Writer Peter Bowker was taken completely by surprise at the outpouring of love shown towards his Bafta-winning drama Marvellous.
The BBC1 film – in which Toby Jones played the part of real-life Stoke City fanatic and circus performer Neil Baldwin – won the Bafta best single drama award this year and garnered adulation from critics and the public.
But Bowker, who will be appearing on two panels at this weekend’s Radio Times Festival, admitted that the experience was also something of a shock.
“BBC2, Wednesday night, broadly speaking a one-off drama about this chap with learning difficulties,” he told RadioTimes.com: “On the whole I thought it would get about… two or two-and-a-half million viewers.
“I thought we were in with a chance of good reviews and, with a fair wind, a couple of [award] nominations towards the end of the year. What I didn’t anticipate was this groundswell of love for it. How it had this long tail. People still talk about it. It’s really punched through and hit a nerve.
“People who don’t normally consider themselves drama fans including a lot of men who watch football have loved it and embraced it. The hardest thing in telly is to tell a good news story, without it being sentimental. I never thought it would get the love it did.”
Bowker (pictured) added that since making the drama, the real Neil Baldwin’s life has been fascinating to watch.
“I still speak to him regularly – about once a week, not as much as before because he’s so busy.
“I think the last year of Neil’s life would be fascinating as a documentary, not a drama. In fact, one of the cast was going to make a documentary about his last year but it never happened, [the actor] got another job.
“Because it’s almost the fantasy celebrity I created as part of the piece has become a reality. So what Neil has done is what he has done all his life – I haven’t pulled Neil into my world, he has pulled me into his.
“Now he still meets famous people, but he just has less problem with it. As Alex Ferguson said to him: ‘you’re more famous than I am now’.
“He’s a one-off. He’s nice to be around. He’s just funny, he’s just positive. He’s a man whose support network is Stoke City, the church, students and the circus. Now that’s quite a combination.”
Bowker will be appearing at the Radio Times Festival on Sunday September 27th, discussing his new BBC drama Capital, a three-part adaptation of the book by John Lanchester with Marvellous stars Toby Jones and Gemma Jones in the cast.
You can book tickets for the event – From Page to Screen: John Lanchester’s Capital – here. Bowker will also be speaking at the Marvellous event alongside executive producer Patrick Spence on the same day at 1pm.
You can book tickets for Simply Marvellous panel here.