Rochelle Neil, Yazmin Belo and Saffron Coomber announced as the leads of ITV’s Three Little Birds

18 November, 2022

The 6×60’ Series is written and executive produced by Sir Lenny Henry and produced by Tiger Aspect in association with Douglas Road

Rising stars Rochelle Neil (The Nevers, Guilt), Yazmin Belo (What Just Happened) and Saffron Coomber (Tracey Beaker Returns, Eastenders) have been cast as the leads in Sir Lenny Henry’s brand-new drama Three Little Birds, which is currently filming in The Midlands for transmission on ITV in the UK and BritBox International in the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Nordics in 2023.

Spirited, moving, funny and utterly heartfelt Three Little Birds is a triumphant celebration of immigration, community and the strength of Black womanhood inspired by the life-affirming stories of Sir Lenny Henry’s mother and all those who have travelled to make Britain their home.

Set in 1957, post-Windrush, and amidst the booming decade set alight by promise, the rhythm of rock and roll, swing, Hollywood starlets and fabulous fashion Three Little Birds will introduce Dudley and the rest of the world to gregarious sisters Leah (Neil) and Chantrelle (Coomber) and their virtuous, bible-loving acquaintance, Hosanna (Belo), as they board a cruise ship from Jamaica bound for a new life in Blighty.

Lured to the UK in search of new beginnings and by their older brother Aston (Javone Prince – Dodger), who asks Leah and Chantrelle if they’ll bring him a potential wife from back home, they convince Hosanna to give up her job as a trainee nurse and embark upon the journey to ‘the mother country. An effervescent mix of strong personalities they all have very different reasons for leaving their family and friends behind in Clarendon, Jamaica, though they soon discover it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, not least the dramatic change in weather. While we learn shocking truths about the lives they left behind the voyage of discovery is not smooth sailing for our trio, but they are determined to succeed and overcome the many obstacles of integration and build a new life in Britain.

The series also stars Bobby Gordon (Hollyoaks) as the sisters’ new factory-worker colleague Shelton, and Arthur Darvill (The Sandman, Broadchurch) and Beth Hayes (Mr Selfridge, Black Mirror) as Chantrelle’s employers Mr and Mrs Wantage, who expect far more from her than just cooking shepherd’s pie and minding their three children as their new live-in Nanny.

Rochelle Neil said:

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to give a voice to such a pioneering generation, in all their complexities. In many ways, Leah feels like a love letter to my grandmothers. A chance to explore the lives of the women that led to me being here and who I am today. I know they both would have been absolutely thrilled, as am I.”

Yazmin Belo adds:

“The project is a truthful depiction and great homage to my direct lineage. Being able to help tell this story is an honour, I wish only to tell the truth. I am excited to be playing the role of Hosanna. Her humanitarian nature, tenacity and ability to not quite accept what is going on around her, are some of the attributes I admire about her.”

Saffron Coomber says:

“I screamed when I found out that I was cast in Three Little Birds. It is a dream come true. Chantrelle is the kind of character I’d only hoped I’d get to play one day. It is an honour to tell an overlooked story of British history that is so close not only to my family but to so many, notwithstanding working with Lenny whom has been a legend in my home since I can remember. I am constantly inspired by my castmates and the stellar crew. I am in awe of the project and can’t wait to share it- pinch me!”

Sir Lenny Henry adds:

“I think I’ve been waiting to write this show for my entire life. It’s inspired by my mother’s numerous stories about travelling to Britain by boat in the mid- fifties. However, the joyous aspect of this project is the way we as a team have created a whole new narrative environment so that we can tell a whole raft of stories. Leah, Chantrelle and Hosanna) as portrayed by Rochelle, Saffron and Yasmin) pour their hearts into this rendition of all our parents’ stories. Our directors, Charles, Yero and Darcia are supercharged and ready, bringing the whole thing to glorious life. I am so proud to be associated with these tales of cold streets, uniting in the face of the traditional obstacles (racism, misogyny, poverty- and stolen moments of love, affection and sisterhood. Big respect to everyone involved. Phew!”

Tiger Aspect Productions will produce the six-part drama, written by Sir Lenny Henry and guest episode writers Carol Russell and Avril Russell, in association with his production company Douglas Road Productions. Both companies are part of the Banijay UK group.

Three Little Birds has been commissioned for ITV by Head of Drama, Polly Hill, who is also overseeing production from the channel’s perspective.

Charles McDougall, Yero Timi Biu and Darcia Martin will direct two episodes each and Lenny Henry, Lucy Bedford, Kate Crowe, Russell T Davies, Charles MacDougall and Angela Ferreira and will serve as Executive Producers with Stella Nwimo producing. Banijay Rights will handle international distribution. The series is co-produced by BritBox International, with Diederick Santer as Executive Producer.