The British network ITV debuted the family drama back in January, but Next Of Kin premieres June 21 on Sundance Now for American audiences to finally enjoy. The six-part series centers around a Muslim family living in London, and stars Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife) as Mona Shirani, a London-bred GP, originally from Pakistan, who feels responsible for her teenage nephew who goes mysteriously missing after his father is killed in Pakistan. It quickly comes out that Mona's nephew, Danny, may have been radicalized and gone to join a terrorist organization. The show delves into the complex effects that terrorism has on the families of those who commit it, but is Next of Kin actually based on a true story?
Although the Shirani family in Next of Kin is fictional, the Daily Mail reported that the executive producers of the series, married couple Paul Rutman and Natasha Narayan, were inspired by the Jan. 7, 2015 terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris that resulted in the deaths of 12 people.
The masked gunmen who carried out the shooting were two brothers, and one week after the attack, CNN published an article on their background, detailing how the brothers were born in France as the children of Algerian immigrants, but lost both of their parents at an early age. The boys grew up as orphans in the 19th arrondisement of Paris. Without family or decent resources, the brothers quickly fell in with a group of other disenfranchised youths, which eventually led them to make jihadi connections as teens.
The CNN article noted that neither of the brothers were known to be particularly religious, similar to what a woman in the trailer for Next Of Kin says of the missing boy who is suspected to have joined a cell. However, after meeting influential religious zealots, both brothers were drawn to radicalization and jihadism. Per The Independent, the brothers died in a police shoot-out, two days after the initial attack.
Clearly, Next Of Kin is only loosely inspired by the French attack, rather than based on it. The show deviates from the real event substantially: Paris becomes London, Algerian lineage is changed to Pakistani, two brothers become one boy, and life-long orphans become a recently orphaned young man with an interested extended family.
It is the ripple effect that terrorism has on the families of the radicalized that prompted Narayan to create Next of Kin. "There have been shows that have covered terrorism from the perspective of the security services, but we wanted to explore the experience of a family at the centre of an investigation." Narayan told the Daily Mail. "We wondered what it would be like to experience an act of terror from the inside."
While Next of Kin and the characters in it are fictitious, there is already at least one documentary about a similar situation that is told from a similar point of view. A Jihadi In The Family tells the story of the Clairmont family from Calgary, Canada, and their son Damian, who eventually joined ISIS and died fighting in Syria. Like the nephew in Next Of Kin, Clairmont did have a family, one which reeled in the aftermath of Damian's actions.
While the story of the Shiranis might not be as factual as that of the Clairmonts or the Charlie Hebdo attackers, it still represents a very real group of people that have been affected by terrorism in a painful, lasting, and unusual way, and it's a group of people that aren't often represented in the media. For that reason alone, Next Of Kin should be worth a watch.
Watch an exclusive clip of Next of Kin's season finale below: