New TV show Jungle blends Drama with Drill

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Jungle, the six-part series produced by Junior Okoli and Chas Appeti, premiered on Prime Video on September 30. Written and directed by Okoli, a British Nigerian, Jungle “follows the connected lives of several strangers, each facing their own struggle.” Both Okoli and Appeti comprise the creative duo Nothing Lost.

Marking out the series are its setting—its neon-lit futuristic London recalls Ridley Scott’s Los Angeles in Blade Runner (1982)—and its blend of drama and music, the latter used in such a way that it sometimes rents the fourth wall. Its producers have dubbed Jungle “TV’s first drill musical.”

Names from the United Kingdom’s rap, grime, and drill scene populate the series, many of them making their TV debut, a challenge for Okoli, for whom Jungle is his TV directorial debut. Building a rapport with the mostly non-actor cast, Okoli says, eased his directorial duties and helped the artists to inhabit their roles. Artists like R.A., Tinie Tempah, IAMDDB, M24, Dizzee Rascal, and Big Narstie, among others, appear in Jungle. 

Okoli speaks to The Culture Custodian about the new series, revealing among other things whether there would be a season two and if it would be set in Nigeria.

Certain people have cited parallels between Jungle and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Rapman’s Shiro’s Story. Did any of them influence you?

Blade Runner is one of my influences, but not Shiro’s Story, even though I’m happy for Rapman’s success. 

Why the choice of a neon-lit futuristic London as the series’ setting?

We wanted the message of Jungle to be timeless and not specific to a certain time or period. It’s got futuristic elements; it’s got elements of antiquity as well. You can’t really place the time in which Jungle is set, and that’s intentional. 

What’s the story behind Jungle?

It gives insights into a particular kind of people: people of a certain demographic in the western world who are caught in between cultures, are frustrated, marginalized, and oppressed. With this series we want people to understand why these people are the way they are. That understanding is crucial because ignorance is what breeds hate. 

This is the first time you directed a TV show. What was the experience like?

It was nerve-wracking but also exciting, insightful, and invigorating. It was a good time. And as for getting the case to get into their roles, it wasn’t easy, because it was a new dynamic for them. I had to get them to trust me and then lead them in the right direction. But after spending a lot of time with them, I managed to build that trust.  

Are you willing to explore a season 2 that is, say, set in Nigeria?

I’m open to anything. Jungle doesn’t pertain to one demographic or place. It’s a story of different demographics and cultures and understanding why they are that way. It’s not just for London.

What’s next for you and Appeti?

We are making more films and are pretty busy right now. 

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