Life is always a rollercoaster for Top Boy fans. One minute the show is gone for good, then it’s been revived by a haloed pairing of Drake and Netflix, then it’s been shunted to one side by an actual pandemic. But the best things are worth waiting for, and the London crime saga is definitely one of those. Just ask the army of stalwart fans who have followed it from terrestrial TV to worldwide streaming and seen its leads, Ashley Walters, Kano, Little Simz and Micheal Ward becoming household names around the world. With the fourth season landing on Netflix next month, we’ve assembled everything we know so far about Dushane, Sully and co’s eagerly-awaited new eight-part run.
When can I watch the new Top Boy season?
The pandemic halted filming of the second Netflix season, leaving fans hanging, until a huge BFI IMAX billboard in February let the world know that a Top Boy re-up was imminent. Sure enough, all ten episodes land on Netflix on Friday March 18.
Is there a trailer for the new Top Boy?
The trailer dropped on March 1 and you can watch it below.
What season of Top Boy are we up to now?
Top Boy seasons 1 and 2 originally aired on terrestrial TV in the UK. Then, in 2013, Channel 4 cancelled the show, leaving fans bereft. But with support from superfan and executive-producer Drake, Netflix picked up the rights and revived the show in 2019, expanding it from four episodes to ten. Season 2 will have eight episodes.
The obvious wrinkle for fans of things running in numerical order is that the streamer called its first season ‘season 1’, with the upcoming run ‘season 2’. Netflix subsequently renamed the original two seasons Top Boy: Summerhouse to avoid confusion. But if you want to call the new run ‘season 4’, we reckon that’s okay.
Still with us? Good. The original season 2 – sorry, Top Boy: Summerhouse season 2 – is on Netflix, guest-starring I May Destroy You’s Michaela Coel and Weruche Opia. But the first season is not currently available to stream, depriving newbies of the sight of Marvel stars Benedict Wong (Wong in Doctor Strange) as Vincent and Letitia Wright (Shuri in Black Panther) as Chantelle in the eventful opening series.
What happens in Top Boy?
Basically, Britain’s answer to The Wire or a grime Gomorrah, Top Boy has built a massive following since it first aired on Channel 4 back in 2011. It now boasts sleb superfans like Jay-Z, Noel Gallagher and Drake, and a showrunner, Irish novelist and screenwriter Ronan Bennett, who has been involved since the get-go.
One of its major hooks is its street-level authenticity, as it explores the machinations of drug lords, their bosses, and the humble foot soldiers caught in the web, including kids who lose their innocence to survive. It’s set on the fictional Hackney estate of Summerhouse and follows Dushane (Ashley Walters, Bullet Boy, Bulletproof, Grange Hill) and Sully (Kane Robinson, aka grime superstar Kano) as they build a drug empire in inner-city London.
Another key player is the ruthless Jamie Tovell (Micheal Ward), who took over as surrogate dad to his younger brothers when his parents died, and is a major challenger for the title of ‘top boy’ on the estate. Shelley (Lil Simz) adds a strong female voice to the show, playing a single mum and a carer for Dushane’s ailing mother. His soft spot for her slowly builds into a romance.
Top Boy carries us through a number of individual journeys in a hard-scrabble city: from highly qualified refugees who can’t get legitimate work and end up working with drug traffickers, to honest people who are persecuted by the UK immigration officers even when their papers are in order. It’s a deep dive into an often unseen London that tells emotive tales of those who are born oppressed and are marginalised in society.
What happens in Top Boy season 2?
‘Loyalty before everything’ is the strapline for this season. At the end of last season, Dushane and Shelley were looking to start a new life together, but trouble is brewing: a deep rift has grown between the power-hungry Dushane and Sully. Jamie is in prison and Dushane is angling to ally with him on the outside. But will Jamie agree? And is Dushane in danger of prison time (or worse) himself? An undercover operation has him in its sights and the rival London Fields gang is hellbent on aggressive expansion.
Expect more depictions of poverty and power, as well as a peek into how, and why, people turn to crime. Expect, too, for the women’s stories to come into focus in the new season. The fight for survival is real not just for the wannabe crime lords, but for those around them.
Who else is in Top Boy season 2?
Back again is Jasmine Jobson as Summertown drug dealer Jaq, and Saffron Hocking as Jaq’s sister Lauryn. Kadeem Ramsey returns as London Fields gang member and key Jamie ally, Kit, while Araloyin Oshunremi is back as Jamie Tovell’s younger brother Stefan. Hope Ikpoku Jnr is his other brother, Aaron.
Lisa Dwan is also due back as Irish drug baron Lizzie, and Keiyon Cook as Stefan’s bessie Ats.
A new addition for this run is Howard Curtis (Porthos in BBC's The Musketeers), who plays Curtis, a member of a rival gang from Liverpool. Dan Connolly is Tim Braithwaite, a character rumoured to be appearing in the season’s first episode, ‘Killing No Murder’.
South London MC Nolay cameoed back in the show’s early days as Dris’s girlfriend Mandy and she’s back in this run – even if Dris isn’t – ramping up the musical talent on display even further. Look out, too, for French actress (and ex-wife of Mark Ronson) Joséphine de La Baume (The Hitman’s Bodyguard), and The Green Knight’s Erin Kellyman as Pebbles. Another exciting addition to the roster is British fashion model Adwoa Aboah in her acting debut.
What are Top Boy’s London locations?
The show’s fictional Hackney home – Summerhouse Estate – is again a key location in the series. Since Netflix took over Top Boy, its filming location has switched from Elephant & Castle to the Samuda Estate in Isle of Dogs. The rest of the original filming spot, Elephant & Castle’s Heygate Estate, was torn down in 2014.
‘We loved the Samuda Estate because you can see the City in the background,’ location manager Ben O’Farrell tells Time Out. ‘That juxtaposition says something profound.’
Other filming locations used in previous seasons include Thanet, Cliftonville, Margate Winter Gardens and Ramsgate – as well as a sojourn to beautiful Jamaica for season 1 on Netflix. Custom House in E16 will also appear in the new season.
The line between life and art is pretty narrow on the set of Top Boy. ‘We’re shooting at places where this stuff goes down,’ Ashley Walters tells the Sun. ‘We were filming on an estate where, you know, where the local guys that were dealing couldn’t deal because we were shooting. So they were asking [for money].’
Read our interview with Top Boy stars Kano, Ashley Walters and Micheal Ward.