"I've learnt, at a certain point in my life, that we're all going to die anyway so we might as well go for it," declares British filmmaker, Steve McQueen.

"As soon as I realised that, I was fearless; as soon as I realised that, I'll just take them all on because I'm going to die anyway."

It's a bold declaration from the west London-born director, 51, who is once again highlighting the plight of racism and discrimination in the most powerful of ways.

Best known for his work on the Academy Award, Golden Globe and Bafta winning film 12 Years A Slave, the director's latest BBC One project, Small Axe, is situated a little closer to home.

Set between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s, each of the five films tells a unique tale centred around London's West Indian community.

Shaped by sheer force of will in the face of longstanding oppression and adversity, the community's optimism and overriding sense of hope comes off the back of hard-won successes.

"For me, this series of films is like [a] science fiction movie as far as I'm concerned," says McQueen.

"It tells us where we are now, how far we've come, but ultimately it tells us how far we need to go - and that's always the case with me and how I feel about Small Axe.

"It's always been about the future."

A project eleven years in the making, Small Axe takes its name from a Jamaican proverb which states 'If you are the big tree, we are the small axe,' meaning even the smallest of voices can have a powerful impact.

"I wanted these stories to go through the bloodstream of the country. I want it to be accessible, and the BBC, for me, is the only organisation that can do that," says McQueen.

"It's part of us as who we are, just as the NHS is part of who we are.

"For me, the very two things that hold this country together are the BBC and the NHS."

Featuring Black Panther actor Letitia Wright and Star Wars' John Boyega to name but a few, the films were created with the help of Alastair Siddons and Courttia Newland and executive produced by Tracey Scoffield and David Tanner.

Comprising of Mangrove; Lovers Rock; Red, White and Blue; Alex Wheatle; and Education, the series is littered with McQueen's creative fingerprints and nods to the director's upbringing.

"The reason I'm here talking to you now is because of that community and the sacrifices that they made," says McQueen.

"I grew up in paradise when I grew up in West London; I grew up in a school which had every single nationality. I didn't know how special it was until I left school and grew older.

"The rest of the community was just so bright, so loving - my family, cousins, aunts, cousins of cousins, family of family, everyone was one.

"There's been a lot of support for this; I think now's the time, like Charlie Parker said."

Small Axe's subject matter is one close to the heart of Red, White and Blue star John Boyega, who in recent months saw himself at the centre of London's Black Lives Matter protests, declaring through a megaphone:

"I'm speaking to you from my heart. Look, I don't know if I'm going to have a career after this, but f*** that."

And yet, his unrestrained desire to highlight racism and prejudice seems to have had the opposite effect, with countless Hollywood filmmakers stepping forward to praise the actor's actions.

"I think, especially as black individuals, we should all take a moment and just look at our mental health," says Boyega candidly.

"Constantly having to morph to suit and navigate these complicated spaces - you're doing that from Monday to Friday, it's long.

"It eats at your creativity, makes you distrustful of people, affects your personal life, affects your work ethic. So for me, the issue really is [that] I refuse to bend to a tune, to fit in, because that's the way they do things.

"Not everybody gets the chance to think like that, so I understand my privilege, but it's also my privilege to make sure I can be an example to those that are coming [next] as well...

"I am who I am, it's not a decision I have to make."

Playing the role of Leroy Logan in the third instalment of the series, Boyega describes his character as "a young black British man who is struggling with his decisions".

Logan, a young forensic scientist living in London, yearns to escape the solitary routine of laboratory work.

After he sees his father assaulted by two white policemen, his childhood ambition to become a police officer is reignited in a bid to change the racist attitudes of London's police force from within.

"Joining the police force in the late 70s/80s, in terms of race relations - police force relations with civilians, [it] is a complicated time," says Boyega.

"I wanted to understand the man behind that decision. The man that's strong enough to swallow the conflicts and give us the representation the police force needed.

"You basically follow him through this story of self-discovery in an environment that isn't used to his kind or his culture."

A subject that is as relevant today as it was half a century ago, Leroy's story proved as relatable to Boyega as it did a challenge in terms of understanding.

"You definitely relate to a character like Leroy, especially navigating spaces that [are] basically all white people all the time - especially when you get wealthy...

"Culturally there is a shift, because now, when people invite you to dinners, they assume that you like them places where all you can see is a little chocolate chip in the middle of the all-white plate.

"There was a marketing side with his position there - he was in the newspapers, he was used as the face for the new diverse Britain and a new diverse police force, and also used to help motivate other black individuals to join.

"It's a conflicting position," notes Boyega, "because if you think about it, if many of the individuals who joined the police force at the time - including Leeroy - decided to stay home, we might be having, perhaps, a different conversation.

"Maybe that culture wouldn't have been so integrated now, to the point where we can sometimes see a familiar face."