Hayley Atwell to star in BBC adaptation of The Long Song

By Laura Harding, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Hayley Atwell and Sir Lenny Henry will star in a TV adaptation of best-selling novel The Long Song, the BBC has announced.

The three-part series, based on Andrea Levy’s book, will also star Tamara Lawrance and Jack Lowden.

Set during the final days of slavery in 19th century Jamaica, the story follows the strong-willed, young slave July, played by Lawrance.

Tamara Lawrance and Hayley Atwell in The Long Song (Heyday Television/Carlos Rodriguez)

Atwell plays the odious plantation owner Caroline Mortimer while Lowden appears as Robert Goodwin, the charming new overseer who is determined to improve the plantation for the slaves and mistress alike.

Sir Lenny will play Godfrey in the BBC One series, which has been adapted by Sarah Williams from Levy’s book, and will be directed by Mahalia Belo.

The novel was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and was the recipient of the 2011 Walter Scott Prize.

Told from July’s perspective as she looks back over her life during a time of social unrest and turmoil, the story demonstrates the injustices that humans inflict upon each other and the unexpected ways in which people’s humanity sometimes overrules their prejudices.

Lawrance, who previously appeared in King Charles III and Undercover, said: “Every day at work is enlightening. 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!”

Atwell added: “I am delighted to be part of this beautiful story written with warmth, sensitivity, humour and intelligence by Andrea Levy.

“Playing the deeply flawed Caroline Mortimer is a thrilling challenge and entirely new territory for me as an actor.

“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.”

Also joining the cast are EastEnders actress Dona Croll, The Boy With The Topknot star Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Chewing Gum’s Ayesha Antoine.