Gugu Mbatha-Raw picks the most exciting projects, and this next one might be her most astonishing.
Though she just finished playing Plumette in the live-action Beauty and the Beast and she’s gearing up to star in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, Gugu Mbatha-Raw has no plans to slow down. The stunning Brit has just signed up to star in British actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje directorial debut, and the project sounds absolutely fascinating.
We’re sure you know Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc from Suicide Squad or Mr. Eko from Lost, but he’s real life story is one for the big screen. Based on his life and his own screenplay, Farming is the true story of “a young African boy’s search for love and belonging within a brutal skinhead subculture.” Insane right?
The title Farming refers to the practice of handing out children to informal fostering that many Nigerian parents followed in the 1960s and 1970s in Britain. Akinnuoye-Agbaje was one of those children. In 1967, his parents, a Nigerian couple studying in London, gave him to a white working-class couple in Tilbury. When he arrived, his foster parents already had 10 or more African children living with them, including his two sisters. In Tilbury, Akinnuoye-Agbaje was in constant danger of attack from local kids who, encouraged by their parents, had a violent fear of blacks. Things got even more traumatic for the now-prolific actor when his birth parents whom he knew nothing about returned to take him back to Nigeria. He didn’t speak a word for about nine months, and in frustration, his parents returned him to Tilbury. It’s like a Black Oliver Twist but even more compelling.
Strangely, upon his return to the UK and in a racist environment, Akinnuoye-Agbaje became a skinhead. He didn’t just adopt the haircut and clothes but the racist attitudes too. He fought alongside his new skinhead comrades, who treated him like some brutalized pet to be unleashed in battle. Eventually, he would become the gang’s leader.
After five years in the making, Akinnuoye-Agbaje is ready to begin production on Farming, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Kate Beckinsale, and newcomer Damson Idris have all signed on to star. Mbatha-Raw will play the teacher that changed the young man’s life, Beckinsale will play his foster mother and Idris (who is the lead in John Singleton’s upcoming Snowfall) will lead the film as Akinnuoye-Agbaje.