Bernardine Evaristo’s ‘vitally important’ queer novel Mr Loverman to become new BBC drama

Bernardine Evaristo (L) and Penguin Mr Loverman book jacket (R).

Line of Duty star Lennie James will portray the “crucial and complicated love story” of Bernadine Evaristo’s closeted gay protagonist in a new BBC adaptation of her novel, Mr Loverman.

Evaristo has blazed a trail for Black British representation in the literary world, landing the Booker Prize for her 2019 novel Girl, Woman, Other. But before that came Mr Loverman, her stirring 2013 novel which follows 70-year-old Caribbean-born man Barrington Jedidiah Walker, aka Barry, which is now set to be adapted for the small screen.

Described as a “life-affirming story about family, love, and being true to yourself”, the eight-part drama tells the story of Barry (played by James), an exuberant Hackney personality renowned for his dapper taste and fondness for retro suits.

After his wife of 50 years, Carmel, suspects him of cheating on her with another women, he is forced to reckon with the truth: his decades-long clandestine affair with soulmate and best friend Morris.

Lennie James will play gay protagonist Barry. (Getty)

Offering an “incisive portrait of a family, exploring aspirations and regret, parenthood, and social expectations about sexual orientation and love”, the series is written by Nathaniel Price (Noughts and Crosses) and directed by Hong Khaou (Baptiste).

“I am thrilled that Mr Loverman is being adapted into [a] television drama,” said Evaristo. “I love the idea of them stepping beyond the pages of the novel and into people’s living rooms and lives.”

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The Walking Dead star, James, who also acts as executive producer on the series, said: “I can’t wait to get Barrington’s swagger on and help tell this crucial and complicated love story – as funny as it is sad, as full of heart as it is heartache.”

Screenwriter Price added: “From the moment I read Mr Loverman, I fell in love with Barry, Morris, Carmel and the entire Walker family. Bernardine’s novel is not only a beautiful, truthful story, full of deeply human characters, it is a vitally important one.

“It is unflinching in its challenge of cultural myths and stereotypes, and an exhibition of just how deep and far-reaching the consequences of prejudice and fear can be.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to have had the chance to adapt this seminal work… to bring these unforgettable characters to life on screen.”

The rest of the cast is yet to be announced but filming will begin later this year.