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Arts & Culture

THE LONG SONG On MASTERPIECE

July (TAMARA LAWRANCE) and Caroline (HAYLEY ATWELL) star in THE LONG SONG On MASTERPIECE.
Courtesy of (C) Heyday Television - Photographer: Carlos Rodriguez
July (TAMARA LAWRANCE) and Caroline (HAYLEY ATWELL) star in THE LONG SONG On MASTERPIECE.

Stream now or tune in Tuesday, April 13, 2021 from 8 - 11 p.m. on KPBS 2

A tale of hope and endurance On MASTERPIECE!

Stream now with KPBS Passport!

Tamara Lawrance (“King Charles III”) stars as an indomitable house slave in Jamaica during the era of emancipation, with Hayley Atwell
 (“The Avengers”) as her demanding, capricious mistress, in THE LONG SONG.

Based on the award-winning novel by Andrea Levy, the miniseries airs in three parts on MASTERPIECE.

Scripted by Sarah Williams (FLESH AND BLOOD), who previously adapted Levy’s International Emmy® Award–winning “Small Island” for MASTERPIECE, the series also stars Jack Lowden (“Mary Queen of Scots”), Sharon Duncan-Brewster (“Rogue One”), Jordan Bolger (PEAKY BLINDERS), Ayesha Antoine (DOCTOR WHO), Gordon Brown (“Only God Forgives”), Leo Bill (THE LIVING AND THE DEAD), Madeleine Mantock (INTO THE BADLANDS), and the acclaimed comic, actor, and activist Sir Lenny Henry (BROADCHURCH).

Andrea Levy, who died in 2019, was born in London to Jamaican parents and spent her writing career probing her heritage. Her numerous literary awards included the Walter Scott Prize for “The Long Song” (published in 2010), which was also a finalist for the English language’s most prestigious book award: the Man Booker Prize.

What to Know Before You Watch

Both a riveting look at the end of slavery in Jamaica, and a searing examination of issues relevant to today, THE LONG SONG, adapted from Andrea Levy’s bestselling novel, is a fictional tale of endurance, passion and hope. Before its premiere Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021 on MASTERPIECE, find out about the plot and the fascinating personal history that inspired it, the talented cast, filming location, and more!

THE LONG SONG is framed by the reminiscences of July (played as a young woman by Lawrance), who grew up as a slave on a sugar plantation in Jamaica and is now looking back on her life.

In extended flashbacks, she recounts her tumultuous story, which has been shaped by villains, heroes, and well-meaning people who are an unsettled mix of the two.

First there are July’s parents: Her mother, Kitty (Duncan-Brewster), is a stoic field slave. Her father is the brutal Scottish overseer of the plantation, Tam Dewar (Brown), who regularly rapes Kitty.

Kitty (SHARON DUNCAN BREWSTER)
Courtesy of (C) Heyday Television - Photographer: Carlos Rodriguez
Kitty (SHARON DUNCAN BREWSTER)

As a young girl, July is callously taken from her mother at the whim of Caroline (Atwell), the sister of the plantation owner, John Howarth (Bill). Caroline wants July for a lady’s maid and bestows on her a more genteel name, Marguerite.

July grows up catering to Caroline’s impulses, surrounded by other slaves, including the canny Godfrey (Henry), the spiteful Molly (Antoine), and the haughty Clara (Mantock). There is also the debonaire Nimrod (Bolger), who has bought his freedom and fancies July, promising her a fairy-tale life with him.

Robert (JACK LOWDEN) on right
Courtesy of (C) Heyday Television - Photographer: Carlos Rodriguez
Robert (JACK LOWDEN) on right

A moment of truth arrives with the Christmas Rebellion of 1831, a slave uprising that heralds the end of official slavery in Jamaica and other English colonies — but at a great cost in lives, including some who are near and dear to July.

In the aftermath, a handsome new overseer, Robert Goodwin (Lowden), rides into the story. He will set hearts aflutter, establish an enlightened tone with the emancipated slaves, and play a tragic role in the fates of all.

Reviews:

The British press applauded the UK broadcast!

The Guardian calling it “a beautiful, moving, horrifying adaptation of Levy’s unsimple tale, that honors the source and its subject.”

The Radio Times judged it “so finely-tuned and carefully-balanced that it’ll break your heart — and make you laugh at the same time.”

The Times opined, “What can a period slavery drama tell us that we don’t already know? Quite a bit.”

EPISODE GUIDE:

Episode 1 repeats Tuesday, April 13 at 8 p.m. on KPBS 2 - In early 1800s Jamaica, Caroline adopts the child slave July as her maid. July grows up to witness the Christmas Rebellion and the radical transformation of her world.

July (TAMARA LAWRANCE) and Nimrod (JORDAN BOLGER)
Courtesy of (C) Heyday Television - Photographer: Carlos Rodriguez
July (TAMARA LAWRANCE) and Nimrod (JORDAN BOLGER)

Episode 2 repeats Tuesday, April 13 at 9 p.m.on KPBS 2 - The handsome overseer Robert arrives, sparking a bitter rivalry between July and her mistress. Meanwhile, the field hands rebel against Robert’s work demands.

Robert (JACK LOWDEN)
Courtesy of (C) Heyday Television - Photographer: Carlos Rodriguez
Robert (JACK LOWDEN)

Episode 3 repeats Tuesday, April 13 at 10 p.m. - Facing labor unrest and financial ruin for the plantation, Robert’s sanity starts to unravel, with devasting effects on July. Years later, she makes a remarkable discovery.

July (TAMARA LAWRANCE) holding a baby.
Courtesy of (C) Heyday Television - Photographer: Carlos Rodriguez
July (TAMARA LAWRANCE) holding a baby.

Watch On Your Schedule:

Episodes will become available to view on demand for a limited time after broadcast. Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn more and activate your benefit now.

With the PBS Video App, you can stream your favorite and local station shows. Download it for free on your favorite device. The app allows you to catch up on recent episodes and discover award-winning shows.

Old July (DOÑA CROLL)
Courtesy of (C) Heyday Television - Photographer: Carlos Rodriguez
Old July (DOÑA CROLL)

Join The Conversation:

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Credits:

A Heyday Television Production for BBC. It is based on the novel by Andrea Levy. The Executive Producers are David Heyman, Rosie Alison, Andrea Levy, Sarah Williams, and Tom Coan. Ben Irving is the Executive Producer for the BBC. The Producer is Roopesh Parekh. The writer is Sarah Williams. The Director is Mahalia Belo.