Period dramas and adaptations of celebrated novels are the BBC’s bread and butter, so it’s little wonder that Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, set in the 19th century and shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2010, piqued the broadcaster’s interest.
The three-part adaptation is set on a Jamaican slave plantation and features an all-star cast, including Captain America’s Hayley Atwell and Broadchurch star Sir Lenny Henry.
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Here’s everything you need to know about BBC One’s The Long Song…
When is The Long Song on TV?
In the UK, the three parts of The Long Song aired 18-20th December 2018 on BBC One.
In the US, the series is currently airing on Sundays at 10/9c on PBS.
Who’s in The Long Song cast?
Tamara Lawrance (King Charles III, The Split) plays protagonist July, a young, headstrong slave and maid to slave owner Caroline Mortimer.
“Every day at work is enlightening,” Lawrance says. “A real blessing to be amongst this cast and crew, playing a character as subversive as July. She relishes mutiny with wit and courage; finding ways to win in spite of her circumstances.
“She also rings true to Jamaica’s national heroes – Nanny, Paul Bogle and Sam Sharpe – who, by standing up for their own humanity, shifted world history. I believe stories like these illuminate the legacy of slavery in relation to where we are today. It’s all still relevant!”
Hayley Atwell (Howards End, Agent Carter) plays July’s cruel mistress, Caroline Mortimer, a role described by Atwell as “deeply flawed”.
“Playing the deeply flawed Caroline Mortimer is a thrilling challenge and entirely new territory for me as an actor,” Atwell says. “Audiences will fall in love with the story’s remarkable heroine, July, who endures on-going abuses of power with dignity and poise, surviving injustices that were devastatingly prevalent during this time and place in history.
“It is a story that demands to be told,” Atwell adds.
Jack Lowden (War & Peace, Dunkirk) stars as Robert Goodwin, the new overseer of the plantation, whose revolutionary ideas intrigue both July and Caroline.
The show will also feature a roster of stars from the small and silver screen, including Sir Lenny Henry (Broadchurch) as Godfrey, July’s fellow slave.
Other cast members include: Doña Croll (EastEnders) as Old July, Sharon Duncan-Brewster (The Boy with the Topknot) as Kitty, Ayesha Antoine (Chewing Gum) as Molly, Arinzé Kene (King Lear) as Thomas, Ansu Kabia (Murder on the Orient Express) as James Richards, Jordan Bolger (Peaky Blinders) as Nimrod, Joy Richardson (Children of Men) as Miss Rose, Madeleine Mantock (Charmed) as Miss Clara and Leo Bill (Taboo) as John Howarth.
What is The Long Song about?
The gripping tale is set during the final days of slavery in 19th century Jamaica, a period of social turbulence. The story focuses on July, who as a young child is taken from her mother Kitty to live in the big house with her capricious mistress, Caroline, who hopes to train July up to be her personal maid.
As July grows up, she learns to ‘handle’ Caroline — but following the Christmas riots and the abolition of slavery, everything July has ever known is thrown into turmoil.
Adapted for the screen by Sarah Williams, The Long Song is described by Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, as a “sweeping series about love and survival”.
“At the heart of the story is the extraordinarily resilient and spirited Miss July, who I’m thrilled will be played by the fantastic Tamara Lawrance,” Wenger says.
Rosie Alison, Executive Producer for Heyday Television, added: “The Long Song cries out for dramatisation, giving voice as it does to people who were all too often rubbed out of history. We needed an exceptional actress with thrilling range and fierce intelligence to play the subversive heroine of the story, Miss July. So we are delighted to have found rising star Tamara Lawrance, a brilliant young British actress with Jamaican roots, to be our July. The cast surrounding her, led by Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden, could not be more vivid and compelling.”
Is there a trailer for The Long Song?
Yes! Take a look at the below…
Where was The Long Song filmed?
Although it is set in Jamaica, The Long Song was filmed in the Dominican Republic.
The production team was able to find a suitable sugarcane plantation where they could film the drama.
Atwell recalled: “It was very hot. Obviously we were filming in an old plantation house that didn’t have any air conditioning, and my character is dressed in layers – which was very hot – and there was an additional head piece.
“It was very hot, but that heat helped because you can see on the screen the sense if the climate and the climate. There’s an intensity in the sky, and it was very beautiful.”