VIDEO: First Look At David Tennant As Dennis Nilsen In Des

ITV has released its first trailer for Des, the real crime drama focusing on the arrest and trial of serial killer Dennis Nilsen. David Tennant stars in the title role in the three-part series which comes to UK TV screens in September. Des is based on the book Killing For Company, a biography of Nilsen written by Brian Masters.

Told through the prism of three men – Dennis Nilsen, 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 two residences 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 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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.

David Tennant is also an executive producer of the series. In a recent interview with Total Film he explained how they were careful in the drama not to make  Nilsen into a monster.
"There's no point in doing that, because in a way that empowers someone like Nilsen," he said. "We understand things through a dramatic retelling in a way no amount of fact-finding can illuminate. This is a very peculiar, dark corner of what it is to be a human being, but that doesn't mean it isn't valuable. I think people will be surprised by it."

Des is set to be screened worldwide following its UK premiere, with distribution deals already confirmed for the USA, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia.