Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” is poised to go big at the BAFTA Television and Craft awards.
The Amazon and BBC anthology series leads the field this year with 15 nominations, narrowly topping the largest totals from the last couple of editions (“Chernobyl” had 14 last year, “Killing Eve” the same number in 2019), and has the likes of John Boyega and Letitia Wright installed among the favorites in the lead acting categories. However, it will likely face stiff competition across the board from “The Crown” and “I May Destroy You,” the second and third most-nominated series respectively, come the ceremony on June 6.
Michaela Coel’s lauded HBO drama will go head-to-head with “Small Axe” in a mouth-watering mini-series category, which also includes “Normal People” and Channel 4’s darkly brilliant four-parter “Adult Material.” It’s relatively safe to assume the race will be of the two-horse variety, given that “Adult Material” hasn’t garnered as much fanfare as its rivals, and that “Normal People” competed in last year’s awards cycle across the pond and is likely a smaller blip in voters’ crowded TV memories.
McQueen, who in typically stunning style also picked up nods in writing, directing and editing for “Small Axe,” highlighted the power of Shaun Parkes’ performance in a recent interview with Variety, expressing his slight concern the actor may not receive the awards recognition he deserves for his performance as restaurant owner Frank Crichlow.
“Shaun was amazing, but that’s how the cookie crumbles,” McQueen said. “If you’re known, you’re known, if you’re not known you’re not known.”
However, he needn’t have worried on the BAFTA front, as Parkes became a first-time nominee in the leading actor category alongside Boyega and “Crown” star Josh O’Connor.
Speaking of Netflix’s royal drama, although the awards stalwart increased its total nominations tally from seven last year to 10 this time around, arguably the biggest surprise of the BAFTA TV noms is which cast members made the cut. Present among the nominees are O’Connor, Helena Bonham-Carter and Tobias Menzies, the latter of whom is nominated less than three weeks after the death of Prince Philip, whom Menzies has played for 2 seasons. However, there was no place for the Queen herself Olivia Colman, nor Princess Diana actor Emma Corrin, or even Gillian Anderson, who played Margaret Thatcher in season 4.
O’Connor and Corrin picked up Golden Globes very recently, and the latter’s omission is particularly surprising given her awards momentum and the undoubted star power of Lady Di.
In the absence of Corrin and Colman, the leading actress race is still a stacked affair. Multi-hyphenate Coel could easily win for her brutally honest performance in “I May Destroy You,” but then again, so could Wright for “Small Axe,” and there’s no discounting “Killing Eve” Emmy winner Jodie Comer or “Normal People” actor Daisy Edgar-Jones. With British TV icon Billie Piper also in the mix for the sensational “I Hate Suzie,” this is certainly one of the hardest races to call.
Despite checkmating audiences around the globe, Netflix hit “The Queen’s Gambit” failed to advance up the BAFTA board. Instead, the four places in the International category went to Apple’s “Little America” (the streamer’s first ever BAFTA TV nod), documentary series ““Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge,” Shira Haas-led “Unorthodox,” and likely Emmy contender “Lovecraft Country.”
Another decision that could leave viewers somewhat quizzical is the near-total snubbing of the ITV/AMC drama “Quiz.” Michael Sheen scored a nom for his tanned and toothy turn as iconic “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” host Christ Tarrant, but there was no such luck for “Fleabag” alum Sian Clifford or “Succession” favorite Matthew Macfadyen, whose performance as the “coughing Major” was a hit with critics.
Finally, one nomination that no one can begrudge is the posthumous nod for Paul Ritter. The “Chernobyl” actor, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 54, is up for his performance in the beloved sitcom “Friday Night Dinner.” This is the first time Ritter has been recognized for the role he played for six seasons on the Channel 4 comedy, a fitting tribute to his immense acting talent and a reason for fans of the show to give one final, hearty “shit on it!”