RI­D­LEY DE­LIV­ERS

Freida Pinto (“Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire,” 2008) and Babou Ceesay (“A.D. The Bi­ble Con­tin­ues”) lead the cast of the po­lit­i­cal drama “Guer­rilla,” which airs a new episode Sunday.

The Hamilton Spectator - - THE SPECTV - BY CASSIE DRESCH

It’s al­ready be­ing hailed as an Emmy heavy­weight, and it’s not hard to see why. “Guer­rilla” shines a light on a rev­o­lu­tion­ary time in the United King­dom’s history, when the Bri­tish Black Pan­thers were a driv­ing force in the pur­suit of ra­cial equal­ity, and does so with a strong cast and an ac­claimed writer and di­rec­tor. A new episode of “Guer­rilla,” the six-episode minis­eries from Academy Award win­ner John Ri­d­ley (“12 Years a Slave,” 2013), airs Sunday, May 7, on The Movie Net­work.

Based loosely on true events, the se­ries is set in 1970s Lon­don, Eng­land, and fol­lows Jas (Freida Pinto, “Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire,” 2008) and Mar­cus (Babou Ceesay, “A.D. The Bi­ble Con­tin­ues”), young lovers with strong po­lit­i­cal opin­ions, but no fol­low-through on their ideals. That changed in the first episode of “Guer­rilla,” when a friend was killed by po­lice, and the pair be­came ac­tive rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies.

“I’ve never been able to play some­body like this — I’ve never been given the chance,” Pinto said of her char­ac­ter at a press stop last month. “This is the kind of role that ac­tors live for. You can play char­ac­ters that are good, but don’t al­ways show your range. I’ve al­ways known that if you give me the chance, I’ll show you what I can do. I am so blessed that John saw in me the pas­sion and the drive I have.”

“I con­nect with [ Jas], I felt pro­tected by her,” she added. “Jas has her pas­sion in the right place, as well as this hunger to put ev­ery­thing that is within her out in the world. But she lacks strat­egy and di­rec­tion. I come from a very au­then­tic but not harm­ful place, but I am also driven by ex­treme pas­sion.”

Pinto has been lauded for her per­for­mance thus far, with the likes of Dead­line’s Do­minic Pat­ten call­ing her “ex­cel­lent” and the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter’s Tim Good­man say­ing she’s “con­vinc­ingly fierce as she be­comes more radicalised, but her evo­lu­tion is be­liev­able at ev­ery turn, less superhero than de­ter­mined ac­tivist.” As the con­clu­sion of the minis­eries nears, she just con­tin­ues to get bet­ter and bet­ter.

This isn’t lost on Ri­d­ley, whose writ­ing has also re­ceived heaps of praise. The “Amer­i­can Crime” cre­ator also had plenty of won­der­ful things to say about the ac­tress in a phone in­ter­view with Greg Brax­ton in April.

“In ad­di­tion to be­ing a very tal­ented per­son, Freida is also very pas­sion­ate,” he said. “I knew she had spent time work­ing with ac­tivist causes and work­ing with un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren all over the world. She had a way of speak­ing with pas­sion, but with­out anger. She’s a great ac­tress and a great part­ner . ... ‘Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire’ was a phe­nom­e­nal first film, and it was a role based on her emo­tion and her God-given good looks. For ac­tors of colour, par­tic­u­larly fe­male ac­tors of colour, it can be hard to move on to the next thing. I was lucky to have a very solid role [for her], and she was avail­able.”

Pinto’s cast­ing in the lead fe­male role hasn’t been with­out its de­trac­tors, how­ever, with some say­ing “Guer­rilla” doesn’t fea­ture enough black women as head­lin­ing char­ac­ters. Ri­d­ley, for his part, has re­mained stead­fast in his choice to in­clude her.

“Part of what we are say­ing is that a white per­son walk­ing down the street at this time would look at [Jas and Mar­cus] and say, ‘Oh, those blacks,’” he said in an in­ter­view with the Ob­server. “To the out­side world, they’re both black, but the re­al­ity is that they are a mixed-race cou­ple. Their love and com­mit­ment is a big part of the show be­cause they have to fight for that. They’re down for each other. There are peo­ple who will have a prob­lem with that, and I hope that they do be­cause that prob­lem is also part of the story we’re telling.”

Even Far­rukh Dhondy, an In­di­an­born mem­ber of the Bri­tish Black Pan­thers who was at “The Front­line” in the ‘70s, of­fered a comment on the al­leged “black era­sure” by Ri­d­ley. “I don’t un­der­stand be­cause we are not the BBC, we don’t need to tick boxes,” he told the Ra­dio Times. “Tick­ing boxes on gen­der and race is not what John Ri­d­ley set out to do. He set out to cap­ture a piece of history, and it is com­pletely le­git­i­mate that an Asian woman would be in­volved. I was a lead­ing male, I was a mem­ber of the cen­tral core, there were other Asians in the cen­tral core.”

Freida Pinto stars in “Guer­rilla”

Babou Ceesay as seen in “Guer­rilla”

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