Rochelle Neil (The Nevers, Guilt), Yazmin Belo (What Just Happened) and Saffron Coomber (Tracey Beaker Returns, Eastenders) have been cast as the leads in Three Little Birds, which will debut on ITV and BritBox International in 2023.
From Sir Lenny Henry, the six-part drama tells a story of immigration, community and the strength of Black womanhood. Inspired by Henry’s mother and all those who have traveled to Britain to make it their home, the series follows as three women board a ship from Jamaica bound for the U.K.
Three Little Birds centers on the sisters Leah and Chantrelle and their Bible-loving acquaintance Hosanna. Lured to the U.K. by their older brother who asks if they’ll bring him a potential wife from back home, Leah and Chantrelle convince Hosanna to give up her job and embark on the journey.
The cast also includes Bobby Gordon (Hollyoaks), Arthur Darvill (The Sandman, Broadchurch) and Beth Hayes (Mr Selfridge, Black Mirror).
Tiger Aspect Productions is producing the drama in association with Henry’s Douglas Road Productions. Henry is writing, along with guest episode writers Carol Russell and Avril Russell. Charles McDougall, Yero Timi Biu and Darcia Martin are directing two episodes each.
Three Little Birds will debut on ITV in the U.K. and BritBox International in the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa and the Nordics in 2023.
“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to give a voice to such a pioneering generation, in all their complexities,” Neil said. “In many ways, Leah feels like a love letter to my grandmothers. A chance to explore the lives of the women that led to me being here and who I am today. I know they both would have been absolutely thrilled, as am I.”
Belo commented, “The project is a truthful depiction and great homage to my direct lineage. Being able to help tell this story is an honor. I wish only to tell the truth. I am excited to be playing the role of Hosanna. Her humanitarian nature, tenacity and ability to not quite accept what is going on around her are some of the attributes I admire about her.”
“I screamed when I found out that I was cast in Three Little Birds,” Coomber said. “It is a dream come true. Chantrelle is the kind of character I’d only hoped I’d get to play one day. It is an honor to tell an overlooked story of British history that is so close not only to my family but to so many, notwithstanding working with Lenny whom has been a legend in my home since I can remember. I am constantly inspired by my castmates and the stellar crew. I am in awe of the project and can’t wait to share it—pinch me!”
Henry added, “I think I’ve been waiting to write this show for my entire life. It’s inspired by my mother’s numerous stories about traveling to Britain by boat in the mid ’50s. However, the joyous aspect of this project is the way we as a team have created a whole new narrative environment so that we can tell a whole raft of stories. Leah, Chantrelle and Hosanna (as portrayed by Rochelle, Saffron and Yasmin) pour their hearts into this rendition of all our parents’ stories. Our directors, Charles, Yero and Darcia, are supercharged and ready, bringing the whole thing to glorious life. I am so proud to be associated with these tales of cold streets, uniting in the face of the traditional obstacles (racism, misogyny, poverty) and stolen moments of love, affection and sisterhood. Big respect to everyone involved. Phew!”