing in plays including Caroline, Or Change at Hampstead theatre, and this is his first screen role. The new series will deal with real life events of black activists protesting racism in the Met Police back in the 60s and 70s (Picture: BBC/McQueen Limited/Des Willie) The BBC is to begin airing a new series tonight, directed by Academy Award winning director Steve McQueen. Spanning three decades, the Small Axe anthology series opens with Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech and traces the lives of those in London's West Indian community, as well as featuring The Mangrove, a restaurant in Ladbroke Grove which becomes a community space and years later a meeting-point for protestors, including the Mangrove Nine.

From Black Panther to the British Black Panthers, Letitia Wright appears in the new series (Picture: BBC/McQueen Limited/Des Willie) The Mangrove Nine challenged the idea of racism within the Met Police (Picture: BBC/McQueen Limited/Des Willie) Small Axe is a drama anthology which comprises five original films by Academy Award, Bafta, and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen (Hunger, 12 Years A Slave). Set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, the films each tell a different story involving London's West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will despite rampant racism and discrimination. Lovers Rock tells a fictional story of young love at a Blues party in 1980. The film is an ode to the romantic reggae genre, Lovers Rock, and to the Black youth who found freedom and love in its sound in London house parties when they were unwelcome in white nightclubs. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and opportunity to grow his passion for music and DJing.

Red, White and Blue tells the true story of Leroy Logan, a young forensic scientist with a yearning to do more than his solitary laboratory work. We are here, though, to discuss his performance as Leroy Logan, the founder of the Met's Black Police Association, in the third of Steve McQueen's Small Axe series of films – Red, White and Blue. Small Axe arrived at a crossroads in Boyega's life, he says, a time when he wanted to "come home and kickstart the next phase of my career". Facebook Twitter Pinterest Boyega as Leroy Logan in Red, White and Blue. "When you're in a franchise, you're playing one role that evolves throughout a good few years," he says, "and sometimes people miss the roles in between." When it was finished, he decided it was time to "explore more versatility. Play Video 1:39 John Boyega makes impassioned speech at Black Lives Matter protest in London – video Leroy was guided throughout by a personal calling to, as Boyega says, "change the system from the inside out", at a time when Black faces in the Met were few and "you don't have allies or support". "I feel like someone has got to do the bridge," Leroy says in Red, White and Blue, "and when you're doing that, you've got to realise you're alone." Facebook Twitter Pinterest John Boyega as Finn in The Rise of Skywalker, the final Star Wars film. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Boyega on the set of Red, White and Blue with Steve McQueen.