Des on ITV: How did David Tennant prepare to play the role of a serial killer?

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Des is a new drama series coming to ITV, which tells the story of the conviction of serial murderer, Dennis Nilsen. Nilsen was known for murdering a number of young men in the 1980s, and he was charged with six counts of murder, and two of attempted murder. Actor David Tennant spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk and other media about how he prepared for such a challenging role.

How did David Tennant prepare to play Dennis Nilsen?

Des is a dramatisation of the trial and conviction of Dennis Nilsen, who was arrested after police discovered human remains in a drain outside his home.

Fans will see at the start of the series that Nilsen, as he did in real life, is open with the officers about the murders and he assists them with the investigation.

He developed a hunger for the limelight the real Nilsen described himself as being more famous than David Beckham when his trial was ongoing.

In the series he admitted to being a “monster” and explains how the victim’s families need justice to be served.

Tennant said he was 12 years old when Nilsen was arrested, and it was a household name across the UK.

Speaking to Express.co.uk and other media, he said: “I had read the book many years before.

“A couple of people had said ‘he looks a bit like you’ and I started investigating this.

“I think this is unfathomable, what is the psychology to have this double life he was leading?”

Speaking about how he prepared for the role, he said he had watched videos of Nilsen and studied his mannerisms.

He said: “It’s tricky to get the balance right, we wanted to tell it with appropriateness and with sensitivity.

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“We didn’t want to slope into sensationalist because it would be easy to do and wouldn’t serve the victims of this.

“There’s some footage of him and there’s a lot that has been written about him and people who knew him.

“You take that all in and then forget about it. I suppose I spent quite a lot of time studying him and listening to his voice.”

When asked whether he was able to understand what really went on inside Nilsen’s head, he said: “From moment to moment I could understand where he was coming from but it’s difficult to join the dots.

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“He was an expert in self-justification, retrospectively he wrote jotters full of explanation and he talks about how guilty he feels at times, but there is no consistency to it.”

There had been questions over the possibility of diminished responsibility during the trial, with Nilsen believing the sentence should be shorter.

However, he was given a full life sentence and he served 34 years in prison before he died.

Many fans of Tennant were shocked to see the uncanny resemblance between the actor and the serial killer.

One fan said on Twitter: “I need to watch this so much. I reckon David Tennant is going to be amazing.”

Another fan said: “David Tennant is a good actor, although still slightly underrated I think.

“But this looks like it’ll throw him back into the limelight. It’s creepy the resemblance he actually has to Nilsen.

“I reckon it’ll be good, and our 10th and best Doctor Who will smash it!”

Dramatisations of the events have been inspired by the book Killing For Company by Brian Masters (played by Jason Watkins in the series), who visited Nilsen on many occasions in prison.

Des airs on ITV on September 14

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