Steve Coogan: Bafta nomination vindicates Jimmy Savile drama

Steve Coogan has said his Bafta nomination for his portrayal of Jimmy Savile feels like a “vindication” of his decision to take on the risky role.

The TV star is in the running for the leading actor prize at the TV awards for his star turn in BBC drama The Reckoning, about how the serial sexual abuser managed to conceal his crimes until after his death in 2011.

Arriving on the red carpet, he told the PA news agency: “I’m very grateful to be acknowledged by the academy because the role I played was quite a difficult one, it was quite controversial and there was a lot of opposition to it when it was announced.

“So it was fraught with pitfalls, if it was handled badly it could have been a terrible decision. But I think the BBC were vindicated by it.

“Everyone had to perform their role very carefully to make sure the result was something that was legitimate, and a worthwhile endeavour. And not least me, playing the main role.

“So being acknowledged by the academy feels like a sort of a vindication.”

Asked if he anticipated controversy over his casting, he said “I understood some of the consternation about me playing the role of Jimmy Savile, some people have seen me as just a comic actor but I have got provenance as a dramatic actor and I thought I knew how to do it.

“All the people involved were very professional so I knew that the decisions made would be a bit careful and considered, but I didn’t jump in with both feet before carefully looking at the scripts and raising concerns and making sure that it was done the right way.

“I knew it was a gamble but I thought it was a gamble that would pay off and I think it has.”

Coogan said the participation of some of the survivors of Savile’s crimes “legitimises it and neutralises a lot of the negativity that was directed at the whole venture”.

He added: “Because their presence was an endorsement of that process, and gave voice to it and legitimised and made people realise why the programme was being made. It wasn’t just a piece of entertainment, it was about looking deeply at how something like this occurs.”