The BBC has today announced the casting of newcomer Kascion Franklin, in the lead role for "Danny and the Human Zoo," written by Lenny Henry, which is a fictionalized account of the actor/comedian’s his life as a talented teenager in the 1970s, in Dudley, England.
Franklin will play the title character, Danny, with Lenny Henry playing his dad, Samson, and Cecilia Noble his mum, Myrtle.
Arthur Darvill, Richard Wilson, and Mark Benton round out the starring cast, with BAFTA Rising Star Destiny Ekaragha (whose feature debut, "Gone Too Far," was covered on this blog) is attached to direct. Good for her! I wondered what she would do next…
Said Lenry Henry in a press statement, "I can’t believe that we’re finally shooting my screenplay ‘Danny And The Human Zoo!’ This is a fantasy memoir of the first two years of my career – my beginnings, working on the Zoo, working men’s clubs and all that stuff that happened to me in the mid-Seventies – but crammed into 90 minutes. The script took about three years with the help of Nicola Shindler and Caroline Hollick at RED Productions and now we’re going to make it in Dudley – led by a wonderful director Destiny Ekaragha. There’s an incredibly talented cast and I feel very lucky to be a part of it all."
The official synopsis reads: "Danny’s world is a series of complex minefields which he has to negotiate: his home life – which his ebullient mother rules with an iron fist in an iron glove; his love life – where the Irish girl he’s in lust with won’t give him the time of day until he wins his first competition; and finally the ups and downs of his emerging career. When Danny wins a talent competition at the local club, he soon finds himself working the comedy circuit. Audiences can’t get enough and applaud Danny as he effortlessly morphs into Mohammed Ali, Tommy Cooper and Frank Spencer, eventually hitting the big time on TV – an unheard-of achievement for a young black boy. But an unscrupulous manager takes advantage of Danny and forces him to star in a show – Musical Minstrel Cavalcade. Danny hits rock bottom. Having made his name by becoming other people, Danny has to save himself by finding out who he really is."
Polly Hill, Head of Independent Drama at the BBC, adds: “It’s exciting to see Kascion Franklin gain his first screen credit, alongside our director Destiny Ekaragha in a fictionalized drama of Lenny Henry’s early life. Lenny’s script gives us his take on Britain in the Seventies, often shocking but always with wit and a big heart. It’s a beautiful script, with a great cast and we are proud to make it for BBC One.”
"Danny And The Human Zoo," which will be a feature length telepic made for the BBC, will be filming in and around the Dudley area.
Juliet Charlesworth is the producer.
The drama was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC One, and Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning.
It is made by RED Production Company for BBC One.