An ambitious original drama about Black Tudors living in 17th-century London is in the works for U.K. streamer BritBox.
Produced by ITV Studios-backed Silverprint Pictures, “Southwark” is in paid development for the BBC and ITV-backed SVOD platform. Set in the 1600s, the series will be written by novelist and screenwriter Catherine Johnson, best known for the 2004 Ashley Walters-fronted film “Bullet Boy.”
The story, which was inspired by Miranda Kaufmann’s historical book “Black Tudors,” will combine both factual and fictional characters as well as true events to reflect a different perspective of Tudor England.
The Tudor period technically spanned the late 1400s to early 1600s, and “Black Tudors” is set towards the end of the era, in 1600. Kaufmann’s book focuses on the stories of 10 Africans who came to England from Africa, Europe and the Spanish Caribbean and lived in England during the Tudor and Stuart times. Most arrived in the company of pirates, merchants, aristocrats and even royalty.
Crucially, their experiences are unique because they arrived as free people, rather than as slaves. This historical period in Britain’s history preceded the country’s involvement in the slave trade from the mid-1600s onward, which is currently detailed in Epix and BBC Two’s Samuel L. Jackson-fronted docuseries “Enslaved.”
Founded by Kate Bartlett, “Mr Selfridge” producer Silverprint Pictures optioned rights to Kaufmann’s critically acclaimed book following its publication in 2017. The company recently made the ITV drama “Flesh and Blood,” starring Imelda Staunton, and is currently in production on season 11 of ratings hit “Vera” for ITV and season 6 of Scotland-set “Shetland” for BBC One.
“Southwark” is indicative of BritBox U.K.’s agenda-setting aspirations in the originals space. The service, which launched in November 2019, recently debuted satirical puppet show “Spitting Image,” which received a major marketing push and sparked a “ten-fold” increase in subscribers to the SVOD. The show, whose ripe potential to create controversy saw a last-minute switch in U.S. partner, has already been recommissioned for a second season.
Also on the BritBox U.K. slate is five-part, Jared Harris-fronted thriller “The Beast Must Die” from Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions and six-part drama “Crime” from “Trainspotting” writer Irvine Welsh, based on his eponymous novel. A third project, “Magpie Murders,” is a co-production with PBS drama strand ‘Masterpiece.’