Work to improve diversity has ‘really paid dividends' in TV Bafta nominations

Deputy chairwoman of the Bafta television committee Sara Putt praised both Small Axe and I May Destroy You.

The deputy chairwoman of the Bafta television committee has said the work being done to improve diversity at the awards has “really paid dividends” in this year’s nominations.

Sir Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series, which tells stories from London’s West Indian community, has 15 nods, while categories including supporting actress and leading actor have also seen a greater breadth of performers nominated.

Michaela Coel’s sexual assault drama I May Destroy You received eight nominations, including recognition for leading actress Coel and her co-star, Paapa Essiedu.

Deputy chairwoman Sara Putt said the awards are on a “journey and this is not an end-stop – we’re still on that journey. There’s still work to do, and we’re very aware of that.

“But this really feels like an acknowledgment that a lot of the work that’s being done within Bafta, but also in the industry as a whole, is paying off.

“I’m sure you’re aware last year we ran a pilot around embedding the BFI diversity standards into the awards.

“This year, we expected all of our entries to be able to adhere to at least one of the four criteria in the BFI diversity standards. And I think that’s really paid dividends.”

Mangrove premiere – BFI London Film Festival 2020
Director Sir Steve McQueen with the stars of Mangrove from Small Axe (Ian West/PA)

Putt credited the success of Small Axe, which features stars including John Boyega, Letitia Wright and Micheal Ward, to the way it reflected the UK’s recent past.

“I think it was, first and foremost, beautiful, beautiful programme-making of the highest quality as so many – in fact all – of these nominees were,” she said.

Putt added that Small Axe “absolutely reflects a very recent past that some knew about, too many people probably didn’t know about.

“And it really showed us something about the country, the world we live in, and it was just fantastic. And there was sadness but also extreme joy in that programme-making as well.”

Coronavirus – Fri Mar 19, 2021
Michaela Coel (Yui Mok/PA)

I May Destroy You earned rave reviews but was snubbed at the Golden Globes.

Putt said its eight nods at the TV Baftas would mean a “great deal” to creator and star Coel.

She added: “I think also the fact she’s nominated both in the performance category and also for the writing, both in front of and behind the camera.

“I think she serves, as many others do, as this sort of absolute – ‘You can do this, look what is achievable, look what is possible’. So I think it means a great deal.

“To everybody involved in that series on that show, it will it will mean a huge amount. And I think it will resonate with the audience as well.”

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