The drama promises to be an unflinching vital and deeply thought-provoking drama series from playwright, writer and director Kwame Kwei-Armah.
In 1981, at 20 years old, Justin Fashanu signed to Nottingham Forest, becoming the first black British footballer to be sold for £1 million. He became one of the most celebrated men in British sport and in 1990, was the first professional footballer to publicly come out as gay. In 1998, with his football career in tatters and ostracised by his family, Justin took his own life.
In 1981, Justin’s younger brother John signed to Norwich City, the same club at which his brother made his name. Over the next few years, as his younger brother’s star faded and life became mired by pitch-side rumour and front-page tabloid exposés, John superseded Justin as the famous Fashanu. And in 1998, when Justin dies, the two are wholly estranged.
John Fashanu is closely involved in the drama, serving as consultant on the series alongside Peter Tatchell and a number of other contributors.
Fash promises to be the unvarnished, unflinchingly honest and heartbreaking story of two young men each trapped in their own damaging and dangerous notions of masculinity that traverses back and forth across their eventful lives.
From a childhood spent in Dr Barnado’s care homes in the care of a white foster family, when they had nobody to rely on but each other amid an overwhelmingly white community which always saw them as “other”, to their tragic and irreconcilable estrangement that played out across the national media.
Described by ITV as more than simply a modern Cain and Abel tale, writer Kwame Kwei-Armah has through his script, skilfully, powerfully and resolutely exposed the toxic prejudices that ran to the heart of Britain at the time, both socially and institutionally, which catalysed the breakdown of these two brothers’ relationship. From the entrenched racism and homophobia ingrained in sport, and in football in particular, to the dangerously intrusive and relentless tabloid media which stoked such hate.
In Fash, Kwei-Armah has crafted a potent and arresting drama that reveals not just a shameful moment in our national history where to be yourself was to condemn yourself but also lays bare the continued pain, damage and torment that those self-same prejudices inflict on individuals in the sport to this day.
Speaking about writing the drama, Kwame Kwei-Armah said "I grew up watching the Fashanu brothers. I was fascinated by them. Inspired by them. As an adult, my heart breaks for them. ‘The past is a foreign land’, the saying goes, ‘they do things differently there’. In Fash, I wanted to dive into that past, particularly one that has so many resonances with today."
To which John Fashanu added "I’m so pleased to be working with Kwame and Happy Prince on this project. Much has been said and written about the relationship Justin and I shared over the years, but drama of this type has an ability to delve right to the beating heart and truth of events in a way other media can’t. I feel privileged to play a part in bringing it to the screen."
And consultant Peter Tatchell said "This is a powerful, moving life story that needs to be told. I am very honoured to act as a consultant to the production team, based on my friendship with Justin Fashanu in the 1980s."
The series will be executive produced by Dominic Treadwell-Collins and Alexander Lamb for Happy Prince, and speaking about the new drama, Alexander said "Fash is a truly important story that myself, Dominic and the Happy Prince team are desperate to tell; and its significance and timeliness rings even truer as football and sexuality currently dominate the news. It’s an honour to work with the brilliant Kwame Kwei-Armah as he brings Justin and John’s incredibly tough, beautifully moving, and often heart-breaking tragedy alive."
Fash will be produced by Happy Prince (part of ITV Studios) with ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill overseeing the commission of Fash on behalf of the channel.
Speaking about the project, Polly said "Kwame’s scripts are brilliant and tell a story that is heart-breaking and sadly still relevant today. It is always a huge responsibility telling a true story, and Kwame and the team at Happy Prince tell Justin and John’s story with all the truth, passion and sensitivity it deserves. I’m delighted it’s found a home on ITV."
Fash will air on ITV1 with a boxset available at launch on ITVX