Nikki Amuka-Bird and Phoebe Fox to star in Zadie Smith’s NW for BBC Two

I am thrilled that NW is being made and especially pleased that Nikki Amuka-Bird is to play Natalie, a powerful stage actress who I know will bring depth and heart to the role.Zadie Smith
Date: 10.06.2016     Last updated: 10.06.2016 at 14.00
Category: BBC Two; Drama; Casting

Director Saul Dibb to helm adaption of Zadie Smith’s bestselling book, which started shooting this week 

BBC Two and Mammoth Screen announce the two lead actors for their forthcoming production of NW, adapted by Rachel Bennette (Bel Ami).

Nikki Amuka-Bird and Phoebe Fox will play Natalie and Leah – two friends who grew up together in North West London, but whose lives have taken them in different directions. Amuka-Bird (Luther; Small Island; Birdland) will play the outwardly successful but unfulfilled Natalie, with Fox (A View From The Bridge; Life In Squares; Woman In Black: Angel Of Death) as Leah, her more grounded friend whose life is also at a crossroads.

Celebrated stage and screen actor Amuka-Bird, best known for her starring role as DC Erin Gray in the hit BBC One show Luther, says: “I couldn't be more excited to be taking on the challenge of playing one of Zadie Smith's characters. She writes vivid, intellectually and emotionally complex women that you can sink your teeth into. NW was my postcode for many years and I was amazed to read a book that so brilliantly and honestly captured the reality of life in one of our most multi-cultural suburbs, so it's thrilling to be involved in bringing it to the screen.”

Zadie Smith says: “I am thrilled that NW is being made, and especially pleased that Nikki Amuka-Bird is to play Natalie, a powerful stage actress who I know will bring depth and heart to the role.”

Fox, Olivier Award nominated for her performance, opposite Mark Strong, in Ivo van Hove’s A View From The Bridge, says: “Zadie Smith wrote such an honest book about not just North West London but the whole city, and the complex people that inhabit it. Her women in particular are so finely drawn; and Rachel Bennette has done a beautiful job in bringing them to life in this adaptation. It’s such a pleasure to be a part of bringing all this to the screen.”

Saul Dibb (Bullet Boy; Line Of Beauty; The Duchess; Suite Francaise) is on board to direct the 90-minute drama, and will be making full use of London as a backdrop. Shooting will take place mainly in North West London, with locations including Kilburn Station and Queen’s Park. The production has also cast supporting artists from the NW area.

Dibb, a born-and-bred Londoner, says: “I am incredibly excited to be making the film version of Zadie Smith’s bold and brilliant NW, and bringing to life the real, diverse and vibrant community it reflects. I’m equally excited to be working with an incredible wealth of acting talent. Together, our aim is to create a powerful and nuanced picture of modern London life.”

Also starring in the production will be Richie Campbell (Anuvahood) playing Nathan, and OT Fagbenle (The Five; The Interceptor) playing Felix, as well as an exciting array of fresh new talent including Rosalind Eleazar as Shar, Ronke Adekoluejo as Grace, and James MacCallum as Tom.

Producing the film is Betsan Morris Evans, and executive producers are Preethi Mavahalli and Damien Timmer for Mammoth Screen, and Lucy Richer and Maxine Watson for BBC Two.

Lucy Richer, BBC Acting Controller of Drama and Executive Producer, says: “With the story of two young women at its heart, NW will capture the beauty and challenges of true friendship as class differences threaten to divide them and they each struggle with conforming to society. As we are taken on their journey, we hope this special one-off drama with many contemporary and relatable themes will touch the BBC Two audience, and we are delighted that Zadie Smith has allowed us to bring her story to screen in a truly authentic way.”

Mammoth Screen Executive Producer, Preethi Mavahalli, says: “We are very privileged to be bringing Zadie Smith’s stunning portrait of modern London to life on screen. This is a uniquely powerful story of two women facing identity crises and coming to terms with their broken friendship, and we know that Nikki and Phoebe will bring enormous nuance and power to their roles.”

Notes to Editors

NW was first published by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books in 2012. It was instantly hailed by critics, became a Top Ten bestseller, and was shortlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction.

For more information, please contact Anwen Hooson at Riot Communications: anwen@riotcommunications.com