Bafta TV Awards: Steve McQueen's Small Axe leads nominations

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John Boyega
Image caption,
John Boyega is nominated for playing a real-life police officer in Small Axe's Red, White and Blue

Sir Steve McQueen's Small Axe series leads the field at this year's Bafta Television Awards, with 15 nominations.

The director's landmark five-film BBC One series tells stories about the lives of the West Indian community in London from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Netflix's regal drama The Crown is also one of the leading shows, with 10 nods.

I May Destroy You, about a woman coming to terms with an assault, is listed eight times, including best actress, writer and director for Michaela Coel.

"I am overwhelmed with joy to see so many people and teams that made I May Destroy You nominated this year," Coel said in a statement.

"I am equally thrilled to see Small Axe, one of my favourite shows of last year, deservedly honoured, let the celebrations begin!"

Image caption,
Michaela Coel is nominated for best actress, writer and director for I May Destroy You

The leading nominees

There are five nominations apiece for Channel 4's Adult Material, a drama set in the porn industry, and Sky Atlantic's I Hate Suzie, whose star Billie Piper is up for best actress.

BBC Three comedy This Country is recognised four times, as are Strictly Come Dancing and the acclaimed documentary series Once Upon a Time in Iraq.

In the individual categories, John Boyega's performance as real-life police officer Leroy Logan in one of the Small Axe films - Red, White and Blue - sees him up for best actor alongside Shaun Parkes, who was in the Mangrove instalment of Small Axe.

Josh O'Connor, who plays the young Prince Charles in The Crown, makes the same list, alongside Paapa Essiedu from I May Destroy You, Waleed Zuaiter from Baghdad Central and Normal People's Paul Mescal.

Image source, Netflix
Image caption,
Josh O'Connor is nominated for best actor for playing Prince Charles in The Crown

Mescal's co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones is nominated for best actress, next to Piper, Coel and another Small Axe star, Letitia Wright. Killing Eve's Jodie Comer and Adult Material's Hayley Squires also make the same shortlist.

Friday Night dinner star Paul Ritter, who died earlier this month aged 54, is nominated for best male performance in a comedy.

Which stars and shows were snubbed?

Notably, The Crown's Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson, who won Golden Globe awards in February for playing Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher respectively, have been overlooked by Bafta.

There's also no room for Olivia Colman, who plays the Queen, but Tobias Menzies has been nominated for playing the Duke of Edinburgh, three weeks after Prince Philip's death.

Des, a three-part drama starring David Tennant as serial killer Dennis Nilsen, was left out, as was another ITV true crime drama, White House Farm, and BBC lockdown sitcom Staged.

In the international category, Netflix hits The Queen's Gambit and Tiger King failed to make the cut.

"All those nominations are basically last year in review, and Bafta applauding all the things that we've binge watched - that is everything we did last year apart from one hour of walking a day," one of the judges, author and journalist Caitlin Moran, told BBC Breakfast.

"When I first saw the nominations, I was like, 'Where's the Tiger King? That was pretty big in my life'. But on reflection, that was just a show about a man being horrible to tigers and probably best that it's not been nominated for a Bafta."

'I wanted to make Small Axe for my mother'

Image caption,
Lovers Rock stars Michael Ward and Amarah-Jae St Aubyn

Late last year, Sir Steve McQueen said "things are changing" for black British film-makers after one part of his series, Lovers Rock, was named the best film of 2020 by Sight & Sound magazine.

"To be honest with you, black and brown-skinned people have not been really welcomed into the film and television community," he told BBC Breakfast.

"But now things are sort of changing things and people are realising that things need to be sorted and things need to be changed and there's opportunities there - we've just got to take them when we get them."

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Steve McQueen: "A lot of people will be asking themselves: why didn't I know this story?"

Sir Steve added that he made the Small Axe series, which tackled a range of issues around race relations, so people like his own mother could see stories like their own reflected.

"Firstly, I wanted to make Small Axe for my mother, in a way that you could turn on the telly and have it accessible to her," he said.

"And that period of time from the 60s to the early 80s, for me, it was a time where things were being contested and stories, which were being sort of swept under the carpet, needed to be spoken about and needed to be seen."

Nominees for the Bafta Must-See Moment Award were announced on Tuesday, and include Diversity's controversial dance routine on Britain's Got Talent, which provoked thousands of complaints.

Viewers have until 17:00 BST on 24 May to vote for the winner, which will be announced as part of the Bafta TV Awards ceremony on 6 June.

The Bafta prizes honour shows transmitted in 2020, and comedian Richard Ayoade will to host the ceremony for the second year in a row.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Richard Ayoade will present the Bafta TV Awards for the second time

Typically an extravagant event at London's Royal Festival Hall, festivities will be more restrained due to the safeguards in place due to Covid-19 and will take place in a closed studio.

The winners of Bafta's TV Craft Awards, meanwhile, which celebrate behind-the-scenes achievements, will be announced by Famalam actress Gbemisola Ikumelo on 24 May.

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