Virginia McKenna’s Born Free on Channel 4 tonight at 7pm

Virginia McKenna with her son Will Travers for Virginia McKenna's Born Free on Channel 4. Picture Publicist: Charlie Fearn Photographer: Channel 4 Television

British actress Virginia McKenna returns to the Kenya and the making of her much loved 1966 movie Born Free, about a lion cub reared by humans tonight (23 October) on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom at 7pm.

During tonight’s programme, viewers follow Virginia to many of the locations used in the classic movie to mark its 50th anniversary.

The actress speaking alongside her son Will Travers, founder and President of the Born Free Foundation conservation charity, shares her experiences of working alongside wild lions for nine months, and reveals how she was able to earn the animals’ trust.

She also reflects on how the film changed public perceptions of wildlife as the programme examines the political backdrop of the film, which includes footage of Kenya officially gaining independence from British imperial rule.

It changed my life for ever. Not many films do that.

Viewers will also discover how McKenna and Bill Travers, her husband on and off screen, relocated their family for a year to shoot the movie in which they play real-life conservationists Joy and George Adamson.

The couple had to replicate the pioneering conservationists’ daring closeness with lions – overcoming the scary logistics involved imbued the actors with their own fierce love of wildlife.

This fascinating programme shows McKenna bursting with charming anecdotes about her definitive performance, although the occasional aside demonstrates how she needed a certain toughness to pull it off.

Virginia McKenna’s Born Free is scheduled for broadcast tonight (23 October) at 7pm on Channel 4 in the UK, with repeat showings on Channel 4+1 at 8pm and 4seven on Thursday at 8pm.