Des: ITV announces new drama with David Tennant as Dennis Nilsen

Des on ITV cast

David Tennant as Dennis Nilsen in Des

David Tennant will play serial killer Dennis Nilsen in new ITV drama Des.

The new three-part series follows the arrest and trial of serial killer Dennis Nilsen, known as Des.


Written by Luke Neal and developed by Luke Neal and Lewis Arnold, the drama is based on material from the book Killing for Company by Brian Masters, which focuses on one of the most infamous cases in UK criminal history, that of serial killer Dennis Nilsen.

Dennis Nilsen is played by David Tennant with Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay played by Daniel Mays and biographer Brian Masters played by Jason Watkins.

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.

ITV say the series "will explore the personal and professional consequences of coming into contact with a man like Nilsen."


They explain: "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?"

Nilsen was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder that took place between 1978 to 1983. He died in May 2018.

ITV’s Head of Drama Polly Hill said: “This drama 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 for them and the biographer he chose to tell his story.

"David Tennant is going to be brilliant as Dennis Nilsen and with Daniel Mays as Jay and Jason Watkins as Brian, this has an incredible cast to bring this story to screen and we are delighted to be making this with New Pictures for ITV.”


Kim Varvell, Executive Producer for programme makers New Pictures added: “Dennis Nilsen’s crimes shocked the nation in the early 1980s. Our programme focuses on the emotional impact of those terrible crimes, both on those who came into contact with Nilsen himself, and also on the victims’ families.

"We’re thrilled to be working with Luke and Lewis on this project, as well as the incredible cast.”