Daniel Mays on play­ing a gay rights hero

Daniel Mays on play­ing an unsung gay rights hero in a mov­ing new docu­d­rama…

TV Times - - My Tv Week - Ian Mace­wan

NEW Docu­d­rama Against the Law WED­NES­DAY / BBC2 / 9.00Pm

Few peo­ple will recog­nise the name Peter Wilde­blood these days, but 60 years ago, he was in­stru­men­tal in chang­ing the lives of ev­ery gay man in the coun­try.

In the 1950s, jour­nal­ist Peter was the only openly gay man to give ev­i­dence to a govern­ment com­mit­tee chaired by Lord Wolfenden, and its find­ings led to the Sex­ual Of­fences Act of 1967, which de­crim­i­nalised ho­mo­sex­ual acts in pri­vate be­tween men over 21 in Eng­land and Wales.

To mark the 50th an­niver­sary of the act, docu­d­rama Against the Law tells the story of why Peter – played by Daniel Mays – gave ev­i­dence and fea­tures tes­ti­monies from gay men who lived through the same era.

‘I’m proud to be part of a drama that tells such an im­por­tant story,’ says Daniel, 39. ‘Peter’s a com­plex, fas­ci­nat­ing, yet flawed char­ac­ter from a time when be­ing a gay man in Bri­tain was in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult.’ Af­ter fall­ing in love with RAF cor­po­ral Ed­ward Mc­nally, Peter’s role in the land­mark leg­is­la­tion be­gan in the sum­mer of 1953 when he at­tended a party with his aris­to­cratic pals Lord Mon­tagu and Michael Pitt-rivers, and they were ar­rested by the po­lice.

Lord Mon­tagu, Pitt-rivers and Peter were charged with a num­ber of sex­ual of­fences, and all three were con­victed in

1954, with Pitt-rivers and Peter sen­tenced to 18 months in jail, and Lord Mon­tagu to 12 months.

The drama re­counts Peter’s time in prison and stars Sher­lock’s Mark Gatiss as psy­chi­a­trist Dr Lan­ders, who tells him about aver­sion ther­apy ‘cures’ in­volv­ing elec­tric shocks and nausea-in­duc­ing chem­i­cals.

‘Peter goes in want­ing to find a cure,’ says Daniel. ‘But when he hears about aver­sion ther­apy in all its bar­baric de­tail, it’s the be­gin­ning of him for­mu­lat­ing a plan and try­ing to gain in­ner strength.’

Al­though Peter be­came a hero of the gay rights move­ment, he al­ways strug­gled with his sex­u­al­ity.

‘He thought he had an af­flic­tion,’ re­veals Daniel. ‘At that time, it was rammed down their throats that it was a de­praved act, and that there was some­thing men­tally wrong with them.’

Peter wrote about his time in Worm­wood Scrubs prison in the book Against the Law, from which the docu­d­rama takes its ti­tle.

‘At his low­est ebb, Peter was able to find in­ner strength and for­mu­late the ar­gu­ment,’ says Daniel. ‘His tes­ti­mony was so im­por­tant – it helped de­crim­i­nalise ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. It’s a truly in­spi­ra­tional story and I’ve loved play­ing him.’

Against the LAW is PRE­VIEWED

on pages 68-69

I’m in­cred­i­bly proud to be part of such an im­por­tant story

From left: Michael Pitt-rivers, Lord Mon­tagu and Peter Wilde­blood

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.