Should you watch Quiz? Final answer: YES! We put Sian Clifford and the writer of the new ITV drama in the hot seat
By Laura Rutkowski, Staff Writer
When Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? aired in 1998, everyone thought the cash mountain at the top was a summit nobody would ever reach. Except, there were people who reached the £1 million mark, but no wins were quite as dumbfounding as Army man Charles Ingram’s.
He sat in the hot seat in 2001, but so did his wife Diana (who won £32,000 earlier that year), and so did his brother-in-law Adrian Pollock (who won £32,000 in December 2000). These days, you probably know Ingram better as the “Coughing Major,” after his correct answers were allegedly prompted by coughs in the audience to cheat his way to the cash.
It was only right that new three-part series Quiz, based on this story and the 2017 play of the same name, should land on ITV. “There is a mischief to putting it on the broadcaster which was also responsible for the whole story”, says Quiz writer and executive producer James Graham.
Succession’s Matthew Macfadyen and Fleabag’s Sian Clifford play Charles and Diana Ingram, while Michael Sheen (Good Omens) gives an uncanny portryal of Chris Tarrant, who helmed the format from 1998-2014. Mark Bonnar (Guilt), Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders) and Aisling Bea (This Way Up) also star.
Before the show inevitably splits the nation 50/50 on the Ingrams’ guilt, we asked Graham and Clifford the big questions. Here, they give their final answers…
Graham: It was the most important British import since who knows when, and at a time when everyone was moving towards more reality-based television and game shows, this was simple question and answer. I think people found it really enduring for that reason. One-third of the country was watching it at some point.
The Ingrams were involved with the play and the TV drama. They were invited on set and met Matthew Macfadyen and Sian Clifford. Michael Jibson, who plays Tecwen Whittock, a supposed accomplice and “cougher”, also met Whittock’s son on set.
Clifford: They’ve been so generous with their time throughout this and they were so sweet. They were really thrilled that Matthew and I were playing them. It was really important for me to not engage with what was written about them at the time. [Diana] was painted as this Lady Macbeth character, and although that’s a character I’d love to play, I don’t think that’s who she is.
ITV hit the jackpot with this casting choice. Macfadyen and Clifford look every inch the part.
Clifford: She struck me as an introvert and a nerd and someone who’s actually quite shy and definitely naïve. Charles sort of commands the room and she doesn’t say very much.
Speaking of looking the part...
Graham: Michael has some form in bringing real people to the screen. It’s not an impersonation or impression – he finds little Tarrant essences. [Chris] has been very supportive and he’s met Michael a couple of times backstage.
Chris’s role in this story is really incredible. He now maintains he thinks they were guilty, but at the time, he noticed nothing and was really flabbergasted they were being accused. He is really happy that this story is being told, because he’s very proud of it.
Clifford: It was a question we tossed around every single day, but we don’t answer that question with the show. It’s putting it up to our audience. I think it’s more important to ask whether or not they should have a criminal conviction. I don’t sit on either side, because it is impossible to answer.
I don’t know that how they were treated was proportionate to what was going on. They were persecuted and harassed by the press, but also by the public. Their pet animals were all attacked, their dog was killed. Their children were bullied so much they had to take them out of school. It’s quite extreme, so it wasn’t hard to empathise.
The winning moment!
Graham: In the theatre production, we got the audience to vote. At the end of the first act, they thought they [Charles and Diana] were guilty, then at the very end, they [mostly] converted to innocent.
I don’t think there are any bad guys in this story. We spoke to all sides. We wanted to be fair and balanced. The people from Celador and ITV who believed they cheated and pursued this case really feel strongly that this kind of thing has to be punished. The Ingrams, to this day, maintain that they did absolutely nothing wrong.
Quiz airs on ITV/HD (CH 103) on Mondays at 9pm, with the first episode screening on April 13th. It is also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > ITV Hub.
The three-part series will subsequently air every week until Monday 27th April.
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