lenny henry on the importance of 'anansi boys'

December 13, 2017

words by: Bere Wangge

If you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods - the book, TV series or both - you'll know a character called Mr. Nancy. A human manifestation of Anansi, the West African god and trickster who often appears as a spider, Mr. Nancy is played in the TV series by Orlando Jones.

The character also makes an appearance in Gaiman’s other novel, Anansi Boys (although it’s never been confirmed if the Mr. Nancy from this book is the same one from American Gods). Soon, we'll hear Anansi as he manifests himself into a six-part radio drama for BBC Radio 4.

Featuring Lenny Henry as Anansi, the radio drama feels like a homecoming for the British comedian and actor, he says. Not only was Henry the narrator of Anansi Boys' audio book, but he was also one of the reasons it existed in the first place. During a conversation with Gaiman “years and years ago,” Henry was lamenting the fact that there weren’t a lot of black people in horror stories, which prompted Gaiman to start writing Anansi Boys.

In a teaser clip published on BBC Radio 4’s site, Henry discusses the importance of the radio drama and Anansi Boys in general. “For Neil to just go, ‘Pretty much everybody in this is gonna be a person of color or BAME’ is a big deal. And it was special, because when we did the read-through, [there were] all these people around the table that you just thought, ‘Oh my God,’” Henry says. “When people say things, like, ‘It’s difficult to do things with BAME cast, because, you know, who’s out there?’ Well, just listen to this program, everybody’s out there.”

That “everybody” is Henry’s fellow cast members, who include Jacob Anderson (also known as Raleigh Ritchie and Grey Worm from Game of Thrones), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Misfits) and Adjoa Andoh (Doctor Who).

Anansi Boys follows the story “Fat Charlie,” played by Anderson, who discovers that his recently deceased father, Mr. Nancy, is an incarnation of Anansi and that he has a long-lost brother named Spider, played by Stewart-Jarrett.

The radio drama will make its premiere on Christmas Day at 11.30 PM GMT and be available to stream on BBC Radio 4’s website afterward.