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A young Jamaican-British woman living in South London struggles to define herself in Queenie

Published in 2019, author Candice Carty-Williams’ novel Queenie quickly became a literary sensation. “A must-read novel about sex, selfhood, and the best friendships that get us through it all,” is how the book was described by Candace Bushnell, whose newspaper columns inspired HBO’s Sex and the City.

The acclaimed novel is the inspiration for a new eight-episode series of the same name, focusing on 25-year-old Londoner Queenie Jenkins, a Jamaican-British woman who doesn’t feel that she fits neatly into either culture.

Queenie on Disney+. Pictured: Queenie (played by Dionne Brown) receives a surprise when attending a costume party.

Carty-Williams has been heavily involved in bringing her story to the screen, serving as executive producer and showrunner of the series — and she wouldn’t have had it any other way. “It was really important to me to be involved from the beginning to the end,” she explained during a panel at the Television Critics Association press tour. “I’m incredibly exacting as a person and a writer, and so every single decision, I had to be across it. I am very controlling, but I also enjoy what I do, and I wanted to make sure that the story was authentic, and also that the cast and crew had an amazing time making it.”

Adapting her novel for TV took some time. “It was an eight-year process, and in that, I had to learn to think about what it was like not being inside Queenie’s head and presenting Queenie to outsiders from the outside,” Carty-Williams said.

For star Dionne Brown, who portrays Queenie, the character isn’t that much of a stretch from her own life experience.

Queenie on Disney+. Pictured: Queenie’s grandfather, Wilfred (played by Joseph Marcell).

“The portrayal of that culture felt really at home for me because I’m also Caribbean,” she said. “That culture’s so rich and I love being Caribbean . . . I’ll properly come home on set. This is exactly how I grew up and this is exactly what it felt like and what it smelled like and what it looked like. I feel like it helped me definitely sit into the character a lot more and just proudly represent where it is that we’re coming from.”

According to Carty-Williams, when writing Queenie she drew inspiration from the Bridget Jones novels and films, and viewers will discover a few references to those movies sprinkled throughout the series. “I would always nod to something that inspired me hugely,” she noted.

Queenie on Disney+. Pictured: Dionne Brown (centre) stars as Queenie Jenkins in this TV adaptation of Candice Carty-Williams’ acclaimed novel.

While the South London setting and Queenie’s ethnic heritage are very specific, Carty-Williams believes that what the character goes through during the course of the series is relatable to all women. “I think that, as we know, these stories and these facets of womanhood, they’re universal, you know, across race,” she said.

As the story progresses, Queenie comes to realize that the only way she’ll be able to move forward in her life is to confront trauma from her past.

“I think it was important for me that if there were points of trauma. I think that the idea of trauma and how it sits within us and how it comes out in these bits and pieces in ways that can throw us off was really difficult for me to write just because you’re kind of revisiting trauma over and over again,” said Carty-Williams.

“She’s not processing her trauma,” added Brown. “So, we’re kind of seeing what happens when you stuff the drawer and you don’t clear it out . . . I think the portrayal of that is reminiscent to that idea of just, like. what happens when we hold it all here and we don’t let it go.”

Singer Bellah, who plays Queenie’s best friend, Kyazike, believes that Queenie’s imperfections are what make her so relatable to viewers. “I think it’s amazing to have stories where Black women don’t have it all together, where they don’t have to appear strong and, you know, figured out and clued up,” she explained. “So I think this is, for Black women, it’s a very universal story.”

Queenie, streaming Friday, June 14 on Disney+

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