Bafta winner Georgina Campbell: ‘We wanted it to be truthful and real'

The star of BBC3’s Murdered by My Boyfriend triumphed over Sheridan Smith and Keeley Hawes, and still can’t believe that she was spotted on the street

“What a drama queen!” Georgina Campbell says when reminded of how she reacted to her Bafta success on Sunday night. Her open-mouthed astonishment was caught on camera and now her friends are bombarding her with screen-grabs of her face “looking like a fish”.

It’s a few days since the 22-year-old was named best actress at the TV awards and her excitement is still infectious. Pitted against a trio of critically acclaimed household names – Sheridan Smith, Sarah Lancashire and Keeley Hawes – Campbell didn’t expect to win. She hadn’t even bothered to write an acceptance speech.

“My mum had been bugging me all day to write a speech,” she says, sitting in a pub near her home in north-west London, “but I was being quite petulant about it. You don’t want to think you have a chance of winning something, and then get your hopes dashed.”

Sheridan Smith has already won multiple awards and was nominated this year for Cilla, Sarah Lancashire’s BBC1 series Happy Valley was said by one critic to have “the most psychologically perceptive writing and acting that TV has ever seen”, and Hawes’s complex character in Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty won rave reviews.

Murdered by My Boyfriend trailer.

Campbell, in comparison, was nominated for an hour-long drama on the shortly-to-become-online-only BBC3, with a title that sounds like a particularly morbid episode of Jeremy Kyle: Murdered By My Boyfriend. It was part-funded by BBC Learning as a schools resource and followed a Home Office campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence among young people.

It turned out to be a harrowing portrait of a young woman trapped in a violent relationship. Campbell plays Ashley, a 17-year-old college student who meets a slightly older boy, Reece, at a party. It is not until she gets pregnant that she realises his old-fashioned manners hide a desire to control and manipulate. The drama’s strength is in unpicking the complex psychological web Reece spins around Ashley, to keep her under his power even when he starts to lash out physically. At least one woman who watched the drama was inspired to report her own abuse, the police told the BBC.

The storyline was based on the real-life murder of a young woman by her partner; her friends and family were interviewed extensively by the programme makers. “We wanted it to be truthful and real and no part of it to seem fake or glamourised,” says Campbell.

“What I loved about the script was that you saw Ashley as a real person,” she says. “Sometimes with portrayals of domestic violence, the women involved are just victims, with no personality, just completely trodden-down. But people continue to live their normal lives: they go out, they continue to have arguments with their partners, even if there is always the fear of where that might end up.”

At one point, Ashley discovers Reece’s infidelity. She is furious, and confronts him, but he bullies and plays on her insecurities until she is so bewildered and frightened she believes that she is to blame. Campbell found this scene among the most difficult to play. “To know it was someone’s life – and that was how they were treated – was horrendous,” she says. “What alarmed me was the the psychological abuse. Someone working their way into [a victim’s] head to the point they don’t even know they are a victim.”

Georgina Campbell with her Bafta.
Georgina Campbell with her Bafta. Photograph: Jon Furniss/Corbis

Campbell has been acting professionally since she was 16. Growing up in Wilmington, Kent, the daughter of a teacher and a police officer, with a stepfather who was a book-binder and a stepmother who works in retail, Campbell had only ever acted in school plays. Then one day in London she was approached by a woman, Sarah Walker, who turned out to be a director.

“I was meeting a friend on Tottenham Court Road,” Campbell says, “and she asked me if I was an actress. She told me she was running an audition and I looked just how she wanted one character to look.”

With her friend delayed at work, Campbell went along and was offered a part in Freak, an online teen drama made for MySpace. She found an agent and was auditioning for parts while studying for her A-levels, and later for a film studies degree at Royal Holloway, University of London. After the emotional toll of Murdered By My Boyfriend, she says that she is happy to be working on an E4 comedy, Tripped, opposite Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison, and to have a small role in Guy Ritchie’s new film about King Arthur. Even now, she can’t believe her luck: “I’m, not really into destiny but it’s funny – I bumped into a woman who told me about an audition and now I have a Bafta.”


Homa Khaleeli

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Bafta TV prize eludes Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch
Marvellous, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies and Ant and Dec pick up two prizes at television awards ceremony in London

John Plunkett and Hannah Ellis-Petersen

10, May, 2015 @9:33 PM

Article image
BBC biggest winner at Baftas as Happy Valley and Damilola head award roll call
Comedy laurels go to newcomer Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag, as The Crown fails to live up to expectations for Netflix

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

14, May, 2017 @9:40 PM

TV matters: The Bafta Television Awards

Sunday's ceremony had some fine points to make, with voters rewarding the ethical, the engaged and the just plain excellent

Mark Lawson

23, Apr, 2008 @11:44 PM

Article image
Bafta's TV nominations pay their respects to age
Mark Lawson: Nominations for the OAP drama Last Tango in Halifax and Shakespeare demonstrate the enduring appeal of substance over style

Mark Lawson

09, Apr, 2013 @3:21 PM

Article image
The voice of Camberwick Green to get Bafta award for services to children's TV

Lucy Mangan talks to Brian Cant, who has been given a lifetime award for his work on shows such as Play School and Trumpton

Lucy Mangan

22, Nov, 2010 @9:00 AM

Article image
BBC's Wolf Hall leads Bafta TV award nominations
Period drama’s lead is up against Luther’s Idris Elba for best actor, while co-star Claire Foy is nominated for best actress alongside Sheridan Smith

John Plunkett

30, Mar, 2016 @7:12 AM

Article image
Breaking Bad and House of Cards earn Bafta nominations
US dramas that are only available in the UK via Netflix among nominations for television awards

Jason Deans

07, Apr, 2014 @10:50 PM

Olivia Colman wins twice in otherwise unpredictable Bafta TV awards

BBC's coverage of Olympics loses out to Channel 4's Paralympics programming

John Plunkett and Josh Halliday

13, May, 2013 @8:50 AM

Article image
Bafta TV awards: BBC is under threat, says Wolf Hall director
Peter Kosminsky receives standing ovation after saying proposals could turn BBC into a state broadcaster ‘like in North Korea and Russia’

John Plunkett and Hannah Ellis-Petersen

09, May, 2016 @6:31 AM

2009 Bafta awards: And the winner is ...

A comprehensive list of all the categories and winners from the television industry awards ceremony

26, Apr, 2009 @11:01 PM