He admitted that Paterson Joseph’s initial concern for Charles Ignatius Sancho, the first black Englishman to vote and the hero of his debut novel, was purely selfish. The actor, known for hit TV series like Peep Show, Vigil and Noughts & Crosses, had wanted to star in a historical drama in the 2000s, but he didn’t. was repeatedly told that there weren’t any matching parts.
I’m a product of drama schools that did a lot of classics – I love Shakespeare and European classics. I believe I can play anything, but not according to the casting directors,” he said with a grimace. “I thought there had to be a black character that I could get a writer to write so that I could then play the part.”
He began to study black British history, and came across Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Sancho. “I had never seen anything like it before,” he recalls. “I thought it might be a joke, but it’s a real man.”
Joseph discovered that not only did Sancho try his hand at acting, composing hit songs and writing books on music theory for the royal family, he was also obese and suffering from gout. “I thought, ‘Bafta! Olivier! This would be great! ‘”
However, as he reads more about the 18th-century character – the inspiration for Joseph’s one-man play in 2010 and now The Secret Diary of Charles Ignatius Sancho – he felt like he was at home in the country he was born in.
“I grew up in this country, but I still feel like an outsider,” he said. “I grew up in the 70s in Willesden Green [in north-west London]. It’s Irish and black, and we’ve always been derided – ‘w**s out’, ‘Paddy go home’, you can see that picture painted everywhere – so we always feel like strangers. Here I am, continuing, ‘They think we’re just Johnny-Come-Latelys. We have been here for centuries! ‘ That’s really why I wrote the book, because I felt it belonged in it. “
Sancho’s story is really the content of a fascinating primetime drama. He was born on a slave ship in the mid-Atlantic around 1729 and sold as a “pet” to three sisters in Greenwich, who named him at the request of Don Quixote. After escaping slavery, he became a writer, composer, shopkeeper, and abolitionist, all within 50 short years.
Joseph found that Sancho occupied an unusual position, dwarfing both the poor and the royal family: the Duke of Montagu, who had close ties to the royal family, became Sancho’s mentor, and he later met the family. king.
For Joseph, it was not so much that he wanted to write a novel because he felt that telling this story was “essential” “because it was missing.” “This should be something I picked up while reading David Copperfield and Oliver Twist in my teenage years. It’s a shame we don’t have tons of these stories because there are so many people to tell stories about,” he said.
Joseph points out that the story of slavery in England is unique because it happened “from afar”. “Officially, there is no slavery in England, although posters of runaway slaves are scattered throughout urban centres,” he said. The history of that black Englishman, however, remains untold.
“Now our entire black culture is American. Why do we think American history is our history? It’s the only history we have, but it’s important for us to be specific, and the story of England and slavery is very different.”
As we say, Joseph is in the process of signing hundreds of copies of his book, but he keeps the conversation flowing. Like his writing style, he’s “long-winded,” as he puts it, with the sense of humor you’d expect from the man who turned fluent talkative boss Alan Johnson into a legendary comic book character. dialogue through the nine seasons of Peep Show.
Video of the day
Joseph really wanted to bring humor to this story. Sancho is a close friend of Laurence Sterne, born in Tipperary, whose great novel Tristram Shandy is a clear influence on Secret Diary. However, the vibrant tone doesn’t appeal to everyone – Joseph says many publishers rejected the book on the grounds that it didn’t feel “authentic”.
“You’re basically saying it can’t be true because this man makes it clear and doesn’t feel like he’s the victim. this is not 12 years of slavery. I thought, Oh, I know what you want. You want a lot of pain and anguish and he has no strength,” said Joseph exasperatedly. There are many such books available, he added, but he is more interested in people than brutality.
“How would we live if we didn’t have a sense of humour? Humor is what helps us say ‘Life sucks, but here’s a joke about how bad it is.’ The Irish have it. The bad things the British do to them – this for me is another source of great rage – the Irish are, however, the funniest, funniest, funniest people I can tell you. English, but at the same time, you’re laughing, you know? “
His book also describes the close links between Irish and African communities in London in the 1700s, in which he observes: “The colonial peoples understood what it was like to feel oppressed. , so there’s a real solidarity there.”
Joseph was also raised by Irish people. He then lived in Dublin while filming In the name of the Fatherand then with his ex-French wife, whom he married in Blackrock.
“The Irish are very important to me in my life. Everyone in my Catholic school is in Willesden Green but I am Irish,” he said. His St Lucian parents stopped speaking kweyol, their island’s native language, to him when he was three because they didn’t want their child to have an accent, and he studied English accents on the radio. At school, Joseph was amazed to hear from his Irish classmates – the “fill-um” distribution was a particular source of wonder.
He recalls: “I was only five and a half years old, and my brain was in a mess, noting that my classmates were also fascinated by his pronunciation of the word ‘ask’. “I was very surprised with it. I have a great love and affection for the Irish people. “
School is a very unhappy place. “I grew up in an era when Afro-Caribbean kids were considered super normal in terms of their upbringing. I was always treated as if I was thick,” he explained, noting that because of that experience, he never considered himself a writer, even though he has written many stories.
Years later, after having a writer complete the first draft of his play, Joseph felt the result was “so wrong” that he had to write the monologue himself. “I’m a bit slow and a bit lacking in confidence in my writing skills. I started the first segment of the play in 2005, and when I finished it in 2008, we were living in a ‘post-apartheid society,’ I heard,” he said, rolling his eyes. “I thought, ‘Oh, I missed the boat, but I’ll write it anyway and see how it goes.’ And of course, 10 years later, we’ve got George Floyd and Black. Lives Matter.”
It was during this time, class of 2020, that he sat down and wrote the novel – more than two decades after he met Sancho.
He is currently working on a BBC series by Jack and Harry Williams, the scripting duo behind Missing person and Tourists. Even more interestingly, on Christmas 2023 he will be starring in his first musical, Wonka, with Timothée Chalamet. The film, a prequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryreunite him with Peep Show co-star Olivia Colman, or “Colly” as he calls her.
“We did a scene together, and I laughed all day, sometimes while filming. That’s a good thing Peep Show So does the reunion,” he said. “It’s fun. I had to dance and be the proper villain for Timmy, who was just the loveliest – uncomfortably lovable -“.
Can he sing and dance? “Obviously yes! It’s my new career,” he joked, also signing his 800th book of the day. “I don’t have time to write a book, I have to put on a card!”
Paterson Joseph’s ‘The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho’ (Dialogue) Now Released
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/peep-shows-paterson-joseph-blacks-and-irish-in-london-always-felt-like-strangers-42044261.html Peep Show’s Paterson Joseph: ‘Blacks and Irishmen in London have always felt like strangers’