Bafta TV Awards: 8 backstage bites from the ceremony

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

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Richard AyoadeImage source, BAFTA/Guy Levy
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Richard Ayoade hosted the ceremony for the second year in a row

"Welcome to the self-esteem lottery that is the Baftas," joked host Richard Ayoade as he welcomed nominees and viewers to Sunday's annual celebration of British TV.

To a sparse audience in Television Centre, the comedian noted: "In just two weeks, the national lockdown may be lifted, but why wait until then to have this show? I like things with no atmosphere."

But the social distancing didn't dampen the mood of Michaela Coel and Paul Mescal, who were among the big winners in the Bafta lottery. The stars of Sex Education, Small Axe, Anthony and This Country also scooped some of the top prizes.

We've been hearing from some of the winners in the virtual press room.

1. Aimee Lou Wood may be slightly overdressed for the pub

Image source, PA Media
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The Sex Education star wore a beautiful floral-patterned white gown

...which is where she's planning to celebrate her Bafta win.

"I didn't bring a change of clothes," the actress explains backstage. "And there's no [Bafta] party, is there? Because of coronavirus. So if we go out somewhere, for a drink, I'm going to look very odd."

The 26-year-old, who won best female performance in a comedy programme for Sex Education, is mainly just relieved the ceremony was taking place in person.

"It is lovely, and I didn't think it was going to happen, I thought it was going to be on Zoom, and I hate Zoom, cannot stand Zoom. No offence if this is on Zoom," she adds with a smile, suddenly realising she's speaking during a virtual press conference.

Reflecting on the sudden fame the Netflix series has brought her, Wood says: "It's bizarre, I'm still getting my head around it all, I'm still learning.

"That's the weird thing, something gets really big, and then you're kind of expected to know exactly how to deal with all of it, and I really don't. I pretended for a long time like I did, but now I'm like, I have no clue, so I'm still getting my head around it. But it's amazing."

2. I May Destroy You has 'destroyed itself'

Image source, Bafta
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Michaela Coel thanked her fellow nominees as well as the cast and crew of I May Destroy You

The winner of best leading actress becomes emotional as she tells journalists: "I'm feeling a bit stunned and so grateful to Bafta."

Coel's drama I May Destroy You was heavily rewarded by the academy, with the 33-year-old winning prizes for acting, writing and directing as well as best mini-series.

She delivered a masterclass in acceptance speeches, with articulate and well-prepared words of gratitude paying tribute to her fellow nominees and the cast and crew of her 12-part series.

The BBC and HBO show explored themes of sexual consent and was based on Coel's own previous sexual assault. Backstage, she says writing it was a cathartic experience.

"It was incredible, it really helped me get past some troubling stuff," she explains. "And what it enabled me to do was pair something quite tragic with something quite beautiful, and that was being able to make a show, create opportunities, and see everybody's talents come together. It replaced bad memories with really nice ones."

Asked about whether her character Arabella's story could be continued, she laughs: "There definitely won't be a second season. I think I May Destroy You has been so huge it's destroyed itself! But we continue making work and we'll do other things."

3. There will be no more sibling rivalry

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Daisy May Cooper brought her uncle Trevor (left) and dad Paul (right) along to the ceremony

This Country star Charlie Cooper won best male performance in a comedy programme, but wasn't there to pick up his award in person (he's apparently on holiday in Wales). His dad Paul accepted it on his behalf.

"It will mean the world to him, just the fact he was nominated was tremendous for him, so to win the Bafta, he will be over the moon," says Cooper Sr.

Charlie's sister and co-star Daisy May Cooper, who won a Bafta three years ago for her own performance in the show, was seen cheering from the audience when Charlie was announced as the winner.

"She's a proud big sister," says Paul. "They've got one each now, so there won't be any more fighting!"

Having consistently served some outstanding red carpet looks in the past, including a dress made out of rubbish in 2019, Daisy opted for a more traditional dress this year - but only because she had to.

"I did have an amazing outfit I was going to wear today, made out of newspapers," she said on the red carpet. "But I left it in the hotel room yesterday, the cleaner thought it was rubbish and binned it!"

4. Romesh has been rumbled (by his wife)

Image source, BAFTA/Guy Levy
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Romesh Ranganathan scooped the best entertainment performance award

"I'm slightly gutted about my acceptance speech because I genuinely wasn't expecting to win," says Romesh Ranganathan after winning best entertainment performance for The Ranganation.

Had he expected to win, he might have planned what to say. "I was buzzing when I won, went and did my speech, and then as I walked away I thought, you didn't mention your mum, didn't mention the Ranganation, didn't mention anyone by name," he says regretfully.

The TV series was filmed in Ranganathan's own home during lockdown, which the comedian says made his wife Leesa realise what a cushty job he has.

"My wife lost a lot of respect for me during that process," he says. "I was writing the show on Zoom, and she would walk past the room and hear me say things like, 'Is it funnier if I say Coco Pops or Rice Krispies now?'

"And then we'd finish the day and my wife would go to me, 'Your job really is pathetic isn't it? What you do is so trivial.'"

5. Paul Mescal is not planning a pop career

Image source, Bafta

It's just over a year since the release of Normal People sparked a worldwide outbreak of Mescal-mania, and on Sunday the 25-year-old was officially crowned best leading actor.

"It's just overwhelming. I wasn't expecting it to happen," he says backstage. "Panicking about leaving people out of the speech was literally the thing [I was worried about] and of course I did. But I'm going to phone them and apologise profusely."

(Maybe both Paul and Romesh could ask for some speech-giving tips from Michaela.)

Normal People, which was adapted from the Sally Rooney novel of the same name, was hugely successful and became BBC iPlayer's most requested show of 2020. "It's a role that has totally changed my life," says Mescal.

Asked about the show's appeal, he says: "It's quite a simple premise. It trusts an audience to engage and be challenged by it. It's a show that focuses on the normal human society and treats their joys and traumas and tribulations with utter respect. It's seeing two people who viewers feel they can relate to, seeing how they navigate life."

Mescal might have recently recorded a song, but he has no plans to change careers. "I released a song as part of a podcast, but I'm an actor, so that's the focus," he confirms.

Read more from the Bafta TV Awards

6. Diversity's win felt like 'validation'

Image source, Bafta
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Diversity's Jordan (left) and Ashley Banjo accepted the must-see moment prize on behalf of the dance group

Must-see moment, the only award voted for by members of the public, went to Diversity's Black Lives Matter performance on Britain's Got Talent.

The routine prompted 24,000 complaints to Ofcom from viewers, many of whom felt political statements should be kept away from Saturday night entertainment shows.

But others praised it for making a powerful statement following the death of George Floyd. Ofcom ultimately said it would not investigate the performance.

Backstage, choreographer Ashley Banjo says the Bafta win felt like "validation" from the public and affirmed his belief in the controversial performance.

"I would say tonight is way more nerve-wracking than the performance itself," Banjo says backstage. "I've never seen him this nervous," adds his brother and fellow Diversity dancer Jordan Banjo.

"This isn't just about an award to me, this is about a public vote, a chance for the public to speak up," Ashley continues. "And in a way, it was almost like, was it right or not? Did they support it or not? And to have won a Bafta for a performance just shows me that the British public are incredible, they support it and support us."

7. Please say hello to Rakie Ayola if you see her

Image source, Getty Images
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Rakie Ayola attended the Bafta TV Awards for the first time

The actress's performance in BBC One drama Anthony scored her a win for best supporting actress.

The Jimmy McGovern-penned film told the story of Anthony Walker, a black teenager murdered in a racist attack in Merseyside in 2005.

"It was one of the most emotionally challenging things I've ever done," Ayola says of her role. "I was exhausted by it, but in a good way. It was a career highlight, because we were telling an important story."

Sunday marked Ayola's first ever TV Baftas ceremony (she's only been to Bafta Cymru before) and she admits backstage to feeling shy.

"Everywhere you turn there's someone whose work you really admire. My agent did say, 'Don't stand with your back against the wall as though you're not meant to be there, go up and say hello to people'," Ayola says.

"I haven't managed that yet, but thankfully Sophie Okonedo came up and said hello to me. So I need to be braver in saying, 'Hi, I really love your work' to everybody."

8. Inside No 9 was ahead of its time

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Reece Shearsmith is a co-creator and co-writer of Inside No 9

The BBC's anthology series, which is now in its sixth season, was named best scripted comedy at Sunday's ceremony.

Every episode of the show has a different, self-contained storyline with different characters. The only thing they have in common is that every episode takes place in a setting with a number nine.

"Inside No 9 was almost a pre-Covid show, in that we focused on small groups of characters who were trapped together, so I think we were ahead of the curve on that one," says writer and actor Steve Pemberton.

"It is made for lockdown times, isn't it?" agrees co-writer and co-star Reece Shearsmith. "We did think about doing [an episode] that would be contained, maybe on Zoom, or people in lockdown, but then we thought maybe that's the last thing we want to do.

"So we were slightly cautious of rubbing people's faces in it. So we've gone the other way and tried to write the world the way it used to be."

The Bafta Television Awards are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.