ITV’s upcoming drama based on the infamous Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? cheating scandal will cast doubt over the guilt of the three fraudsters, its star has said.
Charles Ingram, the so-called “Coughing Major”, was found guilty along with his wife Diana and their accomplice Tecwen Whittock of an elaborate ruse to cheat their way to the £1 million prize.
During a 2001 episode of the popular quiz show, Ingram, seated opposite host Chris Tarrant, would listen for coughs from university lecturer Whittock, steering him towards the correct answers.
All three were convicted of deception following a high-profile 2003 trial.
ITV will explore the scandal in a drama titled Quiz, with Succession’s Matthew Macfadyen playing former British Army Major Ingram, Fleabag actress Sian Clifford as Diana, and Michael Sheen as Tarrant.
Despite the convictions, doubts have persisted over the guilt of the three accused and Clifford said Quiz would make viewers second-guess the verdicts.
She told the PA news agency: “It’s showing another side of the story. It’s so fascinating because everyone thinks they’ve watched the episode but it never aired, this is the thing.”
Clifford said all that aired on the scandal was a documentary created by ITV and Celador, the production company that made the quiz show. Airing two weeks after the court convictions were handed down, the documentary had left unanswered many questions about the trio’s guilt or innocence, Clifford said.
“And we’re going to be tugging with people’s allegiances and showing the human side to these people whose lives were completely decimated by this thing happening to them. And it still impacts them today,” she said.
Clifford said she and her co-stars have met the accused, saying they are “very lovely” and she has a “huge amount of empathy” for them.
“I’m swinging towards innocent”, she said.
When Quiz was announced in August, fans were quick to wonder how Sheen, an actor best-known for his uncanny portrayals of real people, would look as Tarrant.
Clifford said: “It’s brilliant. The hair and make-up team have done an incredible job and his transformation as an actor is extraordinary.”
Three-part series Quiz is directed by Stephen Frears, whose credits include A Very English Scandal and The Queen.
Helen McCrory, Mark Bonnar and Aisling Bea will also star in the production, penned by James Graham, whose play of the story hit the West End.