“We knew the far-right is on the march, and we kind of wondered what they were thinking…”
Speaking at a press screening, Joseph Bullman, the award-winning filmmaker behind Killed By My Debt, outlined the premise for his bold BBC single drama The Left Behind, which charts a young man’s growing attraction to far-right sentiment and Islamophobia.
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Gethin (played by Welsh actor Sion Daniel Young) is a single, working class young man living in South Wales with his sister and her family. He scrapes by on zero-hours employment, and is content to hang out with his friends and help raise his young niece. But increasing problems lead him to question how far he’s been ‘left behind’ in his own country.
Here’s everything you need to know about The Left Behind…
When is The Left Behind on TV?
The Left Behind aired at 10am on both BBC3 and BBC iPlayer on Wednesday 10th July, before it was broadcast on the same day at 10.35pm on BBC1.
What is The Left Behind about?
Written by Welsh playwright Alan Harris (Sugar Baby), the drama was first inspired by last year’s widely-reported statistic that referrals to the government’s de-radicalisation programme, Prevent, had rocketed by 36 per cent within 12 months.
The story follows Gethin, who works in a chicken and chip shop on a zero-hours contract, and lives in hope that the council will find better housing for him and his sister’s family. Amy-Leigh Hickman (Ackley Bridge) plays his Muslim neighbour Yasmin, whom he develops a crush on. However, when things go wrong in both his personal and professional lives, Gethin starts to pay attention to the extremist views of his friends.
“If you look at a map of the concentration of support for these kind of movements, it really does quite closely mirror a map of post-industrial Britain, what some people call Left Behind Britain. Not everyone’s happy with that term. But poor, working class communities,” Bullman said.
Aysha Rafaele, producer, explained that the drama aimed to bring “voices you don’t ordinarily hear” to the fore and help the viewer “understand the underlying causes” of far right groups’ hostility to other collectives and races.
“Hopelessness is an amazing feeding ground, very fertile ground, for the far-right,” she added. “So if you leave communities to be hopeless, this is what the consequence is.”
The drama’s creators delved deep into research done about far-right groups, including the work of Dr Hilary Pilkington, who wrote a book – Loud and Proud: Passion and Politics in the English Defence League – after being embedded for three years with the far-right organisation.
Preparing for the role of Gethin, a young man who is eventually drawn towards right-wing sentiment and violence, actor Sion Daniel Young didn’t think about the “awful” aspects of Gethin’s life. He thought about the good.
At the start of The Left Behind, Gethin has a family, a job, a home, and friends to sing karaoke in the pub with. He has a crush on his new neighbour, Yasmin, with whom he shares a giddy, drugs-fuelled evening on the streets of their (unnamed) home-town, pushing her in an abandoned shopping trolley. He’s childlike, thoughtful, sometimes shy. Young plays Gethin with such compassion that the viewer is left rooting for him even as those happier aspects of his life are stripped away, one by one, filling him with despair and, later, hatred. The film is a damning look at austerity’s impact on ‘Left Behind Britain’, particularly on young people living without safety nets and, in cases like Gethin’s, without hope.
– Flora Carr
Who stars in The Left Behind?
Welsh actor Sion Daniel Young (Private People, War Horse) played Gethin, a vulnerable young man who becomes attracted to far-right sentiment. Speaking at a press screening, Young — who has spent much of his career adopting an English accent — said that when he learnt of the South Wales-set drama, “there was absolutely no danger that [he] was letting anyone else play this part”.
Asked about how he had tapped into his character, Young said: “To be honest we didn’t really concentrate on the awful stuff actually, because the awful stuff is only awful because it didn’t start at that point. So Joe [Bullman] and I talked a lot about the good things that he had going on in his life, and the reasons for him to keep going, and the reasons for him to resist this for as long as he possibly could.”
Amy-Leigh Hickman (Ackley Bridge) joined the cast as Gethin’s Muslim neighbour Yasmin, and Aimee Ffion Edwards (Peaky Blinders, Skins) played his sister Annes.
Also joining the cast were Fresh Meat’s Kimberley Nixon, Jalisa Andrews, Aled Ap Steffan and Ryan Nolan.