‘Three Little Birds’ interview: Yazmin Belo plays Hosanna in ’50s Windrush drama

Three Little Birds is airing on Sunday nights this autumn!

Set in the late 1950s, the six-part mini-series comes from writer Sir Lenny Henry (The Long Song, Chef) and the producers of The Good Karma Hospital.

Three Little Birds is inspired by Henry’s mother’s journey to Britain as part of the Windrush generation.

The new period drama follows Hosanna as she arrives in Britain full of high expectations for her potential husband, but both of them are concealing secrets about their previous lives that threaten to derail any future they might have together.

Three Little Birds continues in the UK at 8pm on Sunday nights on ITV1, with all six episodes streaming now on ITVX.

The series is set to debut on BritBox in the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Nordics in 2024.

Here, actress Yazmin Belo chats playing Hosanna, her character’s faith, and her admiration for the Windrush Generation:


Did this story immediately resonate with you?

“Yes. Hosanna comes from the parish of Clarendon in Jamaica, which is where my mother’s family grew up.

“My mum came over here in the ’80s, when she was about 23, so she’s a bit too young to have been a part of the Windrush generation; but she’s definitely a direct descendent of it.

“I looked to some of my older aunties for inspiration and to check that it was accurate. My mum is also a pastor’s child, so when I first landed this role of Hosanna, the similarities were deeply personal and a big part of where I came from.

“I was like, “Wow! How amazing!” and because this is international, I’m so excited knowing that that my aunties and uncles in Jamaica will be tuning in to this.

“If this is for anyone, it is for them. The same goes for Leah and Chantrelle, they are so similar to people in my family. It’s just such a brilliant story to be a part of and an absolute pleasure and honour to work on it.”


In what other ways did Three Little Birds remind you of your own family history?

“Through their resilience. I can only speak accurately about my own character Hosanna, as she’s been a part of me for a solid 7 months.

“Hosanna being able to choose love in the face of adversity was something I saw growing up, both subconsciously and physically. Church was where I saw the first depictions of what ‘love’ meant to me and it was also where I realised the fundamental importance of being a good person.

“‘Kill them with kindness’ is something my mother and father would often advise me to remember. I believe love is the highest frequency for both myself and Hosanna and one of the greatest shared beliefs between us. Love overrides all.”


Can you please give us a sketch of your character?

“Hosanna is a Jamaican woman from Clarendon and the daughter of a pastor. Those are key to her character and yet I knew I did not want her to purely come across as the quintessential church woman.

“Church and her love of God make up a huge part of her DNA, but that belief and upbringing have made her wonderfully humanitarian overall.

“She believes wholeheartedly that serving one another is the meaning of life and her whole sense of self is centred around that notion. Galatians 5:13 – But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

“That is scripture she hangs onto dearly.”


What can you tell us about her back story?

“She comes to England under the guise of marriage to Leah and Chantrelle’s brother Aston. However, she is actually here looking for her estranged father and is completely focused on tracking him down.

“Coming to England is a massive roller coaster for Hosanna. She doesn’t intend to stay here as long as she does and so we focus on her adjustment to a new way of living, finding her tribe and potential partner, which was never something she anticipated.”


Is her faith challenged by the den of iniquity that is London?

“There are wonderful moments of her almost surrendering to how rampant the racism was at that time.

“There are so many times where she feels lost because she’s the only one out of her group who doesn’t have any blood relation to confide in: no siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles.

“Her mother passed away in an earthquake in Jamaica when she was very young, so without her mother or her father around her, she does not have any immediate family in Jamaica or England.

“But as an alternative, she taps into an even more devoted belief in God. Through her faith, Hosanna builds her own strength and tries to find out how she can do things on her own accord with the church as her family.

“Hosanna relies on her faith in moments of conflict and mental affliction. Whenever she feels challenged, especially by the racism she faces in England, she goes back to what she knew best and that is her faith in the word of God.”


Is the character of Hosanna based on anyone connected to Lenny’s mother?

“Lenny and I had a really great conversation quite early on, where he told me the character of Hosanna was inspired by a mate of his mother who joined her in coming to England in the 50s.

“She came over primarily to get married and to begin a better life, eventually starting a very prosperous business with her husband.

“I think it’s very cool that Hosanna is inspired by a real person and we get to tell that story.”


What do you hope that people will take away from this drama?

“I hope that this brings back family time. I hope there is a sense of togetherness when people sit down and watch this.

“I want them to laugh when they need to and to not shy away from the more uncomfortable feelings, if and when they arise.

“Feel the feels! All of them! No matter gender, race or sexuality, I’d love people to see themselves in this show.”


Do you have great admiration for the Windrush Generation and those who followed them in the 50s and 60s?

“Yes. That generation were the trailblazers.

“They were the first to overcome a lot of historical turmoil and although there is still a way to go, it was their efforts that got us here. I wish to honour their existence, whilst trying to improve ours.”


Sir Lenny Henry’s memoir Who Am I, Again? is available on Amazon.