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Back to Black: The Amy Winehouse biopic cast and the real-life people they play


Back to Black: Marisa Abela reveals how she took on Amy Winehouse’s iconic vocals in new film

By Tom Eames

In the poignant biopic Back to Black, the vibrant life and soul-stirring music of Amy Winehouse are brought to the screen.

The film, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, features a talented cast that embodies the real-life figures who played pivotal roles in Amy Winehouse’s journey from a budding artist to a global icon.

Marisa Abela steps into the shoes of the legendary singer, capturing her unique voice and spirit, while Eddie Marsan and Lesley Manville bring depth to the roles of Amy’s father Mitch Winehouse and grandmother Cynthia, respectively.

The film explores Winehouse’s artistry and the pressures of fame, set against the backdrop of the streets of Camden that she called home.

It’s a celebration of her legacy, a reflection on the celebrity machine, and a tribute to a talent gone too soon. Here, we delve into the lives of the characters and their real-life counterparts.

Marisa Abela plays Amy Winehouse

Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse
Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse.
Picture: Getty/StudioCanal

Marisa Abela is an English actress born on December 7, 1996.

She gained recognition for her roles in Industry and COBRA. She was also named a 2023 Screen International Star of Tomorrow.

Amy Winehouse was an iconic English singer-songwriter known for her deep contralto vocals and a blend of musical styles, including soul and jazz.

Her critically acclaimed album Back to Black won five Grammy Awards. Tragically, she passed away at 27 due to alcohol poisoning, leaving a lasting legacy.

Jack O’Connell plays Blake Fielder-Civil

Jack O'Connell as Blake Fielder-Civil
Jack O’Connell as Blake Fielder-Civil.

Picture: Getty/StudioCanal

Jack O’Connell, an English actor born in 1990, gained recognition for his role as James Cook in Skins. Known for his intense performances, he starred in critically acclaimed films like Starred Up and 71, and portrayed war hero Louis Zamperini in Unbroken.

Blake Fielder-Civil is known for his tumultuous relationship with Amy Winehouse, which heavily influenced her album Back to Black. Their intense and often troubled union was marked by substance abuse and legal issues. Fielder-Civil’s life has been a subject of public fascination and scrutiny.

Eddie Marsan plays Mitch Winehouse

Eddie Marsan as Mitch Winehouse
Eddie Marsan as Mitch Winehouse.

Picture: Getty/StudioCanal

Eddie Marsan is a distinguished English actor. He’s acclaimed for his versatility and depth in roles across film and television. Notably, Marsan won the London Film Critics Circle Award for his performance in Happy-Go-Lucky. His work spans from Sherlock Holmes to Ray Donovan.

Mitch Winehouse, father of the late Amy Winehouse, is a British singer and former taxi driver. Known for his jazz album Rush of Love and his work with the Amy Winehouse Foundation, he’s been a vocal advocate for addiction awareness and support since his daughter’s passing.

Lesley Manville plays Cynthia Winehouse

Lesley Manville as Cynthia Winehouse
Lesley Manville as Cynthia Winehouse.

Picture: StudioCanal

Lesley Manville is a celebrated English actress, born in 1956. Renowned for her collaborations with director Mike Leigh, she’s earned critical acclaim for roles in Another Year and Phantom Thread, the latter earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Cynthia Winehouse, Amy Winehouse’s grandmother, was a significant influence on the singer’s life. A vocalist herself, Cynthia encouraged Amy’s musical pursuits. Amy held her in high regard, evidenced by a tattoo of Cynthia’s name on her arm. Their bond was profound, with Amy’s ashes intermingled with Cynthia’s posthumously.

Juliet Cowan plays Janis Winehouse

Juliet Cowan (right) plays Janis Winehouse (left)
Juliet Cowan (right) plays Janis Winehouse (left).

Picture: Getty/StudioCanal

Juliet Cowan is a versatile British actress known for her roles in television, film, and stage. Born in Belfast, she has appeared in popular TV shows like EastEnders, Silent Witness, and Casualty.

Janis Winehouse, mother of the late Amy Winehouse, is known for her dedication to preserving her daughter’s legacy. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Janis faces memory loss but remains a vocal advocate for Amy’s music and story, sharing intimate insights through documentaries and interviews.

Ansu Kabia plays Raye Cosbert

Ansu Kabia (right) plays Raye Cosbert (left)
Ansu Kabia (right) plays Raye Cosbert (left).

Picture: Getty

Ansu Kabia is a British actor known for his dynamic presence in both television and theatre. He has starred in the series Miss Scarlet & the Duke as Moses and appeared in The Irregulars. Kabia’s stage work includes performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company, showcasing his versatile acting skills.

Raye Cosbert is a prominent figure in the music industry, known for his work with Metropolis Music and as a promoter of club nights and shows in London. He played a significant role in the career of Amy Winehouse, becoming her manager during a pivotal time in her rise to fame. His expertise spans across production, booking, ticketing, and marketing, contributing significantly to the live music scene.

Sam Buchanan plays Nick Shymansky

Sam Buchanan (right) plays Nick Shymansky (left)
Sam Buchanan (right) plays Nick Shymansky (left).

Picture: Getty

Sam Buchanan is an emerging talent in the acting world, known for his roles in The Power, and Such Brave Girls. Born in 1991 in Aldershot, he began his career in 2005 and has since shown a promising range of performances.

Nick Shymansky is known for his significant role in the music industry, particularly for his work with Amy Winehouse. He met her when she was 16 and managed her career from 1999 to 2006, including the release of her debut album, Frank, in 2003. Shymansky’s insights and management played a crucial role during Winehouse’s formative years in the industry. He continues to work in music, holding a position as senior A&R manager at Island Records.