David Tennant: Bathgate actor nominated for International Emmy Award for chilling portrayal of Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen

David Tennant has been nominated for a major acting award for his performance in ITV crime series Des, in which he played Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen.

The Bathgate-born former Dr Who is the only English-language acting contender for the 2021 International Emmys, whose nominations were announced Thursday.

Nominations for this year's awards saw 44 nominees across 11 categories and a record number of 24 countries.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“We’re so proud of our nominees and the record-breaking number of countries,” said International Academy President and CEO Bruce Paisner in a statement.

David Tennant underwent a chilling transformation for his television role as notorious Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen.

“To those who feared the pandemic would slow down TV production around the world, this is your answer.”

Tennant, 50, is up for Best Performance from an Actor for his starring role in Des.

The three-part drama, which first screened last September, followed Angus-born Nilsen’s trial, which ended with his imprisonment for life in 1983.

Referred to as the ‘kindly killer’, Nilsen was a civil servant who would meet and befriend these men before offering them food or lodgings for the evening back at his North London flat. His victims were often homeless or living off-grid, having slipped through the cracks of 1980s society and were therefore welcoming of this stranger’s apparent generosity.

When he was finally caught on 9 February 1983, Nilsen had murdered as many as 15 men over a period of five years, making him Britain’s most prolific serial killer of the time.

With no apparent motive, inconclusive forensic evidence and most of Nilsen’s victims living off-grid, the police started the biggest manhunt investigation in UK history. This time not for the murderer, but for the murdered.

The story is told through the prism of three isolated men – a detective, a biographer, and Nilsen himself.

In an interview last year, Tennant said he was relieved Nilsen isn’t alive to tune into the ITV drama, explaining that the serial killer became “obsessed” with the legend of ‘Des’ after his arrest.

“Whenever he slipped out of public consciousness, there was almost a sense that he wanted to get back into it,” he said.

“That’s why I’m relieved he’s not alive.”

“I would hate for this to go out and for him to be sitting in some cell somewhere imaging we were in any way glorifying him.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.