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Bafta acknowledges Steve McQueen’s Small Ax series on West Indian migrants after ‘So White’ accusations

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Small Ax, Steve McQueen’s critically acclaimed but publicly overlooked drama series, garnered a record number of nominations on Bafta Television.

The five-film anthology recounted the experience of black Britons starting in the 1970s.

In its Sunday night slot on UKTN One, it drew modest ratings of just over a million viewers per episode.

But Bafta’s voters crowned him with 15 nominations, including Best Writer, Best Miniseries, Letitia Wright Lead Actor, and John Boyega and Shaun Parkes Lead Actor.

The two actors have appeared in separate films, playing actual characters: Boyega as Leroy Logan, a founding member and former president of the Black Police Association, and Parkes as Frank Crichlow, a restaurateur from Notting. Hill whose police intimidation sparked a Mangrove Nine court case riot.

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Small Ax is up against a UKTN audience hit, Normal People, which became last year’s most popular series on iPlayer. The category also includes the famous film I May Destroy You by Michaela Coel and the Channel 4 drama about a pornstar, Adult Material.

The drama category includes Netflix’s The Crown, which garnered 10 nominations in total, alongside three Sky Atlantic series: Gangs of London, I Hate Suzie and Save Me Too.

Rankings winners that missed out on a nomination included Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small, as well as the ITV crime dramas White House Farm and Des. Netflix’s Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit were also left out.

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Quiz, who dramatized the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? cheating scandal and was one of the most watched dramas of the last year, won only one nomination, for Michael Sheen as Chris Tarrant.

Bafta revised its procedures after several years of criticism for lack of diversity. After last year’s film awards, Bafta chairman The Duke of Cambridge said he “just can’t be right these days” to have all-white selection lists.

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The list of this year’s TV finalists is varied, but Hannah Wyatt, chair of Bafta’s TV committee, said it was not a deliberate decision by voters.

“The fantastic shortlist is a reflection of the range that has been presented to us,” she said. “This lineup is demonstrated by the fact that there are 92 different programs on the list, an increase from 84 last year.”

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The Crown has 10 nominations, including Josh O’Connor’s lead actor as Prince of Wales, Helena Bonham Carter supporting actress as Princess Margaret and Tobias Menzies supporting actor as Duke of Edinburgh. But there was also no recognition for Emma Corrin as Diana, Princess of Wales or Gillian Anderson as Baroness Thatcher.

Parkes, Boyega and O’Connor are joined in the Leading Actor category by Paapa Essiedu for I May Destroy You, Paul Mescal for Normal People and Waleed Zuaiter for Baghdad Central.

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