Lenny Henry to star in new Neil Gaiman adaptation Anansi Boys on BBC Radio 4

Also starring Game of Thrones’ Jacob Anderson and Misfits’ Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, the drama will follow the sons of a trickster god in a story based on Gaiman’s original novel

Anansi Boys

If Amazon’s hit series American Gods wasn’t enough adapted Neil Gaiman god-bothering for you, then you’re in luck – the acclaimed author’s follow-up novel Anansi Boys is now being adapted by BBC Radio 4.

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The story stars Lenny Henry as Anansi/Mr Nancy, an arachnid trickster god first introduced in Gaiman’s book American Gods (and its TV adaptation earlier this year, where the character was played by Orlando Jones). Game of Thrones’ Jacob Anderson and Misfits’ Nathan Stewart-Jarrett will play his wayward sons Charlie and Spider (below). A special animated clip of Gaiman introducing the characters can be seen here.

The novel has been adapted for radio by Dirk Maggs, who previously brought Gaiman’s Neverwhere, How the Marquis Got His Coat Back and (with Terry Pratchett) Good Omens to BBC Radio 4.

Jacob Anderson and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys
Jacob Anderson and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys (BBC)

“I’m delighted to have this amazing cast of actors bring Anansi Boys to life for Radio 4,” Gaiman said. “Anansi Boys started for me over 20 years ago when Lenny Henry and I were working on [the original TV version of] Neverwhere together.

“He told me that it was wrong that back then there really weren’t any horror films with black leads, and I said, ‘Well I’ll write you one.’ And then it wasn’t a film, but a novel, and it wasn’t horror but a strange mixture of mythic family comedy, romance and crime drama (with some scary bits).

“When I was writing the novel I had Lenny’s voice in my head and I’m delighted that in this dramatisation Lenny is Mr Nancy and Anansi the Spider – to me he is inseparable from this project.

The version of Mr Nancy played by Orlando Jones in TV’s American Gods

“But the talent behind the microphone is astonishing,” Gaiman continued. “We even got Earl Cameron, a month after he turned 100, to come in and play Dragon.

“This is the fifth adaptation of one of my books or stories that Dirk Maggs and Radio 4 have done. I think it’s the best of them all.”

A synopsis for the drama can be read below:


When Fat Charlie’s dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie “Fat Charlie.” Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can’t shake that name, one of the many embarrassing “gifts” his father bestowed — before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie’s life.

Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie’s doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who’s going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun … just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.

Because, you see, Charlie’s dad wasn’t just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Some said he could cheat even Death himself.


Anansi Boys will also star Tanya Moodie, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Joseph Marcell, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Cecilia Noble, Angela Wynter, Adjoa Andoh, Sheila Atim, Pippa Bennett-Warner and (as mentioned by Gaiman) 100-year-old actor Earl Cameron, one of the first black actors to take roles in British film.

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Described as a “kaleidoscopic journey deep into mythology,” Anansi Boys will air on BBC Radio 4 from Christmas Day to Friday 29 December at 11.30pm-midnight, and on 30th December at 2.30-3.30pm, and will be available to listen to online for overseas fans.