NEW PROJECT: David Tennant To Play Dennis Nilsen In New ITV Drama

David Tennant is to play one of the UK's most notorious serial killers, Dennis Nilsen, in the new three-part ITV drama Des. The drama is based on Killing For Company, the biography of Nilsen written by Brian Masters which includes conversations with the killer who would go by the name of 'Des'.

The drama was written by Luke Neal, and the cast includes Daniel Mays, who recently appeared alongside David in the Amazon Prime series Good Omens, as Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay. Jason Watkins, David's co-star in Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger, also appears as Brian Masters.

Polly Hill, ITV’s head of drama said: “[Des] starts with ­Nilsen’s arrest and is looking at him through the eyes of the police officer trying to identify those he killed and deliver ­justice. David Tennant is going to be brilliant as Nilsen and, with Daniel and Jason, this has an incredible cast.”

Originally from Scotland, former soldier and policeman Nilsen is believed to have murdered between twelve and fifteen young male victims in north London during a five year period between 1978 and 1983. He avoided discovery for some time as most of his victims were homeless and isolated. Nilsen would befriend vulnerable young men in pubs and lured his potential victims back to his flat before murdering them. He would then sit with their bodies for several weeks before dismembering them and disposing of them by burning or flushing remains down the toilet. He was eventually discovered when human flesh was found blocking the drain at the house. Nilsen was convicted of multiple murders and given a life sentence. He died last year, aged 72.

ITV say: 

Told through the prism of three men – Dennis Nilsen played by David Tennant (Good Omens, Broadchurch), Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay played by Daniel Mays (Line of Duty, Temple) and biographer Brian Masters played by Jason Watkins (The Crown, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies) – the series will explore the personal and professional consequences of coming into contact with a man like Nilsen.
Nilsen murdered boys and young men in his flat from 1978 to 1983. He was undetected for five years, and it was only when DCI Peter Jay was called to 23 Cranley Gardens on 9 February, 1983, to investigate human fragments of flesh and bone clogging the drains, that the police realised they had a serial killer on their hands.  
Dennis Nilsen was arrested and convicted at the Old Bailey of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, which was replaced by a whole life tariff in 1994. He died in May 2018.
Told from both the police and Masters’ point of view, Des will explore how a man like Nilsen was able to prey on the young and vulnerable in 1980s Britain.  The series will not only highlight the police investigation and trial but also the effect of the media coverage on public perceptions of the victims at the time, raising questions of just how far have we really come since then?
Additional cast include Ron Cook, Faye McKeever, Chanel Cresswell, Barry Ward, Tony Way, Bronagh Waugh, Laurie Kynaston, Ross Anderson, Ben Bailey Smith, Jay Simpson, Silas Carson, Stuart McQuarrie, Jamie Parker, Lex Shrapnel, Gerard Horan, Joel Morris, Jonathan Coy, Amy Booth-Steel, Ken Bones, Andrew Woodall and Amaka Okafor.

Filming on Des will begin shortly for broadcast on ITV in 2020.