A blistering vindication of Diversity’s 2020 Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) performance and Michaela Coel finally winning big were some of the most memorable moments at the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards (BAFTA) 2021.
Hosted once again by Richard Ayoade, the two hour programme reached its crescendo with Michaela Coel earning the Leading Actress award for her role as a sexual assault survivor in the BBC Drama I May Destroy You while the mini-series won two BAFTAS.
Focused and sedate in the delivery of her prepared speech, Coel wore a black and orange sleeved midriff baring floor-length gown and dedicated her award to the Director of Intimacy Rita O’Brien. A relatively new role in film and television production, Coel made the comparison between when there was no Intimacy Coordinator when filming issues of consent.
“I know what it’s like to shoot without an Intimacy Director. The messy, embarrassing feeling for the crew, the internal devastation for the actor. Your direction was essential to my show, and I believe essential for every production company that wants to make work exploring themes of consent.”
Britain’s Got Talent’s Diversity performance – determined by public vote – won Virgin Media’s must-see moment, which left choreographer Ashley Banjo near to tears. The award was particularly poignant because of the public backlash for the performance which directly addressed the Black Lives Matter protests and the multitude of issues connected to it during 2020. While thanking those who publicly and privately supported the group during what Banjo called a dark time filled with a torrent of racially charged abuse, a special thanks went: “to the people that complained; to the people that put all of that abuse out there online.”
“Because you showed the truth. You showed exactly why this performance in this moment was necessary. But for all of those people, just take a look because this [tapping the award with his knuckles] – as much as there is … so much that needs to change – this is what change looks like… [and] standing here right now, this represents the majority” he said to rousing applause.
Best Single Drama award went to Sitting in Limbo – the dramatisation of one of the many tragic stories of Windrush Era West Indians – in this case Anthony Bryan’s [played by Patrick Robinson] – who, through a hostile immigration environment and a series of Home Office blunders was detained and unceremoniously threatened with deportation to the Caribbean, where he had no connections or means of income.
Earlier in the show Michaela Coel paid tribute to the production crew, whom she said don’t get enough credit, then promptly listed many of them by name.
“They are the first to turn up to shoot in the rain, snow and severe heat. They are the last to leave. Their attention to detail and work ethic has helped this show to come alive. This is me, seeing you. Acknowledging all of you. All of our DNA exits in this show.”
Among the first-time winners were an initially speechless Malachi Kirby who won Best Supporting Actor for Small Axe.
Stunning in a sparkling peach figure-hugging gown and wistful curly bob, Rakie Ayola won Best Supporting Actress for Anthony, the story of Anthony Walker, a Black teenager murdered in a racist attack in Merseyside in 2005, and how his life could have been.
The BAFTA TV Awards is available until November on BBC iPlayer.
This article was written by Katrina Marshall