Charming, sexy, clever, 27 year old Dushane (Ashley Walters) has finally made it as Top Boy of the Summerhouse Estate but has lost the support of his friend and main ally 26 year old Sully (Kane Robinson).
When Dushane meets beautiful young lawyer Rihanna (Lorraine Burroughs) she introduces him to a property developer – and the chance for a An unflinching, brutally honest look at the realities of inner city life in London.
Gemma: I was ready to watch the second series, as I loved series one and I wanted it to remain great, but after watching the second series I was really excited as its gone to the next level
Ashley Walters: No one thought there would be a second series
Gemma Cairney: Were you nervous going back to the Top Boy series. It’s a tight ship was that difficult to work in
Johnathan: Yes definitely it’s a gift to get given a show that is so amazing: The cast being so brilliant made the job easier.
Ashley: Apart from it being freezing when we were shooting as it was December and was snowing. We started thinking about electric socks it was so cold.
Gemma: What is it about season 1 that gripped people so much, why did people love top boy?
Ashley: Really I think it was down to timing. You can make something really good now but people just not be ready for it at that time. With Top Boy it was perfect timing. At the time people just seemed really depressed, but with Top Boy Series 1 there was the riots and tensions were high and Top Boy just captured everyone’s, anger, determination, hunger, desperation, this was all captured in this show. Also the fact of the matter is that the show is authentic, so I feel you have to applaud Channel 4 for taking those risks and a lot of tv shows will not take risks like that. Me and Kane were looking at each other in series 1 and thinking no that will be taken out in the edit.
Kane: I think everyone who comes from that environment loved it because it was something they identified with and the struggles that they face. Also for people who weren’t as familiar with that environment it was an eye-opener. For those reasons people fell in love with it was just curious to.
Gemma: Does that mean it some ways its at risks at portraying a side of London that people don’t necessarily want to know, particularly Hackney is so diverse, its where I live and I love going to all the local bars there on the Kingsland Road. But seeing Ridley Road market in that way was quite scary, I know you got some criticism about that the first time round.
Ashley: I kind of get a bit upset that we are having this discussion about Top Boy, but we don’t have this discussion about Only Fools and Horses. At the end of the day the bottom line is its entertainment. If you’re from that area and you know that lifestyle you know that it exists.
We can look in each other’s eyes and those who know, in reality know that its probably a bit worse then how it is portrayed on Top Boy. It’s a chance for you to view a lifestyle that you may not be able to come across in your lifetime. It’s like voyeurism; the only way that people can buy in to that lifestyle is by by buying into that kind of music or buying those kinds of DVD’s. We can safely say that all those kinds of things in those areas of London are really happening that you see in Top Boy and we made sure with John the director that we were providing a true reflection and a slice of this life. We are not here to make everyone feel happy or moral. This is a TV show that is about this specific lifestyle and that’s what Top Boy is and I hope we have represented that in the right way..
Gemma: I know that the Writer Ronan Bennett wrote this story after seeing a drug deal in his environment, by his local supermarket. He then took it upon himself and had done extensive research. Is this something as actors you have had to do as well?
Kane: Well I guess as me and Ashley come from this environment, our whole life in regards to this experience is research, it’s something we experienced daily when growing up. But with Ronan, he lives in a nice part of Hackney but had come across this 12 year old who wanted to sell him drugs.
The interesting thing about that as when he wrote that into Top Boy, Ronan had to write that scene in as a 16 year old as people would have thought it was unrealistic being a 12 year old, even though that was actually the reality. When Top Boy 1 came out we done loads of press and loads of press people came and I remember one of the press people directing this at Jonathan, saying “You have dramatized this, there are no 12 year olds selling drugs, you have fabricated this”. When the unfortunate truth is that even younger than 12 years old are getting involved in selling drugs. So I think it’s the research of this that has made it so good and honest. Ronan did go and speak to people who were involved in this lifestyle.
Jonathan: Definitely on set Ronan the writer made sure we had access to his sources to keep the reality.
Gemma: When I watch Top Boy I think it has a real generational vibe and you do think about what it feels like in that community for different types of ages. It also makes you feel a little bit sad thinking of really young children being exposed to crime and they are vulnerable and impressionable. Does it make you feel like that you want to protect young people, on a personal level do you worry for young people?
Kane: Yes it does, make you feel sad when I watch Top Boy I see Sully and Dushane’s characters and they are fully in it now; there is no real turning back. I see the character Rennel, he just wants to play football and his trying his best not to get involved but his friend is dragging him down, taking him into weed houses. I know people like that, who just want to play football but they have mates dragging them down. Another character we also see is the mum who has the barbers shop but the rents are too height but she is a single mother, she also has a son who could potentially go off the rails. Its everybody’s problems and it makes you feel a bit sad when you watch it
Gemma: Do you like your character Dushane?
Ashley: I prefer Kane’s character, but what I like about Dushane is that we all have this image of drug dealing gangsters with no sense. But a lot of these people on the street were destined for greater things and are very smart and have really, really good minds. They can be in church on Sundays and taking care of their families. I do think they can turn back, it’s not impossible and through Dushane we try to give hope and show that he could be helped if he had the right influences around him.
Top Boy season one is out on DVD to buy now. Series Two will air this month.
Four-part drama Top Boy, starring Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson, will start on Channel 4 on August 20 at 9pm.