Is Somewhere Boy based on a true story? Real inspiration behind the dark Channel 4 drama

Did a father really do that to his child?

Lewis Gribben as Danny in Somewhere Boy
(Image credit: Channel 4/Future)

Viewers of the darkly mesmerising Channel 4 drama Somewhere Boy are all asking the same thing - is it a true story? We reveal the inspiration behind it.

When news breaks that the people behind Channel 4’s smash hit The End of The F***ing World are back with a new show, viewers know they’ll be in for a treat. Somewhere Boy dropped its debut episode on Sunday October 17, and early reviews show the series has been worth the anticipation. When Danny was a baby, his mum was killed in a car crash. His dad Steve then buys a house in the middle of nowhere, and locks them both inside, telling Danny the world outside was full of monsters waiting to take him away. For eighteen years they stay in, listening to Benny Goodman records and watching old films with no sad endings. But when Danny turns eighteen his whole world - everything he’s ever known - explodes in an instant and he has to come to terms with a new world he never knew existed. Danny is taken to live with his well-meaning but stressed-out aunt Sue and cousin Aaron and finds the real monster - the one that killed his mum.

For more drama taking inspiration from real events, ITV’s The Walk-In based on (opens in new tab) a Neo-Nazi murder plot, will leave viewers reeling. The This England cast before and after photos (opens in new tab) are incredible, while the series itself tackles the government handling of the coronavirus pandemic response. Over on Netflix, The Watcher true story (opens in new tab) is leaving audiences hiding behind their sofas, and terrified to open their post.  

Is Somewhere Boy based on a true story?

Somewhere Boy is not based on a specific true story, but takes inspiration from a collection of real events, and the idea of people falling through the cracks of society and living in the way Danny and his father do.

Series writer Pete Jackson said in a statement to Channel 4 that he drew inspiration for the show from people who have gone off grid in real life. He referenced the 2011 documentary Dreams of a Life, about a woman whose body was found in her flat years after her death. He also drew on stories of people imprisoned by parents or carers, where abuse is always put front and centre when reported by the press. He wanted to flip that narrative and look at love gone awry - Danny’s father genuinely believed he was doing a good thing, and the show is an opportunity to look at how much bad a person is willing to do to protect that good.

Lewis Gribben as Danny in Somewhere Boy

(Image credit: Channel 4)

When asked how he researched for the script, Jackson said “It was interesting talking to social workers and to people who had left cults. If you grew up with a reality presented to you and you don't question it, how difficult is it to be deprogrammed? Even when faced with the truth endlessly, it's still hard. Danny is almost adapting the world to fit the narrative his dad created, so as not to accept that his dad lied to him. That is true for him and for people who leave cults, and true of sons and fathers. At some point, you have to accept that your dad is flawed, a human being and not a superhero, even when evidence of that fallibility may present itself endlessly”.

Where is Somewhere Boy set?

Although no specific location setting is offered n screen in Somewhere Boy, with the cast's Northern accents it can be assumed the series is set in the North. However, it was filmed entirely in Wales, across Cardiff and the Brecon Beacons. 

Danny actor Lewis Gribben has only given away that all characters were required to have Northern accents, while not giving away specific localities in the North. He spoke about the trials of getting the accent right, saying "It was a bit weird because I’m from Glasgow and Danny is from northern England, so I had accent coaching. One day before we started, I decided I wasn’t going to break it – I’d convince everyone that I was from Leeds. I felt a sense of mourning for a solid month after we wrapped, because I've never invested so much of myself into a character".

 

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Somewhere Boy Channel 4: Cast

  • Lewis Gribben (Deadwater Fell, Shetland) as Danny
  • Rory Keenan (Peaky Blinders, Striking Out) as Steve
  • Lisa McGrillis (No Offence, Avoidance) as Sue
  • Samuel Bottomley (Wolf Hall, Jericho) as Aaron
  • Johann Myers (Snatch, Silent Witness) as Paul
  • Jamie Michie (Borderline, Back to Life) as Mark

When asked why he wanted to be involved with Somewhere Boy, Lewis Gribben told Channel 4 "It was so different to things I was reading for. I've always liked the whole outsider quality of certain characters because everyone feels too polished or popular in a lot of dramas so there's a suspension of disbelief. The idea of someone trapped in one environment and finding the outside world alien was so good because normally, it's a regular person in an extraordinary world. Somewhere Boy flips it so it's an extraordinary person in an ordinary world. I found that fascinating. And it starts off so dramatically: two minutes of normal conversation, then it goes dark, and I like dark stuff".

On how the script for the show is so special, Lisa McGrillis said "Pete taps into people's lives in a way that is so specific. Not a lot is said, but he sets it all up so quickly that you have an understanding of these characters and can relate to them within a few minutes of meeting them. They’re very accessible, but also very complex. The episodes and the story also have a lot of time to breathe".

Rory Keenan as Steve in Somewhere Boy

(Image credit: Channel 4)

Somewhere Boy Channel 4: Reviews 

So far, reviews for Somewhere Boy have been overwhelmingly positive.

Rebecca Nicholson from The Guardian (opens in new tab) gave the series a rare 5 stars. She said "This very special story about a boy kept cloistered in a remote house is an astute mix of gothic, thriller and family drama. You’ll want to watch the whole series in one go".

Anita Singh from The Telegraph (opens in new tab), also awarded 5 stars. She said "Somewhere Boy is about a child kept locked away from the outside world. When he emerges, he is confused, terrified and exhilarated by the newness of what he encounters. Somewhere Boy is an unforgettable piece of television, this is largely down to the performances, not just of Lewis Gribben as the lead, Danny, but in every supporting role". 

From an audience perspective, one Twitter user wrote "I binge-watched #SomewhereBoy and I wish I hadn’t, as I’m actually sad that it’s finished. What a well-written, beautifully-acted, wonderful series. Congratulations to all involved".

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Another Twitter user wrote (opens in new tab) "Just binge watched 4 eps of #SomewhereBoy Beautifully made, really poignant and I want to save and savour the rest". Another added (opens in new tab) "Just binge watched #SomewhereBoy and it’s brilliant @Channel4. Not watched something as good as this in a long time".

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