tue 16/07/2024

Channel 4 Launches Second Series of 'Top Boy' | reviews, news & interviews

Channel 4 Launches Second Series of 'Top Boy'

Channel 4 Launches Second Series of 'Top Boy'

After a two-year wait we return to the crime-infested Summerhouse estate

Ashley Walters as Dushane (left) with Shone Romulus as Dris

Originally there was never any plan to take Top Boy into a second series, but its arrival in autumn 2011 provoked such acclaim and enthusiasm (mixed with a bit of useful controversy) that Channel 4 could hardly help themselves from recommissioning it. It has partly been a phenomenon driven by social media, where fans have persistently discussed the show and demanded another series over the intervening two years.

The upshot was that writer and Hackney resident Ronan Bennett went back to his research and his word processor, and next week we'll see what happens next to Sully (Kane Robinson) and Dushane (Ashley Walters) as they continue the struggle to carve out their own personal criminal empires in the shadow-world of Hackney's fictional Summerhouse estate. Once again, Brian Eno has supplied a vaguely unsettling soundtrack which enhances the balefully cinematic look of the programme, a trait continued from the first series by new director Jonathan Van Tulleken.

We stepped in and made sure it was authentic because that's what 'Top Boy' is about, giving a slice of life

Formerly super-tight buddies, headstrong Sully and the more calculating Dushane have been drive apart by rivalry and circumstances. "Sully and Dushane are not really seeing eye to eye," explains Kane "Kano" Robinson (pictured below). "Sully still feels a bit hard done by about Dushane leaving him on the doorstep in the last series and telling him 'you're too much of a liability for me and for me to move on in my life I can't be around you, there's too much heat around you'. Sully says 'well I'm going to do my own thing then, I don't need you anyway'."

It's hard to imagine Sully is going to get far with his new partner, the psychotic-looking Mike (Paul Anderson). "He's like a nutter as well," chortles Robinson, "and someone has to be more nuts than the other one, so I ended up being like the Dushane in our relationship - I'm saying to him 'no no, calm down, don't do that', so that's quite an interesting thing to play with."

And has Dushane really achieved that coveted Top Boy status?

"Everyone else thinks he's top boy, but I don't think he really sees himself as that," reflects Ashley Walters. "At the beginning of the new series he's come to a standstill about knowing where to go next. Where to take the money and what to do with it are complications for him. He's not that smart - there's a roof, and that's why meeting Rhianna [his lawyer, a new character played by Lorraine Burroughs] opens up his mind to a lot of different things. There's a nice scene where somebody asks him 'what are you gonna do with all that money?' and he says 'buy trainers'. That's as far forward as he's thinking."

One problem for both characters is that their past is catching up with them, in the shape of the charred corpse of their former rival Kamale. His remains have been discovered by the police (who are an ominous presence in series two, after being entirely absent from series one) on a patch of wasteland in the shadow of the O2 dome in Docklands. Dushane, on the brink of making a massive cocaine deal with his partner Joe (David Hayman), is forced to seek legal assistance from the guileful Rhianna (Lorraine Burroughs with Walters, pictured below) to keep the persistent Plod off his back. And then there's the unwelcome arrival of an ugly bunch of Albanian gangsters with machine guns trying to muscle in on their turf.

Top Boy's first series provoked some angry responses from Hackney residents for the way it dwelt on the low-life world of drug dealing, gangs and violence and failed to accentuate any positives whatsoever. The cast are unrepentant.

"I spoke to all sorts of people from Hackney and they said they loved how real the show was," says Robinson. "I spoke to people who had no idea this sort of thing existed in London, even if they lived quite close to it. We'd be lying if we said this didn't go on, and for people in Hackney who didn't like it, I would just ask the question 'does this not happen in your streets?' They couldn't say no."

"I get a bit upset that we have this discussion about Top Boy but we don't have it about Only Fools and Horses or whatever else," adds Ashley Walters. "If you're from that area and you know that lifestyle then you know it exists. If you don't know it, it's a chance for you to view a lifestyle that you're not necessarily going to come across. We can safely say all that stuff is really happening, and where we thought there were things in the show that weren't true to life we stepped in and made sure it was authentic because that's what Top Boy is about, giving a slice of life."

  • Series two of Top Boy begins on Channel 4 on Tuesday 20 August at 9pm
There's a nice scene where somebody asks Dushane 'what are you gonna do with all that money?' and he says 'buy trainers'. That's as far forward as he's thinking

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters