Toronto rapper Drake can probably do just about everything and anything, including reviving a UK television show by posting about his disappointment that it’s been cancelled, jumping on board as an executive producer, buying rights to the show, making a phone call to the higher-ups at streaming giant Netflix and, voilà, the miniseries gets a global revival.
“That human element drew me in. I started just looking them up. Like, who are these people? Are these actors I should know? Are they just famous over there [the UK]?” the hip-hop mogul said about the gritty crime drama, Top Boy.
That human element drew me in. I started just looking them up. Like, who are these people? Are these actors I should know? Are they just famous over there [the UK]?
While Netflix considers the revival as season one, it’s technically season three of the franchise, which had a two-season, eight-episode run at the beginning of 2011 on the UK’s Channel 4.
Created by Ronan Bennett, Top Boy offers a peek into the simmering rivalries between the drug gangs operating out of the Summerhouse estates of East London, and juxtaposes its grit with emotion, its seriousness with humour.
City Press spoke to two of the show’s cast members – rappers Simbiatu Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, better known as Little Simz, who plays the role of Shelley, and Kane “Kano” Robinson, who returns to the role of Sully.
Dushane, played by rapper Ashley Walters, is a drug dealer who returns from exile to his home in Summerhouse. He teams up with his friend and sometimes rival, Sully, to try to reclaim his throne in the highly lucrative drug market.
But the streets have changed in his absence and he soon encounters obstacles.
Kano told City Press in a telephonic interview this week that his character returns to London’s streets after finishing his prison sentence. “I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to explore the character further and continue telling this important story.
“The community and the places we’re talking about are the places I’m from. These are stories that I grew up with.
“I know what goes on out there; I have friends involved in these kinds of things. And it’s real close for us, for me and Ashley. So, for people watching it who are not familiar with that kind of life, it’s going to be an eye-opener, which is great, and that is necessary. Maybe it will change their perspective on how they look at people from communities like that.”
Little Simz said: “These stories are super, super important to us. It’s an opportunity for us to shed light on what’s going on in our side of London and what’s going on in the social climate now.”
Her character is a driven, independent single mother who wants to break out and do better in life. Shelley also cares for Dushane’s mother.
Little Simz said about her character: “She’s a strong, independent woman who wants to do more regardless of her environment or the circumstance she’s in. I think a lot of that rings true to who I am as a person, so I was really drawn to Shelley.”
Little Simz, who grew up not far from Hackney, where the series is set, said much of the story rings true to her life experiences.
“Every story that’s being told in this series, I’ve witnessed or seen a version of it first-hand. Even the character I’m playing, I know this person in real life. It’s very close to home.
“That’s why this show is super special and we take it seriously. We are representing people’s stories and we are representing their truth. We just want to do the best job as actors to make sure we get it accurate and we give all or nothing.”
Top Boy premiered on Netflix globally on Friday.