Written by, starring and executive produced by Michaela Coel, 'January 22nd' is a fearless, frank and provocative drama that explores the question of sexual consent in contemporary life and how, in the new landscape of dating and relationships, we make the distinction between liberation and exploitation.
Bafta award-winning Coel (Black Earth Rising, Chewing Gum) leads the cast in the role of Arabella. She will be joined by Weruche Opia (Inside No. 9, Sliced) and Paapa Essiedu (Kiri, Press) as well as Aml Ameen (Yardie, Mazerunner), Adam James (Belgravia, Doctor Foster), Sarah Niles (Catastrophe, Rocks) and Ann Akin (Strike: Career Of Evil, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams: The Commuter).
Also starring are Harriet Webb (White Gold, Plebs), Ellie James (Giri/Haji, Strike: Career Of Evil), Franc Ashman (Peep Show, Apple Tree Yard), Karan Gill (Flesh And Blood), Natalie Walter (Horrible Histories, Jonathan Creek) and Samson Ajewole, who makes his television debut.
Set in London, where gratification is only an app away, the story centres on Arabella (Coel), a care-free, self-assured Londoner with a group of great friends, a holiday fling-turned aspirational boyfriend in Italy, and a burgeoning writing career. But when she is spiked with a date-rape drug, she must question and rebuild every element of her life.
Feted as the ‘voice of her generation’, Arabella is complex, original and highly talented. But, distracted by the pressures of her first triumph, she is struggling to write her second novel and is in danger of becoming destructive and self-absorbed. After being sexually assaulted in a nightclub, her life changes irreversibly and Arabella is forced to reassess everything: her career, her friends, even her family. As Arabella struggles to come to terms with what has happened, she begins a journey of self-discovery. Often painful, sometimes funny, it leads her to some surprising places – and controversial conclusions.
Weruche Opia joins as Terry Pratchard, Arabella’s fun-loving caring best friend. Her acting career has been stalled, her love life is erratic and disastrous but she’s always sure that something brilliant is about to happen. Paapa Essiedu plays Kwame Acheamong – a sometime dancer who now teaches a gym class, he’s an attractive gay man with serious self-esteem issues when it comes to getting what he wants in sex and love.
Michaela Coel says: “We’re incredibly lucky to have pulled together such a talented cast to bring these scripts to life and I look forward to sharing this work with you all next year.”
Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, says: “We’re thrilled to be working with someone as bold and fearless as Michaela, she has created an ultra-contemporary show which explores the issues of her generation with huge compassion, humour and a raw truthfulness. It’s an incredibly urgent story which the BBC are proud to be telling.”
Amy Gravitt, EVP, HBO Programming, says: “It’s been thrilling to be a part of bringing Michaela’s vision to life. She writes with such intimacy and immediacy about how we treat one another, while always surprising us with moments of levity.”
Phil Clarke, Executive Producer, says: “It’s incredibly exciting to be working with Michaela again. She has a brave and original vision, and something mature and relevant to say about gender politics, about consent, about gratification, about social media, about her generation. It’s an explosive package.”
Filming is currently underway in London.