Steve McQueen to make epic BBC drama about black British experience

The series will follow black Britons from the Sixties to the present day

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The Independent Culture

Award-winning film director Steve McQueen is teaming up with the BBC to make an epic drama about the lives of black Britons over more than half a century.

McQueen, who grew up in west London, is widely expected to pick up an Oscar nomination for best director for his latest film 12 Years A Slave.

The film-maker said he planned to gather a group of actors for a series of workshops to develop the BBC series, to be set in west London, which will stretch from the late Sixties to the present day.

“I don’t think there has been a serious drama series in Britain with black people from all walks of life as the main protagonists,” McQueen said.

The BBC drama will be “epic in scope”, McQueen told the Daily Mail, and will chronicle the lives of a group of friends and their families from 1968 to 2014.

The project is in its early days with the scripts not expected to be completed until the end of the year. It was too soon to say if Chiwetel Ejiofor, the star of 12 Years A Slave, would be involved, the director said.

McQueen said that as with 12 Years and his other films (Hunger, about the IRA hunger strikes, and Shame, about sex addiction), he would look at life in Britain for the black man and woman “with an unblinking eye”.

Asked if the series might echo Our Friends In The North, which starred Daniel Craig, Gina McKee, Mark Strong and Christopher Eccleston as a group of friends from the Sixties through to 1995, McQueen said: “Well, this isn’t a black Our Friends In The North, but it’s an interesting comparison.”

BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson said: “It is too early to announce the details, but it is incredibly exciting to be working with the hugely talented British director who has rapidly become one of the finest directors in the world.”

The series will help the BBC fulfil a commitment to improving diversity on screen after Tony Hall, Director General, told MPs last year that the corporation was not doing enough to cater for black audiences.

The project will be produced by Rainmark Films, the company behind The Special Relationship, Peter Morgan’s 2010 drama tracing the relationship between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

McQueen received the New York Film Critics Circle best director award for his work on 12 Years A Slave, which is up for seven categories at Sunday’s Golden Globes in Hollywood.

McQueen, who now lives in Amsterdam, first found fame as a video artist winning the Turner Prize in 2006. His mainstream movie career began with Hunger in 2006.

McQueen was born in west London to Grenadian parents and grew up in Ealing.