"Top Boy" Season 4 Tackles Topics Like Abuse and Homophobia

The fourth iteration of "Top Boy" returned to Netflix on March18, and it's been a pretty heavy season to say the least. In the first episode, we witness Jamie (played by Micheal Ward) return to his family after doing time in prison, struggling to come to terms with the death of a young boy named Ats.

That one particular storyline sets the scene for the remainder of the season, with later episodes of "Top Boy" delving into themes of domestic abuse and homophobia, with a particular focus on the women of the series. We caught up with stars Saffron Hocking, Ashley Walters, and Adwoa Aboah to talk about how season four addresses these difficult themes, and why they're so integral to the essence of "Top Boy."

The Death of Ats

Ats's death is one of the first of "Top Boy" season three's storylines to get acknowledged in season four, and it wasn't easy to come to terms with. "For us, that storyline is one of the driving forces of the season," explains Walters, who plays Dushane. "I guess you could call it like a kind of a spine that a lot of other storylines grow off the back of, especially one huge one at the end. I have to be real about it, it was a shame to lose that element of our show. But there was not much that we could do about it. So we honored that journey in the best way we could."

Lauryn's Abusive Relationship Storyline

In the new season of "Top Boy," Hocking's character, Lauryn, is trapped in an abusive relationship. She becomes isolated from her friends and family, after she admits to her sister, Jaq, that she was seeing rival gang member Leyton. "It was a challenge, but a welcomed challenge," Hocking says. "Where we find Lauryn is that she's obviously been shunned from Summerhouse, and she's told to pack a bag and leave. Then we meet her in Liverpool, she's in an incredibly toxic and abusive situation and relationship. You kind of follow her journeying through that, desperate to get out. And she's pregnant as well, so the stakes are really high for her."

To prepare for the role, "I contacted a charity called Refuge, which I've heard [a lot] about," Hocking says. "They solely focus on women who are going through domestic abuse, and they were so helpful and so kind and generous in their offerings to me. I spoke with them and just tried to adapt everything that they gave me to the role."

Hocking adds: "I think it's an incredibly important storyline. I was so conscious of making sure that it was not glorified in any way, and it wasn't just done for entertainment purposes. For me, as a human being and as an actor, it was very educational, learning about those sorts of things. The most important thing for me was telling the truth of the story and doing it to the best of my ability, being able to step away from it and then look back and say, 'OK, I really did the best I could there,' and I really hope that people connect to that. If [the storyline] in any way could help anyone out there watching that back, then that would mean the world to me."

The Relationship of Jaq and Becks

Season four of "Top Boy" showcases a different side to Jaq (played by Jasmine Jobson) as we get an insight into her dating life for the first time. We witness her meeting a character named Becks (played by Adwoa Aboah). After their first date, the pair are subjected to a homophobic attack.

"This is not necessarily a situation that I've been through, but I was able to tap into certain aspects of my own life, especially discrimination and me questioning my identities, everything that I looked at when the resurgence of Black Lives Matter happened," Aboah says. "I was able to tap into that in terms of what that might look like. The stigma that's still around, I think 'Top Boy''s done such a good job at [showcasing it]. I think people can be quite naive to situations like this and underplay them. It's like, 'Oh, well, we've moved on so much, things aren't like this. Things aren't as cruel and violent.' And I think 'Top Boy' is like: 'No, these things really do happen. Let me show you in this very terrifying way.' It's stressful to watch it, but that's what we need to see more of."

For Aboah, she hopes that she's been able to do the storyline justice and "that I've been able to tell this story in an unglorified way, and [a way] that someone can see themselves in and feel like their story is part of something bigger. That people would be able to see it and be like, 'OK, I need to put attention to this. We need to talk about this more.'"