Steve Coogan: 'Playing Jimmy Savile isn't enjoyable, it's a challenge'
"I knew there was the potential for catastrophic failure if you get it wrong."
*Warning: This article contains discussions of sexual abuse that some may find distressing.*
Upcoming BBC drama The Reckoning is set to dramatise the crimes of disgraced television personality Jimmy Savile, and will see Steve Coogan take on the main role.
The controversial factual drama will air on Monday 9th October and has been defended by Coogan, who has insisted that The Reckoning will offer "important" insights into how Savile got away with his crimes.
Talking to RadioTimes.com and other press at a Q&A for the series, Coogan explained more about his decision to lead the show, saying: "Over 30 years ago I did his voice, but a lot has happened since then. I've been working in drama with Jeff [Pope, executive producer] principally, and others over the last 10 years.
"Now, half the time I do comedy and half the time drama, and I think I've got enough under my belt. There's probably a handful of people in the country who could play the part, and I did consider myself one of them."
He added: "I had great trepidation about it. Jeff mentioned it to me first, and I trust Jeff, as a writer and as a human being, and the calibre of everyone else involved, Neil [McKay, writer], all those things reassured me."
Coogan continued: "I knew there was the potential for catastrophic failure if you get it wrong, but that's not a reason not to do it.
"So I moved forward with it, and I remember talking to Neil and Jeff, and I said the question the script has to answer is, why are you doing this? And I felt comfortable it was being made for the right reasons, and it achieves what it's supposed to.
"The kind of scrutiny you get with drama that you don't get with a documentary meant that you could get under the skin of Jimmy Savile. And the reason that's a good thing to do, to bring him to life again, is to learn about how this has happened, and to see how he operates.
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Talking more about tackling the role of the disgraced personality, Coogan said: "As an actor, I didn't really treat Jimmy Savile any differently than any other role insofar as I’m a professional who has been hired to do a job, I’m trying to do the job as professionally as possible.
"And that means not doing something that has any kind of caricature or comedic content, and not rendering him as some sort of pantomime villain, which ultimately would be a disservice to the survivors and victims of Savile.
"To understand how this happens, you have to show the things that perhaps initially seem counterintuitive, which is to show that he was charismatic. That was part of the Trojan horse that he created to go about his sexual assaults.
"He created, over 30 years, quite an elaborate machine that served him, and part of the character of the court jester persona that he created was his armour, and it was very difficult, even for some very reputable journalists, to pierce that armour."
He added: "It wasn't enjoyable, it was a professional challenge that I wanted to take on."
The new drama has been penned by Neil McKay, who has a notable past of creating thought-provoking true crime dramas like Four Lives and Appropriate Adult.
Aside from Coogan starring as Saville, the cast also includes Siobhan Finneran (Happy Valley), Gemma Jones (Gentleman Jack), Mark Stanley (The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe), Robert Emms (Andor) and Mark Lewis Jones (Gangs of London).
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