John Boyega and Letitia Wright to star in Steve McQueen’s BBC drama Small Axe

Acclaimed filmmaker Steve McQueen has lined up an impressive cast for his new BBC anthology series

Letitia Wright and John Boyega

Star Wars actor John Boyega and Avengers actress Letitia Wright will lead an all-star British cast in Steve McQueen’s upcoming anthology drama Small Axe, the BBC has announced.

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Oscar and Bafta-winning filmmaker McQueen is best-known for his movies 12 Years a Slave and Widows, but he will now make the leap over to the small screen with a drama set in London’s West Indian community. The story will begin in the late 1960s and span more than a decade, running until the early 1980s.

Filmmaker Steve McQueen
Filmmaker Steve McQueen (Getty)

Boyega and Wright join the production as the show begins shooting on location in London in June 2019. Further cast includes Line of Duty’s Rochenda Sandall (aka Lisa McQueen), A Very English Scandal and Victoria actor Alex Jennings, and The Long Song‘s Jack Lowden, as well as theatre star Malachi Kirby and Lost in Space actor Shaun Parkes.

The drama will air on BBC1 in the UK in 2020, and has been snapped up by Amazon for a US broadcast.

Conceived and written by Steve McQueen with Alastair Siddons and Courttia Newland, Small Axe is an anthology of six hour-long episodes, telling five stories and starting with a two-parter.

According to the BBC, “the title Small Axe is derived from a Jamaican proverb which has resonance throughout the Caribbean, ‘if you are the big tree, we are the small axe’. Small Axe is also the title of a Bob Marley song from his 1973 album Catch A Fire. It means that relatively marginal or small voices of dissent can successfully challenge more powerful voices.”

In a statement, Steve McQueen said: “I felt these stories needed to be shared. I wanted to re-live, re-evaluate and investigate the journeys that my parents and the first generation of West Indians went on to deliver me here today calling myself a Black British person.

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“What’s important about our stories is that they are local but at the same time global. I think audiences will identify with the trials, tribulations and joy of our characters as well as reflecting on the present environment in which we find ourselves. The dynamic nature of the series allows us to confront injustice in the face of adversity.”