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BBC Three Series ‘Boarders’ Exposes Dirty Little Secrets – and Hidden Racism – of Britain’s Private Schools: ‘These Posh White Guys Do Some Crazy Things’

Forget “Saltburn” – now, it’s up to BBC Three’s series “Boarders” to take an honest look at Britain’s most exclusive private schools.

“You hear so many horror stories about these places, but it’s a rite of passage. So many of our PMs and people of power went there. I think there is something called ‘boarding school syndrome’ when you deal with politicians who exhibit complete lack of compassion. That’s what they learnt there,” explains Daniel Lawrence Taylor, who created the show.

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His actor, Josh Tedeku, agrees.

“I went to Oxford recently and there is a similar vibe. My friend would say: ‘This is where Boris Johnson went, this is where Rishi Sunak went.’ You start to understand why they are all so loopy.”

“I loved the place, they shot ‘Harry Potter’ there and I was just nerding out. Then, I met someone who watched ‘Boarders’ and she said it’s exactly like that. I asked: ‘But the pissing [scene] is extreme, right?’ She said: ‘These posh white guys do some crazy things’.”

In comedy-drama “Boarders,” competing at Series Mania, five Black students are offered life-changing scholarships to prestigious private school St Gilbert’s, struggling to rebuild its image following a massive PR crisis. But not everyone is welcoming them with open arms.

Produced by Studio Lambert, it was directed by Ethosheia Hylton and Sarmad Masud. All3Media International handles sales. “Boarders” is also available on the streaming service Tubi in the U.S.

“Comedy gets people engages, it makes them feel happy, but it’s also a great way to push forward conversation points that many are dreading. In ‘Boarders,’ when these things hit, they hit hard,” says Jodie Campbell, who acts alongside Tedeku, Myles Kamwendo, Sekou Diaby and Aruna Jalloh.

“These messed up moments don’t leave you. You talk about them afterwards. But don’t worry – we have five minutes of emotional depth and then you are laughing again.”

While there have been others shows reveling in uncomfortable humor – “Michaela Coel did it in ‘Chewing Gum’ or ‘I May Destroy You,’ we’ve seen it in ‘Atlanta’,” says Daniel Lawrence Taylor – it was crucial to stuff it with meaningful details.

“Black hair is a big thing. Being able to show someone who is around whiteness so much she doesn’t know how to do it was so important,” he stresses.

Campbell adds: “That’s what you do – you sit in between your mother’s legs when she does your hair. It’s such a big part of Black womanhood. My character Leah helps this girl, because her mom isn’t around anymore. It’s a small thing, but once you look into it, it’s such a big deal. That scene already spoke to so many people.”

As new students try to find their footing, or help out new friends, they have to deal with a lot: Rejection, humiliation, even violence. As well as a simple fact that the institution that took them in is allergic to change.

Boarders
Boarders

“Leah is trying to fight the whole system, bless her heart, but her little acts of rebellion are not going to make a difference. She does struggle with that, but we learn how to play the game,” notes Campbell.

“It’s a battle for integrity. I’ve had battles like that in the industry too,” adds Tedeku.

“You are told to do things you don’t like, so you have to decide if you are going to accept it or fight back. Fighting back can lead to problems, so are you willing to take this risk? In this industry, white people have dominated for so long. Sometimes, you just have to maneuver. It gets easier as you go along, but it never stops being tiring.”

Daniel Lawrence Taylor, previously behind “Timewasters,” also knows how to “play the game.”

“People are listening to our stories more, but it’s still tricky. I don’t sound like I am from South London. I have assimilated to a degree when I was at the university. I changed the way I spoke to fit it in those spaces,” he admits.

“Me and my siblings, we all have very British names. My mom did that intentionally – she didn’t want people to immediately reject us. She wanted us to at least get our foot in the door. We pack a lot into these six episodes, but we have great ideas for where it could potentially go in the future.”

Executive producer Maddie Sinclair agrees: “Boarders” should stay at St Gilbert’s for much longer.

“We are just getting to know these characters,” she says.

“The experience of being in that school changes them. They start to have an impact on it, not necessarily through activism, but through friendships that are formed. We knew this show should never feel preachy. It should feel entertaining – that was the number one aim. It all ends in a bit of a sticky place, but that’s where we wanted to go. We didn’t want it to feel too cozy.”

Boarders
Boarders

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