Backstage at the Baftas

Backstage at the Baftas

May 13, 2024

Ones to Watch

“Extraordinary” writing, creative perseverance and stories about real people were celebrated as Top Boy, The Sixth Commandment and Happy Valley led the way at the Bafta Television Awards 2024. DQ was backstage to hear from some of the winners.

With series such as Succession, The Last of Us, Slow Horses, Black Mirror and The Crown among the nominees, the field at the 2024 Bafta Television Awards was nothing if not competitive.

Yet once the dust settled on the glitzy ceremony held last night at Royal Festival Hall in central London, it was Top Boy, The Sixth Commandment and Happy Valley that came out on top, with two prizes apiece.

Top Boy claimed the award for Drama Series, while Jasmine Jobson won Supporting Actress. The Sixth Commandment took home the Limited Series award, with Timothy Spall winning Leading Actor. Meanwhile, Sarah Lancashire won Leading Actress for Happy Valley, which also won the viewer-voted Memorable Moment award for the series’ climactic showdown between Lancashire’s no-nonsense police officer Catherine Cawood and nemesis Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton).

Sarah Lancashire and James Norton behind the scenes on Happy Valley

Elsewhere, Such Brave Girls won Scripted Comedy, Mawaan Rizwan won Male Performance in a Comedy for his series Juice and Black Ops’ Gbemisola Ikulemo won Female Performance in a Comedy.

After airing its fourth and final season last year, Succession didn’t go home empty-handed, with Matthew Macfadyen (Tom Wambsgans) winning Supporting Actor. The International winner was French drama Class Act, Jack Carroll’s Mobility picked up the Short Form prize and long-running hospital drama Casualty won the Soap category.

After taking to the stage to accept their Bafta masks, the victors headed backstage where DQ was on hand to hear about their award-winning work.

Jasmine Jobson celebrates her win

Drama Series: Top Boy
Supporting Actress: Jasmine Jobson, Top Boy
Airing for two seasons on Channel 4 before Netflix continued the story for a further three seasons, Top Boy follows two drug dealers (played by Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson) living on the fictional Summerhouse estate in London. The series won the top drama prize for its fifth and final season, while Jobson was recognised for her role as Jaq, one of the Summerhouse dealers introduced in season three.

Executive producer Alasdair Flind: We’re really happy and, given that we’ve finished the whole series now, it feels really fitting we’ve won something after five seasons. We’re very proud and very happy.

It feels like a family. A lot of them started on Top Boy and have gone on to begin proper careers as actors and directors. It’s probably the thing we’re most proud of – the opportunities the show has given to different people, not just actors but directors, DOPs. That’s a huge part of Top Boy.

Executive producer Charles Steel: We met Ronan Bennett, the creator, writer and driving force behind Top Boy, about 15 years ago and he outlined this idea he had for a series. We teamed up together and started the journey with Channel 4 for a couple of seasons, it stopped for five years and comes back. I’m really happy for Jas as well. She’s really good in the show.

Jasmine Jobson: I’ve learned so much as a creative, being involved in Top Boy, working alongside Ashley and Kane. I’ve learned so much from everybody. It’s a job that has changed my life. I was just a normal girl from West London, I was just trying to do better for myself and wishing and hoping for the best. One day, I went from working in a bar full-time and acting part-time to acting full-time, and now acting pays my bills. Top Boy changed my life.

One thing I’ll always say is I was raised to be a tough cookie and raised to be a strong independent female. So when I took on Jaq, it was, ‘Well, she’s got a little bit more she needs to stand for, something she needs to protect.’ I spoke to quite a few of my friends who are part of the LGBTQ community as well. It’s all a learning curve.

When I read for Jaq, I really connected with her. The language she was using, straightaway I was like, ‘Oh, that’s me.’ I feel like there was definitely a lot of myself in there, but also as much as I’m very feminine, I have my tomboy side and I can be quite manly at times. I just had to incorporate that too, and it was also about relating to my friends and gathering some understanding and trying to filter it together to be able to come out with a character as solid as Jaq.

Timothy Spall

Limited Drama: The Sixth Commandment
Leading Actor: Timothy Spall, The Sixth Commandment
Earning critical acclaim upon its release last year, this BBC drama is based on the true story of Peter Farquhar (Timothy Spall) and Ann Moore-Martin (Anne Reid)’s relationship with charismatic Ben Field (Éanna Hardwicke), setting the stage for one of the most complex and confounding criminal cases in recent memory.

Executive producer Derek Wax: It was not just a chilling story, it was also a story about love and loss. [It has] a real sense of the people who loved Peter and Ann, to honour their memories and those who were affected.

Executive producer Brian Woods: I made a documentary about the police investigation into the murders and, towards the end of that, I met with Derek and I was talking to him about it. He said, ‘I was taught by Peter Farquhar. We should make a drama about this.’ That was the beginning of it for me. It was really important that anyone who did dramatise this came from the right place and had the right approach. It’s clear Derek did, then we met Sarah [Phelps, writer] and talked about how this should never be about the murderer, as true crime [shows] so often are. Sarah had that same feeling that this had to be about celebrating the lives of people who died.

Ann-Marie Blake, Ann Moore-Martin’s niece (played by Annabel Scholey in the series): It was a difficult journey to get to the space where I could let my aunt’s story be told by someone else. Lots of different people just wanted a piece of my aunt; it was relentless, and the perpetrator came along and took all of her choices, all of her wants, all of her aspirations. To get to the space where we are now, where I could engage and let all this happen, was all thanks to Sarah and the warmth and respect she showed for my aunt. I wouldn’t have trusted anybody else other than this team.

Writer Sarah Phelps: When you’re doing true crime, you think, ‘Where is the life? Where is the thing that takes us forward through the morass of cruelty?’ When I spoke to Ann-Marie, I thought, ‘There she is.’ That passion, that absolute devotion and dedication, that absolute white-hot love that would make you kill a dragon in the street, there it is. That’s where we go.

Timothy Spall, after winning Leading Actor: It’s odd that it’s perceived as the leading role. I always thought Éanna [Hardwicke, as Ben Field] was the lead. It’s a magnificent performance. But [the story] starts out with the man [Peter] who illustrates in a sense a terribly thwarted yearning for love all his life. A man of great intellectual capacity, he’s a man of love, a man of contradictions, a waspish man occasionally but also a man of great skill and huge perspicacity. He finds himself in a dishonest relationship that he’s yearned for all his life, a man of his dreams, and it ends so terribly for him. It sets up something that is a tragedy on many levels for everybody involved.

Sarah Lancashire

Leading Actress: Sarah Lancashire, Happy Valley
Memorable Moment Award: Happy Valley
Lancashire won her second Bafta for Leading Actress – and third award overall – for reprising her iconic role as police sergeant Catherine Cawood in the long-awaited third and final season of Sally Wainwright’s standout BBC crime drama.

Sarah Lancashire: Sally Wainwright’s writing is extraordinary, musical, it’s symphonic. She is so attuned to dialogue and character in a way I’ve never encountered before. It’s never come my way before. From an actor’s perspective, it’s everything you hope for.

I was very surprised at how many people came back [to work on the show] after so many years. It was a lovely surprise, I’m really glad they did because the third season was a very fitting end of the trilogy. The quality didn’t drop at all.

Lizzie Davidson (left) and Kat Sadler

Scripted Comedy: Such Brave Girls
One of the standout comedies of last year, BBC and Hulu series Such Brave Girls explores life and love in all its ugly chaos as Josie (Kat Sadler), her sister Billie (Sadler’s real sister Lizzie Davidson) and their mum Deb (Louise Brealey) claw their way to a better life. The show was recently renewed for a second season, while creator, writer and star Sadler also won the Emerging Talent: Fiction award at the recent Bafta Television Craft Awards

Kat Sadler: The whole challenge with the show was I wanted to take trauma that had happened to us and real stories and turn them into sitcom plots and prove that was possible. It was a testament to everybody who tried to maintain that vision with me and was onboard with it and made sure to sell every line like it’s funny.

Just keep going. It’s soul-crushing but it’s worth it.

Lizzie Davidson: Kate really stayed true to her vision throughout. She wanted it to be a sitcom, she wanted it to be hilarious and that’s what she made. No one could have pushed her in a different direction; she knew exactly what she wanted to make, and she won a Bafta for it.

I can’t tell you the number of years I watched Kate in a dark room writing. That’s why she was so unpopular at school, but look where she is now. The amount of work, effort and dedication that goes into it is incredible and amazing. You’ve just got to keep going at it.

Gbemisola Ikumelo

Female Performance in a Comedy: Gbemisola Ikumelo, Black Ops
BBC comedy thriller Black Ops sees Ikumelo and Hammed Animashaun team up as two police community support officers who find themselves working undercover. Ikumelo also created and wrote the series with co-star Akemnji Ndifornyen. It debuted last year and has been renewed for a second season.

Gbemisola Ikumelo: I pitched the show to BBC Studios, with Akemnji, and they said go and make it, so we brought Joe [Tucker] and Lloyd [Woolf] on as co-writers – which is great, because there’s a point as you get closer to filming where I have to go, ‘Sorry, I have to learn lines.’ But there are still rewrites happening all the time. There were times when I wanted to be just an actor and I’d come on set and be like, ‘Oh, that’s not quite working for me.’ There were a lot of different hats coming on and off. It was par for the course of doing a show you’re creating as well, but they did try to insulate me in terms of giving me space to be an actor when it was time to be an actor.

I’m a scripted girl. I do love a bit of improv, and we definitely got the opportunity to play. With someone like Hammed, there’s always that. But the scripts are really tight, so it’s great when the scripts work, because you can rely on them and just say the words on the paper.

We never [had to build] any rapport [together], it just happened. We knew we wanted Hammed for a long time, so we approached him and, funnily enough, he thought he was a stand-in the whole time. It was instant; it was like we’d been snarking at each other all our lives.

Mawaan Rizwan

Male Performance in a Comedy: Mawaan Rizwan, Juice
Confirmed to be returning for a second season after its 2023 debut, this BBC comedy created and written by Rizwan sees the star play Jamma, who is on a quest for attention as he navigates chaotic family dynamics and literally stumbles through love.

Mawaan Rizwan: It was 10 years trying to get a show like this off the ground. Writing this show was three years. From idea to it being on TV was five years. It is a long old process. Every side hustle along the way, everything to keep you going and keep you motivated somehow, it feels like it’s finally paying off and that’s a really nice feeling.

I definitely feel like you have to have many irons in the fire. I always wanted to make art, but not art in a void. I wanted an audience for it. Obviously, there are commissioners and people you need on your side to get your idea to an audience. It was a long process, but I did live shows, I did stand-up and do writers rooms. I wrote on shows like Sex Education. I was like, ‘Let me just learn my craft. I know my time will come and, when the time comes, it will be all guns blazing.’ It’s all come together really nicely.

It’s a bonkers show. I can’t believe I got away with it. It’s nuts. For a BBC Three comedy, there was a lot of set building. We built sets within sets so this character could fall out of one location into another in one take. There was a whole arm made out of cake. It takes time and money just to shoot that, and it’s the first thing to go. People say, ‘That’s a bit ambitious, why don’t you just make your usual comedy?’ It was all about making TV I wanted to see on TV. It gets a bit samey, and I was like, ‘Why am I doing it if I’m not bringing something new to it?’ It was about surrounding myself with people who had that same vision and tenacity.

Class Act star Laurent Lafitte

International: Class Act
This French miniseries (also known as Tapie) overcame competition from The Bear, Beef, The Last of Us, Love & Death and Succession to win the International category. It focuses on Bernard Tapie (Laurent Lafitte), one of France’s most iconic and controversial public figures, in a seven-episode series that explores the businessman, actor, singer and politician’s rise and fall.

Director Tristan Séguéla: [Tapie] used to be a really famous figure in the 80s and 90s, what we could call a French tycoon. He could be Donald Trump in the 80s in France. He had an incredible life – he was first a singer, a television presenter, the owner of a cycling team. He came into politics and won the Champions League with Olympique de Marseille. He was the boss of Adidas and almost ended up president of France, or at least he hoped. We tried to tell this story of a guy who had so many lives in one, in a show that tries to show some rise and fall in each episode.

Jack Carroll

Short Form: Mobility
This BBC comedy short – co-written by star Jack Carroll and Tom Gregory – follows three teenagers with nothing in common except the fact they all take the same mobility bus to school.

Jack Carroll: First and foremost, a lot of people laughed a lot, which is very good. That’s what we want. There’s also been some stuff about disability representation, which is a byproduct of why you do the thing. It’s not the first reason.

Tom contacted me on Twitter at the start of lockdown and said, ‘Basically, I’m writing this idea about disabled characters, but I don’t feel comfortable as an able-bodied person writing it on my own. Would you want to look at it and collaborate?’ We collaborated from then on and brought Sam [Ward, producer] on board. It went through a few iterations and then became a short film through the BBC.

Tom Gregory: It’s always nice to hear from disabled people. We didn’t show disabled people as victims or an inspiration, but actually as flawed, complex, funny, horny, disgusting teenagers.

Producer Sam Ward: It was a rare good thing to come out of Covid. We were all sitting around having nothing to do, these guys contacted me on Twitter, we did it on Zoom and sent it to the BBC and they said go for it.

Director Akaash Meeda: Especially with comedy, and anything you do, it’s the specificities of it and getting as much of Jack’s experience as possible into the 10 minutes we had. That was one of the creative highlights.

Elinor Lawless in Casualty

Soap: Casualty
This long-running medical drama – it debuted in 1986 – is set in the fictional Holby City Hospital and focuses on the patients and staff in its Accident & Emergency department. It is the show’s fifth Bafta in the Soap and Continuing Drama category, and third in the past four years.

Executive producer Jon Sen: Constantly reinventing it, but also keeping its essential core values, is absolutely the biggest challenge of all continuing dramas. You have to satisfy that core audience but also lure in that new audience for a new generation.

What’s often overlooked is that the brilliant high-end drama of tomorrow rests and relies on the vibrant continuing drama of today. We need to give it the attention and credit and funding it needs in order to provide the drama industry with the stars of tomorrow – writing, acting, directing, cast, crew, technicians… We are the furnace for tomorrow.

We’re very clear we’re not political with a big ‘P.’ What we’re doing is reflecting an authentic experience of what it is like to be a doctor, nurse, medic, paramedic within the NHS. That authentic depiction speaks for itself and is where we get the wellspring of stories, but it’s not a political show in that way.

Elinor Lawless, who plays Stevie Nash: It’s one of those shows that, for a lot of actors, definitely for me, is [their] first proper experience of what it was to be on a TV set. With continuous drama and soap, it’s the closest to a theatre experience you get, because you have a cohesion between a core cast. There’s a real family feel within that, and that’s something we try to emulate within the show and something audiences identify with as well. It’s stories about people like them, and that’s really important.

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