With news of a TV series commission on Lenny Henry comedy Rudy’s Rare Records not yet forthcoming, it appears that his semi-autobiographical drama Danny and the Human Zoo might jump ahead of it in the television production queue.
It was announced in February 2014 that Lenny Henry had written a one-off drama based on his own teenage years in 1970s Dudley, where he grew up with his Jamaican family.
StudioCanal describe the series with the tagline ‘Life in comedy isn’t always so Black & White‘.
A heart-warming, comic, single drama, loosely inspired by actor and comedian Lenny Henry’s life as a working-class teenager in 1970s Dudley.
The story centers round Danny Fearon, a talented impressionist and his working class Jamaican family. When Danny wins a talent competition at the local club, he soon finds himself working the comedy circuit, eventually hitting the big time on TV, an unheard-of achievement for a young black boy. Danny has it all – fame, fortune and the girl of his dreams.
But Danny’s new life isn’t all it seems. Exploited by an unscrupulous agent, Danny’s success drives a wedge between him and his family. Having made his name by becoming other people, Danny has to save himself by finding out who he really is.
The search for the young lead actor to play Danny Fearon began back in June 2014. The casting director for Red Production Company, Lisa Makin, was looking for a late teen of Jamaican parentage with a West Midlands accent and a talent for impressions of cultural icons from the 1970s.
Confirmed cast announced so far are;
- Kascion Franklin as Danny Fearon
- Lenny Henry as Samson Fearon (Danny’s Dad)
- Cecilia Noble (Nurse) as Myrtle Fearon (Danny’s Mom)
- Cherrelle Skeete (Ordinary Lies) as Dee Dee Fearon
- Natasha Gordon as Danny’s older sister Pearl
- Evanna Lynch (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) as Bridget O’Riordan (Danny’s girlfriend)
- Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who) as Danny’s Manager, Jonesy
- Richard Wilson (One Foot In The Grave) as promoter James Broughton
- Mark Benton (Waterloo Road) as entertainer Syd Bolton
- Tina Harris as Majella Riordan
- Lee Hodge as Georgie
The series will be produced by Tom Sherry with executive producers Nicola Shindler (RED Production Company) and Polly Hill, (BBC Head of Independent Drama) and directed by Destiny Ekaragha.
The West Midlands is due to be very well represented on TV in 2015;
- Caitlin Moran comedy series Raised by Wolves (Channel 4) is set in Wolverhampton
- Stephen Knight drama Peaky Blinders (BBC) is to return for a third series and is set in 1930s Birmingham
- Adil Ray comedy Citizen Khan (BBC), set in Sparkhill Birmingham is also returning for a fourth series
- Dominique Moloney created drama series WPC 56, set in the fictional Birmingham suburb of Brinford, has just enjoyed a successful third series.
With only WPC 56 filmed in the West Midlands, with the others all filming in the North of England, it’s good to hear that the BBC commissioned production, Danny and the Human Zoo, is due to begin filming in and around Dudley and the West Midlands in May 2015, so keep your eyes open for some 1970s fashions and styles on the streets of the West Midlands real soon.