British actor and comedian Steve Coogan made a point of introducing himself as Steve to victims of Jimmy Savile on the set of The Reckoning as he bared a striking resemblance to the disgraced entertainer while in costume, a TV producer said.
The four-part series will trace the life of Savile from a working-class background to one of the biggest stars in television and will also focus on his years of sexual abuse and the impact he had on his victims – four of whom have waived their anonymity and feature in the series.
Coogan, known for portraying comedy character Alan Partridge, will play serial sex offender Savile – who died in October 2011 aged 84 having never been brought to justice for his crimes.
Jeff Pope, executive producer of The Reckoning, told the Radio Times: “I had several lunches with him during filming and it was someone who looked like Jimmy Savile but sounded like Steve.
“When we had victims on set – at their request and with all safeguarding support in place – Steve would come round the corner and you could feel the intake of breath because it was such an extraordinary similarity.
“So he made a point of saying, ‘I’m Steve’, and he would have a conversation with them as Steve.”
Coogan previously described playing the character as a “tightrope” and said it was not a decision he “took lightly” because “it’s fraught with pitfalls”.
Mr Pope, who won the Bafta for best adapted screenplay in 2014 alongside Coogan for their work on Philomena, said: “When I asked Steve to do it, he didn’t immediately say yes, but talked to his family and friends and they divided into two camps – you absolutely must do this, and you absolutely must not.
“There was no one in the middle and it was that polarity that made him want to take it on.”
The executive producer also said he “passionately” believes that stories such as Savile’s have to be explored, but added that every scene had “multiple decisions of taste and tone”, which led to it taking three years to land on screen.
The script was written by Neil McKay, whose other credits include BBC drama Four Lives about serial killer Stephen Port, who drugged and raped four men before dumping their bodies near his home in Barking, east London.
McKay and Pope both won the Bafta for best drama serial in 2007 for their drama See No Evil: The Moors Murders about the notorious Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.
The extent of Savile’s crimes only emerged after his death and he is now believed to be one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.
The first episode of The Reckoning will air on October 9 on the BBC.