ITV orders Fashanu brothers drama ‘Fash’ from ‘A Very English Scandal’ exec

A brand new drama series about footballers Justin and John Fashanu has been announced.

Fash is written by the BAFTA-nominated Kwame Kwei-Armah, and comes from the executive producers of A Very English Scandal and The Bay, Dominic Treadwell-Collins and Alexander Lamb.

Described as “poignant, compelling and heart-breaking,” we’re told that ITV’s series will be “unflinching, vital and deeply thought-provoking.”

In 1981, 20-year-old Justin Fashanu was signed to Nottingham Forest as the first black British footballer to be sold for £1 million, becoming one of the most celebrated men in British sport.

He became the first professional footballer to publicly come out as gay in 1990, but less than a decade later, with his football career in tatters and ostracised by his family, Justin died by suicide in 1998.

Meanwhile, Justin’s younger brother John signed to Norwich City in 1981 – the same club where his brother made his name. Over the next few years, as his older brother became mired by pitch-side rumour and front-page tabloid exposés, John had superseded Justin as the famous Fashanu. By the time Justin died in 1998, the brothers were estranged.

John Fashanu, who is serving as consultant on the series, commented: “Much has been said and written about the relationship Justin and I shared over the years, but drama of this type has an ability to delve right to the beating heart and truth of events in a way other media can’t.”

Fash writer Kwame Kwei-Armah added: “I grew up watching the Fashanu brothers. I was fascinated by them. Inspired by them. As an adult, my heart breaks for them.

He said: “‘The past is a foreign land’, the saying goes, ‘they do things differently there’. In Fash, I wanted to dive into that past, particularly one that has so many resonances with today.”

Fash will premiere in the UK on ITV1 and streaming on ITVX in 2023.

The official synopsis reads: “Fash is the unvarnished, unflinchingly honest and heart-breaking story of two young men each trapped in their own damaging and dangerous notions of masculinity that traverses back and forth across their eventful lives, from a childhood spent in Dr Barnado’s care homes in the care of a white foster family, when they had nobody to rely on but each other amid an overwhelmingly white community which always saw them as “other”, to their tragic and irreconcilable estrangement that played out across the national media.

“But Fash is more than simply a modern Cain and Abel tale. In this series Kwei-Armah skilfully, powerfully and resolutely exposes the toxic prejudices that ran to the heart of Britain at the time – both socially and institutionally – which catalysed the breakdown of these two brothers’ relationship, from the entrenched racism and homophobia ingrained in sport, and in football in particular, to the dangerously intrusive and relentless tabloid media which stoked such hate.

“In Fash, Kwei-Armah has crafted a potent and arresting drama that reveals not just a shameful moment in our national history where to be yourself was to condemn yourself, but also lays bare the continued pain, damage and torment that those self-same prejudices inflict on individuals in the sport to this day.”

ITV’s new streaming service ITVX launched last week with Damian Lewis’ Cold War drama A Spy Among Friends, and period drama The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

Next up, they’re premiering Keeley Hawes and Matthew Macfadyen’s new 1970s drama Stonehouse in January.