Lenny Henry tells Chris Evans that Three Little Birds is 'the story I've been waiting to tell my entire life'

Virgin Radio

4 Oct 2023, 10:39

Sir Lenny Henry talks to Chris Evans at Virgin Radio

When Lenny Henry joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch, he spoke about his upcoming series Three Little Birds, and how important it is to him.

National treasure Lenny wrote the six-episode post-Windrush drama, which comes to ITV this month. He told Chris: “A lot of people kind of think it's about my mum. There's bits of my mum in there. She told me lots of stories just before she died. So did my dad, and I went to ask my aunties questions, and my cousins and my sisters.” 

He continued: “I wanted to write something about post-Windrush. They always talk about Windrush, which was 1947. But my mum didn't come here until 1957. She came to me with her sister and a mail-order bride for my Uncle Clifton. And every time I hear that story, I kind of think, ‘That's the TV series. I want to write about that’. And then Russell T. Davies was my mentor on it.” 

“I just thought it'd be good to trace these three women coming to Britain with all the expectations of having a Commonwealth passport and thinking everything's going to be great, and they're going to be welcomed, and everyone is going to love them and hooray the streets are paved with gold. And to realise that it's not like that, to realise that people don't know who you are, they think Jamaica is in Africa. You know, my mum got chased down the road by some kid saying, ‘Where's your tail?’ 

“There’s a lot of racism. You know, they’re having to deal with oppression and the patriarchy and stuff like that, and get a job. And it was all about that.”

Describing Three Little Birds as having “all the feels”, the comedian and writer said: “There's humour in it because you don't overcome hardship without a sense of humour. You'd be crushed if you didn't laugh at things sometimes. And there's quite a lot of tragedy in it too." 

He added: “It sort of all came out of me. It was almost like this was the story that I've been waiting to tell for my entire life.” 

Sir Lenny was last on Chris' show in April to talk about his playwriting debut, August in England. Speaking today (4th October) about stepping away from stand-up comedy and towards acting and writing, he told Chris: “It's almost as if I know what I'm here for now.”

He continued: “I think being a stand-up is a noble profession and I loved it for 35 years. But there was a moment when I just went ‘This isn't all that I want to do with my life. I still love it. I still like the idea of it. I think I kind of know what to do to put together a new show. But I think there's other things to be doing’. So when I was asked to do Shakespeare, when I was asked to be in an August Wilson play, I leapt at it because I thought ‘This is a new experience’, and I think it's really good to do things that are new, that challenge you, that mean that you can collaborate with people. And I realised that I've been on my own for ages. Why not do things where you get to collaborate and work with a team? I didn't want to be on my own anymore. And I think that's lifted me.”

Regarding future projects, he said: "I hope we get another series of Three Little Birds, because I'd love to do more of that. I'm going to try and write a film of August in England."

As well as Three Little Birds coming out this month, a new documentary called Lenny Henry: One of a Kind, airs on Thursday 26th October at 9pm on ITV1. “It's kind of like watching your obituary while you're alive," he said. "But it's really good. It's a really good show. So I highly recommend it.”

Sir Lenny has also written his fifth children’s book: ‘The Boy with Wings: Clash of the Superkids’, which is released tomorrow. Keep an eye on virginradio.co.uk to read what he told Chris about it.

The star also shared his Firsts with Virgin Radio. Watch them here.

Three Little Birds is out on ITVX later this month.

Lenny Henry: One of a Kind, airs on Thursday 26th October at 9pm on ITV1.

The Boy With Wings: Clash Of The Superkids is published Thursday 5th October. 

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.