The stars of Top Boy: ‘Are drug dealers going to Black Lives Matter marches? I doubt it’

You know a show has made it when it’s prepared to say no to its main backer, especially when that backer is a megastar rapper who is singlehandedly responsible for the show even being on TV. “When we first met Drake to talk to him about helping us to revive the series, he said, ‘Look, I’d love to be in it!’” says Top Boy creator Ronan Bennett, but this offer gave him a problem. “If Drake were to appear, it would have been a distraction. It would be hard to maintain Top Boy’s level of authenticity – so it didn’t happen.”

Since its launch in 2011, Top Boy has had a reputation for an unblinking depiction of the drug trade rife on inner-London estates. Soon, viewers will be treated to its second, hyper-realistic season on Netflix, nine years after it was cancelled by Channel 4 following two runs. Longtime fan Drake helped convince Netflix to commission the series, becoming executive producer along the way. It was also helped by calls from fans – including famous ones. When Kane “Kano” Robinson, the grime musician who plays gang leader Sully in the show, met Noel Gallagher, the first thing Gallagher said was: “When’s Top Boy coming back?’”

“It got annoying sometimes,” says Ashley Walters, who has played Dushane, another gang leader, since the start. “I love the fans and I love how much they love the show. But you kind of get drowned by it sometimes. It’s like you can’t exist as any other character. It’s like: ‘All right, that’s good. But when’s Top Boy coming back?’ It was a relief to have it return.”

This time round, the show is much bigger in scope. We follow the drug route into London from Morocco through Spain – prompting scenes of sun-dappled ocean waves gently lapping a yacht’s bow. Naturally, this being Top Boy, these scenes are followed by a naked man being shot in the head and dumped overboard. We also see into the police investigation of the various London crews, which is actually a first, even…

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