|Created by||Ronan Bennett|
|Opening theme||"Finished I Ain't" by Ghostpoet (Series 1)|
|Ending theme||"Cold Win" by Ghostpoet (Series 2)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||4|
|No. of episodes||26 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producers||Aubrey Graham|
Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo
|Running time||48 minutes (approx.)|
|Production companies||Cowboy Films|
SpringHill Entertainment (2019)
|Original network||Channel 4 (2011–2013)|
|Original release||Original series:|
31 October 2011 –
September 10, 2013
13 September 2019 –
Top Boy is a British television crime drama series, created and written by Ronan Bennett. The series is set in the fictional Summerhouse estate in the London Borough of Hackney and focuses on two drug dealers Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane Robinson) along with others involved with drug-dealing and gang violence in London.
There are 26 episodes across four series. The first two series was with 4 episodes each broadcast on Channel 4, with the first series airing over four consecutive nights from 31 October to 3 November 2011 and the second series airing from 20 August to 10 September 2013. Although storylines for a third series were proposed, the series was dropped by Channel 4 in 2014.
Following interest from Canadian rapper Drake, it was announced in 2017 that Netflix would revive the series, with both Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson, as well as the original crew, reprising their roles and Drake and his team executively producing. The third and fourth series premiered on Netflix in September 2019 and March 2022, respectively and were presented as the first and second series of an original Netflix series, whilst the previous two series were added to Netflix under the name Top Boy: Summerhouse. A fifth and final series (third series produced by Netflix) was renewed on 31 March 2022 which will air in September 2023.
The series has received critical acclaim from a small selection of critics for its acting, cinematography, themes, realism, writing, and soundtrack, with favourable comparisons to other crime shows such as The Wire, Snowfall and Power. It has received several awards and nominations from the British Academy Television Awards, including nominations for the British Academy Television Award for Best Mini-Series and the British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress for Jasmine Jobson as well as wins for the British Academy Television Craft Award for Best Original Music, British Academy Television Craft Award for Best Director: Fiction and the British Academy Television Craft Award for Best Scripted Casting.
The series follows the plight of Ra'Nell as he navigates the pitfalls of living on the crime-filled Summerhouse estate after his mother, Lisa, is admitted to a mental hospital. Ra'Nell, who has gained a reputation around the estate for his volatile behaviour after stabbing his abusive father, is quiet and closed-off. While his mother is in hospital, he is cared for by her close friend, Leon, who was once a respected enforcer of the estate, but has since put his past behind him. Meanwhile, Lisa's friend Heather enlists Ra'Nell's help to grow a cannabis crop so she can earn enough money to move out of the estate and raise her unborn child somewhere safer.
Meanwhile, his best friend, Gem, finds himself in over his head when he begins to work as a drug dealer for Summerhouse kingpins Dushane and Sully. Gem is easily coerced and finds himself at the mercy of their trusted enforcer, Dris, who is ruthless and violent.
Dushane and Sully run the estate together with relative ease, but when Kamale, a rival drug dealer from London Fields, steals a large amount of their supply, they are forced to hunt down the thief before their supplier, Bobby Raikes, takes action. The urgency of the chase puts Dushane and Sully's partnership in jeopardy.
The second season was set one year after the events of the first season. After the police uncover a body, Dushane, Sully, and Dris are arrested. Dushane quickly realises that there is a snitch in their crew, and must deal with the repercussions. The snitch is revealed to be Michael, Dushane's favourite dealer, who was forced by the police to give information about Dushane.
Meanwhile, Sully is attempting to start up his own crew to rival Dushane's with his friend Mike, a borderline-psychopathic ex-convict. When a deal with Dushane's Albanian business partners goes bad, he attempts to enlist Sully's help once more to take them out. He comes into contact with Jason, a neglected boy who is trying to survive in a world filled with drugs and murder.
The first series of the revival series takes place six years after the original series. Dushane has fled to Jamaica, where he is getting by working in his cousin's car-rental shop. When he makes a business deal with imprisoned drug lord Sugar, he returns to London to sell Sugar's product and become Top Boy once again, with the help of Dris and Jaq, who were running Summerhouse while Dushane was away. However, a new crew from London Fields, headed by the ruthless Jamie, won't stand for Dushane stepping on their turf.
Since Dushane left for Jamaica, London has become more gentrified and cost of living has risen. He also comes home to learn that his sick mother is now under the care of Shelley, a young carer and single mother to an eight-year-old girl, who begins to form a strong relationship with Dushane.
Sully is in prison with Modie, a murderous drug-dealer who ran the rival London Fields gang in Dushane and Sully's absence. An altercation between the two men when queuing up in the prison cafeteria escalates to the point that Sully throws boiling sugar water on Modie's face days before he is due to be released; this serves to make Sully an enemy of Modies who seeks revenge on Sully when later in the season he eventually escapes prison with the help of Sully's cousin Jermaine, whom Sully had kidnapped in the previous season. When Sully is released, he reconnects with Jason and Gem to begin selling in Ramsgate. However, after Jason is killed in a house fire, Sully reluctantly reunites with Dushane and the two start doing business once again. Meanwhile, Dris, having suffered a stroke that has left him partially disabled, struggles with his responsibilities upon Dushane's return.
Jamie attempts to assert his dominance in the borough, driven to provide for his younger brothers, Aaron and Stefan, as their parents both developed cancer and died within days of each other, when Jamie was just 18-years-old. He starts business with an upper-class Irish drug supplier Lizzie and her husband Jeffery and his thirst for power and subsequent battles with Dushane's crew in Summerhouse serve as the main plot throughout this series and culminate in Dushane orchestrating Jamie being sent to prison after police are led to find a bag filled with weapons and drugs in the flat that Jamie lives in with his brothers.
The second series of the revival series takes place six months after the events of the last. Dushane wants to expand his empire beyond the streets by making huge investments in London and finding new connects in Spain and Morocco, which causes tensions between the community and his sick mother, who is now aware and ashamed of her son's business.
Jamie has been released from prison and his gang begins to work with the Summerhouse gang. He attempts to reconnect with his younger brother, Stefan, following his friend Ats' death to knife crime but is sent by Dushane to sort out a botched drug deal in Spain and Morocco.
Jaq, Dushane's new second-in-command following the death of Dris, tries to rescue her pregnant older sister Lauryn, who is in an abusive relationship with Liverpool-based weapons dealer Curtis.
Sully, suffering PTSD as he comes to terms with murdering Dris and the death of his son-figure and friend Jason, is suspicious about Jamie and Dushane doing business together. Meanwhile, Shelley and other local residents try to fight against Dushane's redevelopments for Summerhouse, whilst Shelley herself comes to terms with her dark past which cause her to be blackmailed for aiding in the burial of her ex-boyfriend's murder victim.
• An empty, grey cell indicates that the character was not in the series, or their presence in the series has not yet been confirmed.
|Series 1||Series 2||Series 1||Series 2|
|Ashley Walters||Dushane Hill||Main|
|Kane Robinson||Gerard "Sully" Sullivan||Main|
|Malcolm Kamulete||Ra'Nell Smith||Main||Does not appear|
|Giacomo Mancini||Gemel “Gem” Mustapha||Main||Recurring||Does not appear|
|Shone Romulus||Dris Wright||Main||Does not appear|
|Sharon Duncan-Brewster||Lisa Smith||Main||Does not appear|
|Kierston Wareing||Heather||Main||Does not appear|
|Nicholas Pinnock||Leon||Main||Does not appear|
|Xavien Russell||Michael||Recurring||Main||Does not appear|
|Micheal Ward||Jamie Tovell||Does not appear||Main|
|Jasmine Jobson||Jacqueline “Jaq” Lawrence||Does not appear||Main|
|Simbi Ajikawo||Shelley||Does not appear||Main|
|Hope Ikpoku Jr.||Aaron Tovell||Does not appear||Main|
|Araloyin Oshunremi||Stefan Tovell||Does not appear||Main|
|Keiyon Cook||Attica "Ats" Ayittey||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear|
|Jolade Obasola||Amma Ayittey||Does not appear||Main|
|Kadeem Ramsay||Kit||Does not appear||Main|
|Lisa Dwan||Lizzie||Does not appear||Main|
|Saffron Hocking||Lauryn Lawrence||Does not appear||Recurring||Main|
|No.||No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.K. viewers|
|1||1||"Episode 1"||Yann Demange||Ronan Bennett||31 October 2011||1.68|
|In the courtyards of the Summerhouse Estate, a thriving but underground drugs business is being run by Dushane and his friend Sully. Ra'Nell is forced to 'step-up' after his mother is committed to a hospital after suffering a mental breakdown.|
|2||2||"Episode 2"||Yann Demange||Ronan Bennett||1 November 2011||1.69|
|Raikes gives Sully and Dushane two weeks to retrieve the stash stolen by Kamale, a task that proves to be harder than originally thought. Dushane and Sully kidnap Kamale's cousin in order to force Kamale out of hiding, but things don't go according to plan, and the boys end up with a body on their hands. Meanwhile, Ra'Nell goes into business with his mother's friend, Heather.|
|3||3||"Episode 3"||Yann Demange||Ronan Bennett||2 November 2011||1.54|
|After Heather has shown him the flat she hopes to buy with her drug money, Ra'Nell welcomes his mother home. After an altercation where Gem is accused of betraying Dushane and Sully, Marnie is murdered. Sighting Kamale, Dushane and Sully torture him before shooting him and recovering the stolen drugs and money. Raikes' accomplice Lee is revealed to be the snake, and is murdered.|
|4||4||"Episode 4"||Yann Demange||Ronan Bennett||3 November 2011||1.56|
|Heather confesses her guilt, which leads Lisa to call upon Leon for help. Ra'Nell attempts to do business with Dushane, but Sully's interception causes another casualty. Dushane is shocked that Sully still has the gun that killed two people, with Raikes proposing they sell Sully out as a liability.|
|No.||No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.K. viewers|
|5||1||"Episode 1"||Jonathan van Tulleken||Ronan Bennett||20 August 2013||1.39|
|After the police uncover a body, "Top Boy" Dushane must deal with the repercussions, while also attempting to stay ahead of his new rival, his one-time friend, Sully. Ra'Nell's mother tries to rebuild her life, while Gem calls upon Ra'Nell for help.|
|6||2||"Episode 2"||Jonathan van Tulleken||Ronan Bennett||27 August 2013||1.13|
|While visiting the injured Joe, Dushane discovers who stole their drugs. Meanwhile, Mike and Sully botch a hit, and a police witness threatens to destroy Dushane and Sully. Gem discovers what it means to be in debt, and Jason makes enemies on the Summerhouse Estate.|
|7||3||"Episode 3"||Jonathan van Tulleken||Ronan Bennett||3 September 2013||1.07|
|Mike and Sully struggle to survive as Rafe swears vengeance on them for kidnapping his brother, Jermaine. Sully takes pity on Jason after witnessing first-hand the struggles the youth faces. Ra'Nell attempts to protect Gem from Vincent. The police threaten to destroy their witness if she does not cooperate, putting Dushane and Sully in danger.|
|8||4||"Episode 4"||Jonathan van Tulleken||Ronan Bennett||10 September 2013||1.00|
|Lisa enlists the help of Dushane to deal with Vincent, while also attempting to save her business. Dushane and Sully reunite with the intention of retrieving the stolen drugs from the Albanians. A guilty Michael fears for his life, Gem and his father must cope with a change in lifestyle, and Dushane must take drastic measures in a desperate attempt to keep him and Sully out of prison.|
|No.||No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|9||1||"Bruk Up"||Reinaldo Marcus Green||Ronan Bennett||13 September 2019|
|Streetwise Jamie looks to lead a gang and cut old ties for a new supplier. In Jamaica, hardened criminal Dushane is at the mercy of a powerful kingpin.|
|10||2||"Building Bridges"||Reinaldo Marcus Green||Ronan Bennett||13 September 2019|
|Dushane returns to London. Jamie juggles family duties with risky responsibilities. Before his prison release, convict Sully is provoked by an inmate.|
|11||3||"Big Flame"||Reinaldo Marcus Green||Ronan Bennett||13 September 2019|
|Strapped for cash, Dushane makes a proposition to an old friend and attempts burglary. Beefing with a rival gang, Jamie struggles to keep a low profile.|
|12||4||"Bonfire Night"||Nia DaCosta||Daniel West||13 September 2019|
|The feud between the Fields and the A-Roads escalates. A fiery attack puts Sully and Jason in peril. Dushane's plans take an unexpected turn.|
|13||5||"Smoke Gets in Your Hands"||Nia DaCosta||Ronan Bennett||13 September 2019|
|As the money rolls in for Dushane and Sully's crew, a threat gets wind of their booming business – and neither party is ready to give up their turf.|
|14||6||"Press Gang"||Brady Hood||Ronan Bennett||13 September 2019|
|As the Zero Tolerance gang asserts their power, Dushane's crew attempts to hire young recruits. When Sully becomes a target, the group prepares for war.|
|15||7||"The Squeeze"||Brady Hood||Daniel West||13 September 2019|
|Ats makes his first delivery. Jamie's punishment for a detractor goes awry. After a warning from Haze, Dushane looks to eliminate the competition.|
|16||8||"Bad Eye"||Aneil Karia||Ronan Bennett||13 September 2019|
|A familiar face breaks free from jail and confronts Jamie about his self-appointed leadership. Lizzie is forced to change her business strategy.|
|17||9||"Everyone's Got Family"||Aneil Karia||Ronan Bennett||13 September 2019|
|Bent on taking out Sugar and Jamie, Dushane and Sully orchestrate hits on their rivals – until a surprise shootout shakes their plans.|
|18||10||"You Don't Know Me"||Aneil Karia||Ronan Bennett||13 September 2019|
|When an enemy's takedown puts Jamie back in a position of power, Dushane and Sully use their slick tactics to outsmart him.|
|No.||No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|19||1||"Good Morals"||Brady Hood||Ronan Bennett||18 March 2022|
|With big plans to go legit, Dushane plots new business moves and extends an offer to Jamie. The future of Summerhouse puts furious residents on edge.|
|20||2||"How Do I Fix This?"||Brady Hood||Ronan Bennett||18 March 2022|
|Amma receives devastating news. Sully meets a kind stranger. Jaq and the crew handle a matter in-house while Dushane takes an important meeting in Spain.|
|21||3||"Likkle Favour"||Brady Hood||Daniel West||18 March 2022|
|After a botched drug shipment, Dushane sends Jamie to Morocco to find a potential leak. Jaq gets revenge on an attacker. The cops move in on Ruben.|
|22||4||"Fully Loaded Headache"||Koby Adom||Ronan Bennett||18 March 2022|
|The Summerhouse redevelopment plan puts Dushane at odds with his mother as police work to take Dushane down. In Morocco, another drug delivery is intercepted.|
|23||5||"15 Points"||Koby Adom||Ronan Bennett||18 March 2022|
|After a disturbing video circulates on social media, Dushane races to find Sully. Jamie heads to Spain to broker a deal as Lauren searches for a way out.|
|24||6||"De Capa y Espada"||Myriam Raja||Daniel West||18 March 2022|
|Jaq tracks down the woman in Ats' video. Dushane attends Ruben's bail hearing. An unexpected visitor arrives in Spain, muddling Jamie's plans.|
|25||7||"We Ride Out for Family"||William Stefan Smith||Ronan Bennett and Tyrone Rashard||18 March 2022|
|Shelley confronts her past. Jamie meets with Kit. Bent on getting Lauryn back, Curtis resorts to devious tactics as more issues overwhelm Dushane.|
|26||8||"Prove Yourself"||William Stefan Smith||Ronan Bennett||18 March 2022|
|Jaq arranges a meeting with Curtis. The cops hit a bump in their investigation. Jamie's loyalty is put to the test. Dushane has a change of heart.|
Top Boy was written and created by Belfast born novelist Ronan Bennett, who also produced the series through his production company Eastern Partisan. Bennett inspired to write the series after he saw a twelve-year-old boy dealing drugs at his local Tesco supermarket in Hackney. Bennett, assisted by his friend Gerry Jackson, interviewed several drug dealers in the area about their lifestyle in order to depict a sense of realism. Jackson was later credited as a story consultant on the series.
The series pilot was originally commissioned by the BBC but the head of drama was too critical about the strong violence and profainty in the script. Eventually, Bennett met with producers Charles Steel and Alasdair Flind of Cowboy Films and in July 2010, it was announced that the series had been commissioned by Channel 4 as a four-part drama.
The series cast UK rappers, along with seasoned and newcoming talent. So Solid Crew rapper turned actor Ashley Walters and British rapper Kane Robinson were cast as lead characters Dushane and Sully respectively. Following his breakthrough performance in the 2004 film Bullet Boy, Walters turned down several roles in urban films and TV shows but he chose to audition for Top Boy because of its realistic characterization.
Robinson, a rapper from London known as Kano, was cast as Sully, in his acting debut. The character of Sully was written as an Asian drug dealer but casting director Des Hamilton, director Yann Demange and Bennett were all impressed with Robinson's chemistry test with Walters, and re-wrote the character for Robinson.
Walters and Robinson led the series alongside other rappers including Scorcher as London Fields gang leader Kamale. UK rappers Giggs and Sway make cameo appearances in the first season. The first season also featured Shone Romolus as Dris, Dushane and Sully's trusted enforcer, newcomers Malcolm Kamulete and Giacomo Mancini as best friends Ra'Nell and Gem, Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Ra'Nell's mum Lisa, Nicholas Pinnock as Leon, Lisa's friend and a father figure to Ra'Nell, Kierston Wareing, Lisa's pregnant friend Heather, Benedict Wong as cannabis dealer Vincent and Geoff Bell as drug lord Bobby Raikes. The series also featured a then-eighteen-year-old Letitia Wright as Chantelle, a member of the Summerhouse gang and Gem's love interest.
The second season was the reprisals of Walters, Robinson, Romolus, Kamulete, Mancini, Duncan-Brewster and Wong with new additions including rapper Bashy as Jermaine, Sully's cousin, Lorraine Burroughs as Rhianna Parkes, Dushane's lawyer, Paul Anderson as Mike, Sully's new business partner, Nabil Elouahabi as Babrak Mustapha, Gem's father, Ricky Smarts as Jason, Sully's friend and son figure and Michaela Coel as Kayla Thomas, a woman who was in contact with Kamale.
In April 2019, following the series' revival by Netflix, it was announced that Micheal Ward would join the cast as the new London Fields leader Jamie. He previously auditioned to play Jamie's younger brother Aaron. Rappers Dave and Little Simz were cast as Modie and Shelly, respectively. New additions to the third and fourth seasons include Jasmine Jobson, Hope Ikpoku Jr., Araloyin Oshunremi, Keiyon Cook, Jolade Obasola, Kadeem Ramsay, Lisa Dwan, Joshua Blisset, Saffron Hocking and Adwoa Aboah.
The Heygate Estate and Loughborough Estate, both in South London, were used as the Summerhouse estate during the first two seasons. Production visited several locations in Kent for the third season. Filming took place in Margate at Walpole Bay and Fulsam Rock Beach and nearby streets including Athelstan Road. Production also visited Ramsgate, where they filmed at Jacob's Ladder, outside the Rose of England pub on the High Street and Ramsgate Station. Gordon Place in Gravesend doubles as the fictional Summerhouse estate throughout the season.
For the third and fourth seasons, the Samuda Estate on the Isle of Dogs and the De Beauvoir Estate in the London Borough of Hackney double as the Summerhouse estate. The Dockside Outlet Shopping Centre in Chatham, Kent features in Series 4 Episode 5, doubling as a shopping mall in Liverpool.
With the series being set in Hackney much of the filming took place in the borough in areas including Dalston, Haggerston and London Fields. Legal scenes in season 4 were filmed in the old Blackfriars Crown Court.
Main article: Top Boy (A Selection of Music Inspired by the Series)
The original score for the series was composed by Brian Eno and Michael Asante. In addition to its original music, Top Boy features grime, hip-hop and R&B from artists including Ghostpoet, AJ Tracey, Giggs, Central Cee, Roots Manuva and Burna Boy.
On 13 September 2019, an original soundtrack for the series, titled Top Boy (A Selection of Music Inspired by the Series), was released by OVO Sound and Warner to accommodate with the release of the third season. The soundtrack includes appearances from OVO's Drake, Baka Not Nice, and Popcaan and British artists AJ Tracey, Avelino, Dave, Fredo, Ghetts, Headie One, Little Simz, M Huncho, Nafe Smallz, Central Cee and SL.
Despite its successful ratings and critical acclaim, in 2014, it was announced by Walters that Channel 4 had cancelled the series after two seasons. Speaking in 2019, Bennett expressed his disappointment about the abrupt cancellation, feeling that Channel 4 cancelling the series was a "smack in the face to the community".
Around the time of the show's cancellation, Canadian rapper Drake became a fan of the series after watching it in parts on YouTube and posted screenshots of the series on his social media. After learning that a third season was cancelled, Drake met up with the series' producers and Walters about reviving the series. Drake brought the rights to the series and pitched it to Netflix, who greenlit the third season in November 2017, with Drake serving as executive producer and most of the original cast and crew reprising their roles. The third season was filmed from July 2018 to February 2019, and was released on 13 September 2019, the first season on Netflix, consisting of ten episodes.
In January 2020, the series was renewed for a second season on Netflix (fourth season overall), with filming set to start in the spring of that year. However, due to COVID-19, filming was delayed and started in late November/early December. The season was released on Netflix on 18 March 2022, consisting of eight episodes.
In March 2022, shortly after the debut of the fourth season, it was announced that the series was renewed for a third season on Netflix (fifth season overall), which was announced as the final season of the series. Filming began in July 2022.
Top Boy received positive feedback from critics. The first two seasons premiered with 1 million viewers, and managed to maintain its audience share over the course of its two-year run. Tom Sutcliffe, writing in The Independent, said: "The drama involved virtually no preaching at all, but a sense of morality was everywhere, as bad conscience flickered in the face of the toughest characters and grief hit the culpable and the blameless alike. Best of all, it always found a little time for something other than plot, whether it was banter on stairwells or the melancholy beauty of the city at night. Seriously good television."
The revival series was met with greater acclaim for its performances, emotional depth, soundtrack, writing and bigger scope and scale, with critics considering it as the best season of the series. Rebecca Nicholson, writing in The Guardian, described the third season as "more violent, more gripping and more shocking than ever". Ellen E Jones, also of The Guardian, praised the fourth season, writing that the series "always leaves you guessing".