Little Birds: All you need to know about the fifties drama starring Juno Temple and Hugh Skinner

Anais Nin’s infamous collection of erotic short stories has inspired the new six-part NOW TV series starring Juno Temple and Hugh Skinner.

By Pippa Shawley Updated: 7 August 2020 - 6.10pm

Watch Little Birds on Sky Atlantic with NOW TV from August 4th

Set in 1955 in the famous ‘international zone’ of Tangier, Little Birds weaves stories of love and desire with personal drama and political intrigue. Juno Temple (Dirty John) and Hugh Skinner (Fleabag) will star in the six-part series, based on Anais Nin’s collection of erotic stories.

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What is Little Birds about?

Juno Temple stars as troubled American debutante, Lucy Savage, who is desperate to shake off the shackles of society to pursue the unconventional life she desires. She is engaged to Hugo Cavendish-Smyth (Skinner, below), an English aristocrat, who is often torn between his fiancée and his lover Adham Abaza, the most eligible man in Tangier.

In 1955, Tangier’s ‘international zone’ is one of the last outposts of colonial decadence, where heiress Lucy finds herself on the cusp of achieving a painful but necessary independence.

Hugh Skinner and Juno Temple in Little Birds

Executive producer Peter Carlton revealed that the series began from an idea on doing a series of "short pieces about sex".

"They were almost like modern fairytales, with the idea that they would be places where the imagination could run riot. We were looking for a source of inspiration and thought of Anaïs Nin’s short stories.

"These were commissioned, obviously by a rich man, to be straight erotica. But what’s very striking about them is how freeranging they are, how open they are, how non-judgmental about sex they are. It felt as though having a conversation with those stories now was an interesting place to start.

"A colleague of ours, Mary Burke, introduced us to Sophia Al-Maria. Sophia is a visual artist, a memoirist, a novelist and a screenwriter. Sophia is Qatari-American and she is very interested in identity, cultural identity, sexual identity and the fluidity of all those things.

Hugh Skinner in Little Birds

"So we started talking to Sophia about what to do with this. I think all of us started to get frustrated by the idea of a short-form and felt that if you really wanted to let the imagination go, we needed to find a way of somehow grouping some of the ideas Nin was talking about in to something that could really take flight as a story.

"Sophia suggested 1950s Tangier because in 1955 Morocco was on the verge of independence. Tangier itself was very particular, a bit like Casablanca in the Second World War: it was an international zone.

"There was a French part, but there was a free international part which wasn’t totally part of the French protectorate. So it was a place where you got a mixture of politicians, bohemians, military and criminals all crammed together, where Western identity and Arabic identity melted.

"You got as many runaways and non-conformists from various Arabic regimes as you did from Western regimes. That felt like a really great place to set the story because it was a place on the verge of liberation where lots of different people in different ways were thinking about their own liberations from the various systems that entangled them."

Who is in the cast?

Jean-Marc Barr in Little Birds

An international cast joins Juno Temple and Hugh Skinner in the series. 

Raphael Acloque (Spiral) will appear as Adham Abaza, Hugo’s dashing and witty lover. 

Killing Eve’s Nina Sosanya plays glamourous actress Lili Von X, who encourages Lucy to live her life according to her own rules. Meanwhile, iconic Spanish actress Rossy de Palma (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) is the charming Contessa Mandrax, the queen of Tangier society. 

Yumna Marwan (Tombé du ciel) plays Moroccan dominatrix Cherifa Lamour, whose journey is entwined in the personal and political, as she attempts to shape the world around her through her strength and resilience. Secretary Pierre Vaney (Blood on the Dock’s Jean-Marc Barr) is desperately in love with her.

Watch the Little Birds trailer

Warning - contains adult content

Why you should watch Little Birds

Juno Temple in Little Birds on Sky Atlantic

Juno Temple was a fan of the book Little Birds before signing up for the series, revealing that she read it on a flight to Los Angeles when she was 17.

"I remember being quite overwhelmed by how turned on I was by this book, but in a way that I didn’t expect to be. It completely turned me on my heels. It was definitely a piece of literature that really opened my eyes to a new way of writing and what real eroticism is.

"In a funny way I think Lucy is on that same journey of discovery in this show."

Talking about what viewers will enjoy in the series, she added: "A big part of it is about people getting to be okay with their truth.

"Not one single character that you meet at the beginning of the show is the same at the end. We had this great Anaïs Nin quote on the opening page of our scripts that I’m sure the others have mentioned but it think really works for every character in the show:

"Each character does blossom but it’s not an easy journey and none of them blossoms the colour that you think they might. The show is really about people getting to know themselves and be okay with it even if it’s not who they necessarily thought they were or who they wanted to be.

"It’s about learning how to exist with who they are and free themselves of whatever kind of entrapment society has put them in. It’s also about how women were supposed to be in 1955, and it’s also about how men kind of ran the world in 1955; it’s about relationships between lovers, it’s about relationships between my character and family, and it’s about forgiveness."

Yumnama Rwan, who plays dominatrix Cherifa Lamour, believes every viewer will find a character to identify with on the show.

"One of the strengths of this show is there are so many characters," she said.

"Even characters that initially seem kind of evil or something. Even someone like Lucy’s mother; I think you can eventually feel for her and understand her. With all the drama happening around these characters, the strength of the show is that each character really has their own personal journey that they go through - and come out of completely changed."

Fleabag and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again star Hugh Skinner stars as aristocrat Hugho Cavendish-Smythe and described the series as a "trippy, dreamlike fantasy", "very, very queer" and "out there sexually".

"When I read the script I read it as a kitchen sink, slice of life type thing but [director] Stacie’s [Passon] approach was completely original," he said.

"It’s almost like a musical. It feels very bold and colourful and funny in places as well."

Will there be a Little Birds season 2?

Executive producer Ruth McCance, director Stacie Passon and writer Sophia Al-Maria are all keen to revisit Little Birds with a new story for season two.

"The concept of politically charged melodrama in an exotic place and time - that’s the  core of Little Birds," said McCance.

"I’d love to find another story to tell that’s sexy, glossy, melodramatic and provocative."

When does Little Birds start?

Watch Little Birds now on Sky Atlantic with NOW TV .

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