Three Little Birds Stars Share What They Learned … And What They Wore!

By   |   February 15, 2024   |   Entertainment
Yazmin Belo as Hossana Drake, Three Little Birds

The new BritBox series Three Little Birds chronicles the lives of three British Jamaican women who moved to the U.K. in the 1950s and dealt with love and racism, and finding themselves.

Based on the real-life stories of writer/actor Sir Lenny Henry and his family, we reached out to the three stars to find out what they learned about life for Black Jamaicans migrating during that time and what they loved wearing on set from that era.

What did you learn about life for Jamaican immigrants in the 1950s?

Yazmin Belo plays Hosanna Drake

Yazmin Belo as Hosanna Drake

Yazmin Belo plays Hosanna Drake: “I gained many insights into Jamaican migrants in the 1950s, both on and off the set. I was fortunate to establish a direct connection with the world we were portraying, allowing me access to information rooted in authentic experiences. The Jamaican migrants arrived in the mother country with the reverence of serving a nation they believed offered limitless opportunities and new beginnings. However, it became apparent that this was not always the reality they encountered. Faced with the truth, I believe many migrants entered survival mode, utilizing resilience, community, humor, and initiative as components of their survival—all prominently portrayed throughout the series. I paid meticulous attention to the music and fashion of that era. The clothing served as a poignant indicator of the social and economic class structures at the time. The vibrant introduction of ska, a music genre that resonates with us today, added depth to my understanding. Every day, I delved deeper into the lives of those who came before me, discovering how their traditions and culture left a lasting imprint on today’s society.”

Saffron Coomber plays Chantrelle Brahms: “I have always been interested in my family history and the stories that brought us here. The things I found heartbreaking and a theme of not only my history but countless others were the false pretenses that people traveling from the Caribbean were under. Jamaicans had the same school curriculum as England and were taught that England was their ‘Motherland.’ So many talented doctors, lawyers, teachers, craftsmen, nurses, etc., took up the invitation offered by Britain to rebuild after the war with the assurance that they, too, could build the life of their dreams. The harsh reality was the opposite. However, through community efforts such as Pardner schemes, people were able to build their lives and give us the ones we lead today.”

Rochelle Neil plays Leah Whittaker: “Funnily enough, minus social media and the technology we use today, I learned that at the root, many of our day-to-day lives (hopes, dreams, trials and tribulations) haven’t changed drastically since the 1950s. While it’s lovely and, at times, important to revere that generation: wise, stoic and pioneering in the face of racism and sexism, during my research, I was reminded that, ultimately, people are people.”

How did you make the characters you play your own?

Saffron Coomber as Chantrelle Brahms

Saffron Coomber as Chantrelle Brahms

Coomber: “A woman such as Chantrelle Brahms, someone who celebrates and luxuriates in life and its sensuality, made me invest in her physicality. This woman enjoys her body and enjoys being enjoyed by those she chooses, so I wanted to capture that feminine energy. Watching classic films featuring divas such as Dorothy Dandridge, Mae West and Elizabeth Taylor helped me to build a character who would look at these women as divine and try and emulate their enchantments and charm.”

Neil: “Leah was inspired by Sir Lenny Henry’s mother and the stories she shared with him, but as she is a fictional character, I had a lot of freedom. Making the role my own happened naturally when lifting her from the page. As standard, I made sure to be present and bring my full self to work each day.”

Belo: “Extensive research played a pivotal role in my preparation for this project, encompassing personal accounts from family members, as well as a thorough examination of books and online documentation. The privilege of accessing authentic and valid information regarding the historical context greatly enriched my understanding of the time. Throughout my upbringing, I encountered romanticized versions of stories about the Windrush generation, often shared within familial circles. However, recognizing the importance of forming an accurate and informed opinion about Miss Hosanna Drake, I undertook a commitment to delve deeper into historical records. My objective was to portray her not as a caricature or the quintessential Christian woman but as a multifaceted individual known and cherished by all—a lady, an aunt, a mother, a wife and a friend. The process of meticulous research and the pursuit of authenticity have been instrumental in shaping my portrayal, ensuring that Miss Hosanna Drake is presented with the nuance and depth she deserves.”

What was your favorite outfit to wear in the series?

Rochelle Neil as Leah Whittaker

Rochelle Neil as Leah Whittaker

Neil: “My favorite piece from Leah’s wardrobe would have to be her scarves. She wears several scarves, either wrapped around her head or across her shoulders. They are practical, culturally on point and so chic.”

Belo: “In Episode three, during the scene where Hosanna accompanies Aston to select her wedding dress, she is adorned in a black-and-white checkered ensemble. The experience was mutually uplifting; both I and Hosanna felt a sense of beauty and elegance.”

Coomber: “My absolute favorite outfit was for the audition in Episode three. We saw Chantrelle be shrunk by life and the Wantages and their efforts to make her smaller. This outfit, for me, was a resurrection of her glory. The dress, the hair, the shades, the heels! Her signature red lip. ‘Think Marilyn Monroe but even prettier!”

Three Little Birds, now playing on BritBox.

photo credit: BritBox

Filed Under: Entertainment
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