When is Small Axe’s air date? John Boyega stars in new BBC drama

Black Panther’s Letitia Wright and Star Wars‘ John Boyega star in Steve McQueen's period drama.

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John Boyega in Small Axe

The BBC has released their second trailer for Small Axe from writer and director Steve McQueen, ramping up anticipation for the groundbreaking show about systemic racism in Britain.


John Boyega from Star Wars fame will front the series, airing later this year, which centres around London’s West Indian community from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s.

Letita Wright from Black Panther, Black Mirror’s Malachi Kirby and Line of Duty actress Rochenda Sandall also star in the landmark series which is inspired by real-life people.

We’ve had small snippets from the highly-anticipated drama already, including two trailers and a few images, one in particular showing Boyega as Leroy Logan, a real-life police officer who wanted to change racist attitudes from within the Met Police force.

Here’s everything you need to know about Small Axe.

When is Small Axe’s release date?

The five-part series doesn’t have an air-date yet, but the BBC has announced that they will premiere on BBC One for UK viewers in 2020, later in the year.

Meanwhile in the US, viewers will be able to stream Small Axe on Amazon Prime Video.

How can I watch Small Axe at the BFI London Film Festival?

One of the films in anthology series Small Axe – titled ‘Mangrove’ – will also open the BFI London Film Festival on Wednesday 7th October 2020.

In the film, Letitia Wright (of Black Panther fame) plays one of the ‘Mangrove Nine’, a group of Black protesters in the 1970s, whose arrest and resulting court battle sparked judicial recognition regarding the Metropolitan Police’s racism.

Steve McQueen said: “I couldn’t be happier that Mangrove will open this year’s BFI London Film Festival. Although the themes are universal, Mangrove is a London story. It may have happened 50 years ago, but it’s as relevant today as it was then.”

‘Mangrove’ will be shown virtually and in various screenings as part of the festival; for those unable to attend, viewers will be able to watch the whole series on the BBC, or Amazon Prime Video for US viewers.

What is Small Axe about?

Letitia Wright in Small Axe
Letitia Wright in Small Axe

Spanning three decades, beginning with Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech, the five-part anthology series is set in London’s West Indian community and features The Mangrove, a restaurant in Ladbroke Grove which becomes a community space and years later a meeting-point for protestors.

The series title come from a Jamaican proverb, “if you are the big tree, we are the small axe,” which means that relatively marginal or small voices of dissent can successfully challenge more powerful voices.

While little detail has been provided about the five films which make up the Small Axe anthology, the BBC has revealed that ‘Red, White and Blue’ stars John Boyega as real-life figure Leroy Logan, who after witnessing his father be assaulted by two policemen, became motivated to join the Metropolitan Police and change their racist attitudes from within.

The five films within the Small Axe series – Mangrove, Lovers Rock, Alex Wheatle, Education and Red, White and Blue – will each receive their world premieres on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK later this year.

In a statement, 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. 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.

He continued: “The dynamic nature of the series allows us to confront injustice in the face of adversity hence the proverb Small Axe, ‘if you are the big tree, we are the small axe’ (Bob Marley).”

Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, said: “It is an honour to have Steve McQueen, along with this stellar cast, tell these important and inspiring stories on BBC One. Small Axe will air on BBC One next year, and this powerful drama is not to be missed.”

Small Axe cast

Rochenda Sandall (centre) in Small Axe (BBC)
Rochenda Sandall (centre) in Small Axe (BBC)

In Red, White and Blue, Detroit and Star Wars‘ John Boyega plays Leroy Logan, while Steve Toussaint (Prince of Persia) and rising stars Tyrone Huntley, Nathan Vidal and Jaden Oshenye feature alongside him.

The acting talent starring in other Small Axe films includes Letitia Wright (Top Boy, Black Mirror), who played Shuri in Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame, Malachi Kirby (Curfew, Black Mirror, Roots), Shaun Parkes (Lost In Space, Hooten & The Lady), Rochenda Sandall (Line Of Duty, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch), Alex Jennings (A Very English Scandal, Victoria) and Jack Lowden (The Long Song, Mary Queen Of Scots).

Is there a trailer for Small Axe?

Yes, BBC released a trailer on 7th August.

There’s also a second trailer for Small Axe, which shows violent clashes with police contrasted with joyous displays of group street dancing.


Small Axe will debut on BBC One later this year. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.