The cast has been announced for the BBC’s adaptation of My Name is Leon.
Set in Birmingham, England in the eighties, the upcoming TV movie is based on Kit de Waal’s novel.
The “tender and inspiring tale” will balance “gritty realism with charm and gentle humour, exploring the issues of identity and belonging with both urgency and wit.”
Adapted by screenwriter Shola Amoo, My Name is Leon tells the uplifting and moving story of nine-year-old Leon, a mixed-race boy whose desire is to keep his family together, as his single-parent mother suffers a devastating breakdown.
Newcomer Cole Martin will play Leon, alongside Malachi Kirby (Small Axe), Monica Dolan (A Very English Scandal), Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense), Christopher Eccleston (The A Word), Poppy Lee Friar (Ackley Bridge), and Sir Lenny Henry (Doctor Who).
Malachi Kirby commented: “It’s rare, in my experience, for projects such as this to be made and even more rare to be seen, so I’m really excited and grateful to be a part of it.”
Monica Dolan said: “Rarely do you get the chance even to read a script of such heart, soul and wisdom as Shola’s. And it could not have come at a more appropriate time.”
Olivia Williams added: “This film is a real challenge for me. The subject matter has deep resonance, and my character is both grotesque and very real. I’m so excited to be involved.”
Sir Lenny Henry (The Long Song) is among the film’s executive producers.
Henry commented: “It is my honour to be part of the squad bringing Kit De Waal’s My Name Is Leon to BBC television. I discovered the book whilst performing the audio book and was so moved on the first day’s work that I rang my office at lunch time and said, we’ve got to try and do this.
“Thankfully, after five years, we’ve pulled it together with a great writer (Shola Amoo), director (Lynette Linton), cast and crew. I can’t wait to see the results.”
Lenny Henry is also currently busy writing semi-autobiographical drama Three Little Birds, set in the 1950s.
The official synopsis for My Name is Leon reads: “Set in 1980s Birmingham, this special one-off film tells the uplifting and incredibly moving story of nine year-old Leon, a mixed-race boy, and his quest to reunite his family after being taken into care and separated from his blond and blue-eyed baby brother.
“Told through Leon’s eyes, we follow his journey, full of energy and hopefulness despite the hardships he encounters, and witness the touching relationship between him and his foster carer Maureen. With his favourite action figure Sergeant Smith by his side, Leon’s adventure teaches him valuable lessons about himself, the world, love, and what family, in its various guises, really means.”
Filming is currently underway in and around Birmingham.
My Name is Leon will premiere on BBC One in the UK later this year.
Kit de Waal’s novel is available on Amazon.