Sophie Okonedo and Adrian Lester star in the BBC 1 series "Undercover". Photograph by Des Willie courtesy of the BBC.

BBC1 Makes History With Two Black Actors in Primetime

In a historic first for BBC1, and television in the UK, it has been announced that Sophie Okonedo, Oscar nominated in 2004 for her role in “Hotel Rwanda” and Adrian Lester, both actors of African descent, will be the central characters followed in the new primetime political drama series “Undercover,” written by award winning playwright Peter Moffat.

While the BBC has had one other dramatic primetime series centered around a black protagonist with “Luther,” starring actor Idris Elba, that show had Elba’s character as the one drop of color in an otherwise all white society with no black friends or family members.  With “Undercover,” in stark contrast to ” Luther,” Okonedo and Lester will play an upper middle class married couple with three children.   Okonedo’s character will also start the series hitting the ground running as the first black Director of Public Prosecutions.  While Okonedo’s character will be the first black director in such a high level position, as another historic first for the UK, the series, which focuses on undercover police and unlawful deaths in police custody, will not focus on the race or skin color of Okonedo or Lester as a major plot point.

With the six episode series set to air on UK television in April, the green lighting of the series would seem to have been positively affected by the growing demand in the UK for more diversity in film and television.  Similar to the timely debate that has been generated stateside with #OscarsSoWhite and #BlackLivesMatter, it would seem that across the pond, in front of the camera as well as behind the scenes, people as a nation are asking for entertainment that is more representative of the multicultural lives that are lead versus one color fits all.