W1A's Hugh Bonneville & Sarah Parish pilot colonial legacy Sky comedy

ExclusiveFriday 8th December 2023, 2:29pm by Jay Richardson

W1A. Image shows left to right: Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville), Anna Rampton (Sarah Parish)

W1A stars Hugh Bonneville, Sarah Parish and Rufus Jones have reunited for a Sky comedy drama about Britian's murky colonial legacy, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

Also featuring US rapper and Dave star GaTa, the comedy, with the working title Forty Acres, is principally written by Jones and directed by Nick Collett (Ghosts, Everyone Else Burns), with a pilot filmed just outside London this summer.

Focusing on ownership of a stately home, cast and crew were spotted shooting at Victorian pub The Swan and other locations in Bushey, near Watford, in July.

Parish also posted images from the set on Instagram of herself, Bonneville, Jones and GaTa, real name Davionte Ganter, with the hashtag #BetterLateThanNever:

The pilot is produced by Lauriel Martin (Smothered, Dodger) for Bonnie Productions, the fledgling company set up in 2020 by former BBC Films and Baby Cow chief Christine Langan, who executive produces. News of the development follows yesterday's announcement that Keeley Hawes, Rose Leslie and Jessica Hynes will star in the BBC's dramatic adaptation of Gill Hornby's best-selling novel Miss Austen, made by Bonnie.

Jones, who played David Wilkes, commissioning editor for primetime factuality in the BBC's self-satire W1A, has shown a capacity for tackling topical, politically charged subject matter with comedy. He was nominated for a Writers' Guild Award for Home, his Channel 4 sitcom about an immigrant stowaway who becomes part of a British family.

Home. Image shows from L to R: Katy (Rebekah Staton), Sami (Youssef Kerkour), Peter (Rufus Jones). Copyright: Channel X
Home. Image shows from L to R: Katy (Rebekah Staton), Sami (Youssef Kerkour), Peter (Rufus Jones). Copyright: Channel X

Co-starring in the comedy alongside Rebekah Staton and Youssef Kerkour, who was Bafta-nominated for his portrayal of Syrian refugee Sami, Jones' sensitive depiction of the refugee crisis attracted critical plaudits and spawned the development of a US adaptation with the NBC channel and Ben Stiller. However, the UK original was not recommissioned after its second series ended in 2020.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak dismissed calls for the UK government to apologise and pay reparations for its role in the colonial slave trade, which saw millions of Africans enslaved and forced to work, especially on plantations in the Caribbean, between the 16th and 19th centuries.

This country played a key role in ending the trade through Parliament's passage of a law to abolish slavery in 1833. But speaking in August ahead of UNESCO's Day for Remembering the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Abolition, UN judge Patrick Robinson suggested that the UK ought to pay £18trillion for its slavery involvement in 14 countries.

Parish portrayed Anna Rampton in W1A, initially head of output and then "director of better", with Bonneville as Ian Fletcher, the BBC's head of values. Forty Acres is one of several roles this year that has seen the Downton Abbey star pivot back towards comedy.

Douglas Is Cancelled. Image shows left to right: Douglas (Hugh Bonneville), Madeline (Karen Gillan)
Douglas Is Cancelled. Image shows left to right: Douglas (Hugh Bonneville), Madeline (Karen Gillan)

Last month BCG revealed that he is currently shooting the ITVX cancel culture comedy drama Douglas Is Cancelled with Karen Gillan, while in August this site had revealed that he stars as the villainous "Thief Taker General" Jonathan Wilde in Apple TV+'s The Completely Made-Up Adventures Of Dick Turpin, starring Noel Fielding as the legendary highwayman.

As the hype man for rapper and comedian Lil Dicky, aka David Burd, GaTa followed his friend into acting in Burd's acclaimed FXX series Dave, in which he plays a heightened version of himself.

The dark comedy drama about a neurotic man convinced that he's destined to be one of the best rappers of all time broadcast its third season earlier this year and airs on BBC Two in the UK.

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