Hayley Atwell & Tamara Lawrance lead BBC slavery drama

Justin Harp
Photo credit: Heyday Television/Carlos Rodriguez

From Digital Spy

Undercover star Tamara Lawrance and Agent Carter's Hayley Atwell will lead an all-star cast in the BBC's adaptation of the acclaimed Long Song.


Andrea Levy's novel, which won the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction, sheds light on Britain's shameful history of slavery during colonial rule in Jamaica. It will be directed by Requiem's Mahalia Belo.

The series takes place during the dying days of slavery in the 19th century, on a plantation run by the cunning Caroline Mortimer (Atwell) and tended to by her resolute young slave July (Lawrance).

Both of their worlds are turned upside down when a new overseer named Robert Goodwin (War & Peace's Jack Lowden) arrives intent on revolutionising the way the plantation is run.

A synopsis teases: "During a time of social unrest and turmoil, this powerful story is told from July's perspective as she looks back over her life; the tone is funny, defiant and indomitable. It's a story about the injustices that humans inflict upon each other and the unexpected ways in which people's humanity sometimes overrules their prejudices."

Photo credit: Getty Images

(Sir Lenny Henry)

The larger cast will also include the legendary Sir Lenny Henry, Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Bad Girls), Ayesha Antoine (Holby City) and Ansu Kabia (Murder on the Orient Express).

"Every day at work is enlightening. A real blessing to be amongst this cast and crew, playing a character as subversive as July," Tamara Lawrance said in a statement.

"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!"

Photo credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

(Hayley Atwell)

Her co-star Hayley 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."

The Long Song will air as a three-part miniseries on BBC One.

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