BritBox has several high-profile projects heading to streaming for 2023, from the Cary Grant biopic Archie to the Death in Paradise spinoff Beyond Paradise. But one of the streaming service’s most significant gets is landing the new historical drama from Sir Lenny Henry, partly based on the oral family histories relayed by his mother, written in collaboration with Russell T. Davies. Titled Three Little Birds, after the famous Bob Marley and the Wailers song from 1977, it chronicles the experience of the Windrush Generation of British-African Caribbean immigrants who came to the U.K. after the 1948 passing of The British Nationality Act.
The project was initially greenlit by ITV in 2020, with Henry and Davies executive producing along with Angela Ferreira and production studio Tiger Aspect’s head of drama, Lucy Bedford. (Tiger Aspect and Henry’s own production outfit, Douglas Road Productions, are both housed under the wider Banijay group umbrella.) At the time, Henry praised Davies for mentoring him through the scriptwriting process, helping him translate these oral histories he grew up with into televisual stories to share with the broader world. BritBox boarded the project to distribute internationally in June 2022.
Though the stories are based on his mother’s tales, Henry has fictionalized them, saying they inspired him to imagine “three Caribbean women, all with differing yet complementary attributes. Although these are fictional accounts, my mother’s narrative will run throughout these stories, and hopefully, the stories of other post-Windrush arrivals will trigger memories, smiles, and tears too.”
Here's the show's synopsis, according to the ITV press release:
The drama narrates the adventures of gregarious sisters Leah and Chantrelle, who hail from St Anne’s district in Jamaica, and their virtuous, bible-loving acquaintance, Hosanna. At the instigation of their older brother Aston, they embark upon the journey ‘to the mother country.’ On arriving in London’s Notting Hill, they quickly realize the capital is not the home for them and flee to the Midlands. The road ahead is not a smooth one for our trio, and although we learn some shocking truths about the lives they left behind in Jamaica, we will also cheer them on to succeed as they overcome the obstacles of racism and integration and build a life in Britain.
Though Henry wrote the series, he will not be starring in it. That honor goes to Rochelle Neil (Guilt) as Leah, Saffron Coomber (Strike) as Chantrelle, and newcomer Yazmin Belo as Hosanna. Javone Prince (Horrible Histories) plays Leah and Chantrelle's brother Aston, whose reason to go to the U.K. is to search for a wife. The series also co-stars Bobby Gordon (Hollyoaks), Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who), and Amy Beth Hayes (Mr. Selfridge).
Filming for Three Little Birds is currently underway in the U.K. It is set for debut on ITV in 2023 and will follow soon after on BritBox.