Entertainment & Arts

Crime drama wins big at Bafta TV awards

Georgina Campbell and Sarah Lancashire
Image caption Georgina Campbell in Murdered by My Boyfriend and Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley

This year's TV Baftas were notable for the prevalence of powerful crime dramas that picked up prizes.

Both the lead actor and actress awards were for roles inspired by real-life murder cases.

Georgina Campbell beat Keely Hawes, Sarah Lancashire and Sheridan Smith to win leading actress for her harrowing portrayal of a domestic abuse victim in BBC Three drama Murdered by My Boyfriend.

"I knew it was going to be difficult," the actress said backstage at London's Theatre Royal on Sunday night. "I didn't know that domestic abuse affected mostly 16-25 year-olds. Reading the script I could relate to it very well."

She told the BBC: "There have have been a lot of people who said that they felt it was really true to the experience they had.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Georgina Campbell won the lead actress prize for her role as a victim of domestic abuse

"A police officer contacted us and said a girl had come in and her phone was smashed up and she had been hit and she said she had watched the show and decided that she wanted [to report it]."

Murdered By My Boyfriend, which aired last June, was based on a tragic true story.

It focuses on 21-year-old Ashley, who was beaten to death after four years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of a man she loved.

In a Daily Telegraph interview last year, the drama's writer Regina Moore gave some insight into her research.

"What are the little things that set the stage for more serious abuse down the line? When does teasing become bullying? When does being in love become being in control?

"The challenge was to try to embed some of these subtle details into the film because often they're the signals that a relationship is on the way to becoming abusive.

"It took four years for Ashley to die. In that time, at least 229 women in Britain were murdered as a result of domestic violence."

'Crossed line'

Image copyright AP
Image caption Jason Watkins won the best actor prize for his role as retired schoolmaster Christopher Jefferies

Jason Watkins received his first Bafta for playing the title role in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, which also won the award for mini-series.

Written by Peter Morgan, the ITV drama was based on the true story of Christopher Jefferies, a retired schoolmaster who was arrested when his tenant, 25-year-old landscape architect Joanna Yeates, was found murdered on Christmas Day in 2010.

The drama followed the innocent Jefferies as he struggled to clear his name and cope with the unwanted spotlight upon him. The real killer, neighbour Vincent Tabak, was arrested almost a month later.

The drama was directed by Roger Michell, a former pupil of Jefferies.

Watkins spent several days watching footage of the ex-teacher before he decided to take on the role.

Backstage, the actor said: "It was about getting it right. If I could impersonate him - not just on a surface level - then all the details and sensitivities about the case would work out. It was a joy to do that and then to meet him in person."

In an earlier Radio Times interview he said: "What really struck me about doing the film is how shocking it is that a line can be crossed in an instant, and a life is ended, or something can be written down and printed and what impact that can have on a life."

'Symphonic writing'

Although not based on a true-life murder case, Happy Valley on BBC One was a dark police drama set in West Yorkshire that some TV critics hailed as the best thing on British TV in 2014. Others were troubled by its scenes of violence.

Written and partly directed by Sally Wainwright, it stars Sarah Lancashire as police sergeant Catherine Cawood, who stumbles on a kidnap plot as she pursues a man she holds responsible for her daughter's rape and suicide.

Lancashire, who won a Bafta last year for her role in Wainwright's Last Tango in Halifax, said she had been captivated by the scripts.

"It was very different to other pieces that I've done but I do find Sally's writing is symphonic because it is so varied and rich."

Wainwright revealed backstage that series two of Happy Valley would feature the return of killer villain Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton (who had been nominated for best supporting actor).

Norton said he had read three of the new scripts and that viewers would have to wait until next year to find out what happened next.

And it was not just home-grown crime drama that did well at the Baftas.

The International category was won by HBO's True Detective, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two Louisiana detectives in their 17-year pursuit of a brutal killer.

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