Steve Coogan tells why he took on Jimmy Savile role for BBC drama

British actor Steve Coogan has said he hopes viewers of his upcoming drama series on disgraced entertainer Jimmy Savile are reminded to “listen to victims and survivors” to avoid history repeating itself.

The four-part series, titled The Reckoning, will track Savile’s rise to becoming one of the biggest stars in television and will also focus on his years of sexual abuse and the impact he had on his victims – four of whom have waived their anonymity and feature in the series.

Coogan, known for portraying comedy character Alan Partridge, will play serial sex offender Savile, who died in October 2011 aged 84 having never been brought to justice for his crimes.

“If you treat people with respect and we act together then you can avoid something like this from happening in the future.”

He noted that the series reflects how those who knew about Savile or were targeted by him often had “ostensibly low status who couldn’t change things”.

“The people who could have made things better were people in positions of power, and they are more culpable than the people who did not wield that power”, he added.

Coogan said he hopes the BBC series, which launches on October 9, also highlights that there are also “lots of decent people in this world who want to do the right thing”, adding: “It’s about being vigilant but not disillusioned with humanity.”

The series was written by Neil McKay, whose other credits include BBC drama Four Lives about serial killer Stephen Port, and is being executive produced by Jeff Pope.

Coogan revealed the “calibre” of the team involved with the drama was a main driver for him to take on the project, which he admitted had “more risk” than anything he had done before.

“I’ve played a few real people in my time, some good and some not, although Savile is certainly the worst,” the actor said.

“The big question is why are you doing it? That’s the question you have to answer, and that’s the question the script has to answer.

“If it does then you’re on the right track, and here it was clear from the script and my conversations with Neil and Jeff that this was being done in an ethical, responsible way.

BAFTA Film Awards 2014 – Press Room – London
Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan with the award for adapted screenplay for Philomena at The EE British Academy Film Awards 2014 (Ian West/PA)

“I knew this wasn’t without risk. Nothing that’s interesting to watch is ever without some kind of risk and this had more risks than anything else I’ve done, but knowing that I had the best people with me, I thought it was worth it.

“I feel this series is a really strong piece of work and that all the people involved in it – survivors, cast and crew – should be proud with the job that’s been done.”

The extent of Savile’s crimes only emerged after his death and he is now believed to be one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.

The first episode of The Reckoning will air on October 9 on the BBC.

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