ITV’s new three-part drama Quiz (starts on Sunday May 31 on AMC) tells the real-life story of Charles and Diana Ingram, who were accused and later convicted of attempting to steal the jackpot prize on ITV’s own flagship quiz show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
The dramatisation of the so-called coughing scandal stars Succession’s Matthew Macfadyen as “Coughing Major” Charles Ingram, alongside Sian Clifford as his wife Diana Ingram.
However, what do the real-life Ingrams think of Quiz, and were they consulted with for the series? Did quiz show host Chris Tarrant (played by Michael Sheen) agree with the drama being made?
Read on for everything you need to know about how the real-life people involved in the scandal have reacted to Quiz.
What do Charles and Diana Ingram think of Quiz?
The real-life “Coughing Major” Charles Ingram and Diana Ingram were in touch with screenwriter James Graham – who based the three-part series on his West End play of the same name – right from the beginning, and they visited the TV set to meet with the actors who would portray them on-screen, Succession star Matthew Mcfadyen and Fleabag’s Sian Clifford.
The cast of ITV’s Quiz (ITV Pictures)
Speaking at a press event, Sian Clifford said, “It was amazing [meeting the Ingrams], and they’ve been so generous with their time throughout this, and they were so sweet, and it was really important for me to not engage at all with what was written about them at the time, and you know, she [Diana] was painted as this kind of Lady Macbeth character, and though that’s a character I’d love to play, I don’t think that’s who she is, and she struck me as an introvert… and someone who’s quite sweet, definitely naive.
“I really wanted to get to that [in the show] and protect them and be sensitive towards them, but also protect the integrity of James’ remarkable script, which I think is completely balanced.”
Screenwriter James Graham said that he thought the real-life Ingrams were “pleased” that the TV show is raising the possibility that they may be innocent.
“We deliberately engaged with them very early on when we were in rehearsal for the play,” he said, “and all the way through this TV drama, we invited them onto the set, they met Sian and Matthew, and I think and I hope that, given that we are at least raising the possibility that maybe all is not quite as it seems, they seem quite pleased that this conversation is being had.”
However, in order to maintain a balanced overview, the Ingrams weren’t “officially consult[ed]” for the TV show, Graham clarified in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com.
What does Chris Tarrant think of Quiz?
Gameshow host Chris Tarrant arrives at Southwark Crown Court March 12, 2003 in London, United Kingdom. Tarrant was giving evidence in the case involving Charles Ingram (Getty Images)
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? game show host Chris Tarrant is portrayed in the TV series Quiz by Michael Sheen – and in the show, it’s revealed that he initially couldn’t believe that Charles Ingram had stolen the jackpot prize from under his nose.
“I think Chris’ role in this is really incredible,” screenwriter James Graham said. “I know he saw the play and really liked it, [and] I know he now still maintains that he thinks they were guilty, but at the time, as Helen[‘s character, the defence lawyer] says, he noticed nothing, and was really flabbergasted that [Charles] was even being accused, and then he went on a journey towards believing it in the end.”
Graham continued, “[Tarrant] came to see the play… He’s expressed to us and via Paul Smith [the man behind Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?] that he thought it was a really entertaining evening, and he is really happy this is being told, because he’s very proud of it, like Paul, they get quite emotional when they talk about the thing that they did [the show].
Michael Sheen plays Chris Tarrant in ITV’s Quiz (ITV Pictures)
“So he vehemently maintains that he thinks they’re guilty now, and he didn’t agree that the play veered towards questioning that, but that’s the heart of this whole proposition, and I think it’s a valid question. So I disagree with him on that, but he’s been very supportive. He’s met Michael [Sheen] a couple of times.”
What do ITV think of Quiz?
One of the ironies of Quiz – a TV show that questions if broadcaster ITV made the correct call about whether contestants on its flagship quiz show cheated – is that it’s airing on that same broadcaster: ITV.
Aisling Bea plays Claudia Rosencrantz, ITV’s former head of entertainment (ITV Pictures)
“They [ITV] were such good sports all the way through,” screenwriter James Graham revealed. “Even though they knew from the very beginning having seen the play that one of the central propositions is, ‘Where they [ITV] right? Is the perceived narrative that they also told and were responsible for telling entirely correct?’.
“But I think, we keep using the words twinkly and mischievous [to describe the show]; there is a mischief in putting it on the broadcaster that was also responsible for the story, and it also frees you up to do certain things.”
What does Celador’s Paul Smith think of Quiz?
At the start of the TV series Quiz, we see the inception of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, when Paul Smith, founder of production company Celador, pitches the idea to ITV in the late 1990s.
Mark Bonnar plays Paul Smith in ITV’s Quiz (ITV Pictures)
He is later devastated when he comes to believe that contestant Charles Ingram has somehow found a way to cheat.
“We wanted it [the show] to be fair and balanced,” screenwriter James Graham said, “so we spent a lot of time with Paul Smith and ITV people who still very much believe that they [the Ingrams] did [it], we just tried to balance those views and take people along every step of the way.”
He added that one of the delights of Quiz is that “there are no bad guys, genuinely, I don’t think there are any bad guys in this story”.
“The people from Celdor and ITV who believe they cheated, and pursued this case, believe that they cheated and really feel strongly that this kind of thing has to be punished, it was something they cared about.
“In the case of Paul Smith… he was furious that people weren’t playing it in the spirit of the game, and on the other side we have the Ingrams who to this day maintain they did nothing wrong.”
If you’re interested in finding out more, take a look at our true story behind Quiz.
Quiz starts on Sunday May 31 at 10/9c on AMC
This article was originally published on 8 April 2020