Tracy-Ann Oberman to adapt Hampstead novel for the screen

Tracy-Ann Oberman is adapting Marika Cobbold's novel On Hampstead Heath for the screen

Tracy-Ann Oberman is adapting Marika Cobbold's novel On Hampstead Heath for the screen - Credit: Mark McGee

Actor and writer Tracy-Ann Oberman has bought the film rights to a Hampstead author's novel about a local journalist embroiled in a fake news scandal.

The EastEnders and Ridley Road star, who has penned successful radio plays, is adapting Marika Cobbold's On Hampstead Heath for the screen.

The pair discuss the project, and their mutual love of the area at Hampstead Waterstones on March 31.

"As an actress I'm always looking for parts for myself and others," said Oberman. "A mutual friend said: 'The main character is very like you I can hear your voice in her.' I read it and loved it.

Marika Cobbold's eighth novel is published by Arcadia Books £14.99.

Marika Cobbold's eighth novel is published by Arcadia Books £14.99. - Credit: Arcadia Books

"I live nearby and it's a love letter to Hampstead, but also a very pertinent book about the future of journalism, fake news, and the battle for information. The tone is witty and clever and it has really televisual storytelling behind it. Marika and I talked about how it can be developed and I'm working on the script adaptation."

The book's heroine, Thorn, is a seasoned journalist for the fictional London Journal which is bought by a media giant who values web hits over in depth reporting. Banished to a midweek supplement, the spiky workaholic fabricates a good news story when she sees an angelic apparition on the Heath which goes viral. She goes in search of the truth, which is locked in the unconscious mind of a stranger.

"The book is very political. It's about ethics and what we do when everything is driven by clickbait headlines and the truth seems to be secondary to getting traffic," says Oberman. "It features an old school journalist and made me think about the Ham&High and Evening Standard where journalists have tried to uphold ethics but it's being eaten away.

Marika Cobbold - Portrait

Marika Cobbold's On Hampstead Heath is her eighth novel - Credit: Katie Wilson

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"So many people get their news online where there's no nuance or detail. Local news is last bastion of being able to understand what's happening in our area and who are the local heroes and villains."

She adds: "At heart, it's also a very human love story between two damaged, disillusioned people given another chance of love."

In addition to playing Aunty Val in Friday Night Dinner, Oberman has had several radio plays picked up for the screen but admits "it's a long slow process to develop them".

About to film a third series of comedy drama Code 404 with Stephen Graham and Daniel Mays, she is also working on a play for the Royal Court and a production of the Merchant of Venice with her playing Shylock.

Of her project with Cobbold she adds: "I'm excited that Marika is working on a second novel so there's more to come from this character."