Former Casualty actor Patrick Robinson on the emotional toll of playing the true story of a man fighting for the right to remain in the UK…
Sitting in Limbo is a powerful new BBC1 drama on Monday evening starring ex Casualty actor Patrick Robinson as an innocent man caught up in the Windrush scandal.
In 1965, Anthony Bryan was just eight years old when he travelled on his mother’s passport to start a new life in Britain. But, in 2016, after applying for his own passport to visit his ailing mother in Jamaica, Anthony was stunned to discover there was no record of him as a British citizen.
Despite having lived and worked in London for over 50 years, the onus was now on Anthony to prove his status to the Home Office.
Starring Patrick Robinson as Anthony, new one-off drama Sitting in Limbo tells his true story.
Written by Anthony’s brother Stephen S. Thompson, the drama reveals how Anthony was forced to leave his job and was unable to claim benefits. He was then forcibly removed from his home, detained as an illegal immigrant and threatened with deportation to Jamaica. Anthony’s story is at the heart of what has since become known as the Windrush immigration scandal.
Here Sitting in Limbo star Patrick, 56, tells us more about one man’s fight to remain in the UK…
How did you get involved in this project? Did you feel a sense of responsibility bringing Anthony Bryan’s story to life?
"In 1998, I voiced a documentary based on the book Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain, written by Trevor Phillips and his brother Mike. This was a world I knew, so I wanted to be involved in this film from the get-go. In terms of being daunted by the subject matter and playing a real person, I felt a huge responsibility. But it’s one I relished. I met Anthony a week before we started filming and listened to his story…"
In the drama, we learn how Anthony was removed from his home and taken to a detention centre in Dorset. What did he say about his experience there?
"Anthony told me that being in there nearly broke him. That was all I needed to know for me to take on board everything he went through in order to play him. In the film, I'm only pretending to be in there – he actually lived it!"
What kept Anthony going while he was detained?
"His family and the love he has from the people he cares about and who care about him. So, his partner Janet (Nadine Marshall, Save Me), his daughter Eileen (Pippa Bennett-Warner, MotherFatherSon) and his son Gary (CJ Beckford, Small Island). Whatever is thrown at him, we see Anthony remain calm and dignified throughout. I couldn’t believe how much strength he had to maintain his equilibrium and not become bitter and twisted. I have so much respect for him."
Did making this film take an emotional toll on you, as a black man living in Britain?
"Absolutely. By the time I’d got to the end of reading the script, I was in tears. I was born in England in 1963, so I’ve only ever known Britain as home. I’m English, British, West Indian and Jamaican. These are all the boxes that I seem to fit into, and that other people like to put me into. As a man of colour living in Britain, your antenna is always up. I feel like that today and every day."
Why do you think this is an important story to tell?
"This story highlights how the British government systematically created a hostile environment for dealing with people who don’t have much power – just like how the slave owners treated people of colour for over 400 years. Anthony’s just an ordinary guy who's dealing with injustice. But his is just one story – there are hundreds, thousands of these stories. I’m very proud of this film and I think people in the UK need to see it."
Sitting in Limbo airs on Monday June 8th at 8.30 on BBC1.
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With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!