As the driving force behind the campaign to expose the Post Office scandal, Alan Bates was surely the best person to help the actor playing him in the new ITV drama portray him correctly.
However, Toby Jones who is cast as the former subpostmaster in the much-watched four part series has revealed that Mr Bates shunned him – because he didn’t think he was worthy of being depicted as a hero.
Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which follows the stories of multiple subpostmasters and subpostmistresses who were wrongly prosecuted by the Post Office, stars Toby alongside Julie Hesmondhalgh who plays his partner, Suzanne Sercombe.
But Toby says he had to speak to others who knew him in order to get into the character.
‘Alan is quite an extraordinary man who presents as one of the most ordinary people you can meet’, the actor, 57, said in an interview with BAFTA.
Toby Jones stars as Alan Bates in in the much-watched four part series Mr Bates vs The Post Office
The actor revealed the real-life Mr Bates shunned him because he said he ‘wasn’t heroic’
‘So when you come to play someone like that, I needed to find out who he was, what made him do this extraordinary thing and unite hundreds of, a thousand people, in one place and take on the might of the corporate post office.
‘And that was a great shock because he felt that he himself wasn’t worthy of being heroic because there was nothing unusual about him.
‘He wasn’t a great source of material, he was very friendly and warm, but he said, ‘I’m just not a very emotional guy’.
‘So, I went to chat to other people who knew him, and they said, Alan Bates is one of the smartest and inspirational people they’d ever met.
‘There is a paradox about him.
‘All of my dealings with him have been great. They haven’t helped me play him very much, but they’ve been great.’
Mr Bates was one of hundreds of innocent subpostmasters working in the UK who was accused and later charged of theft, fraud and false accounting due to a faulty IT system.
The scandal is considered the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history, leading to the inquiry into what went wrong, and who was responsible.
Toby stars in the series alongside Julie Hesmondhalgh who plays his partner, Suzanne Sercombe
Mr Bates was one of hundreds of innocent subpostmasters working in the UK who was accused and later charged of theft, fraud and false accounting due to a faulty IT system
Between 2000 and 2014, an average of one Post Office worker a week was prosecuted, for theft, false accounting and other offences, by the Post Office.
From a total of 736, many were jailed, bankrupted and suffered appalling stress and public shame.
For years Royal Mail and its computer partner Horizon – a system developed by the Japanese company Fujitsu – insisted that they were isolated cases.
The four-part series has received a mountain of praise since airing its first episode on New Year’s Day.
Over 3.8million people tuned into the series which continues tonight, Wednesday and Thursday.
Actress Katherine Kelly, who plays Angela van den Bogerd, a Post Office employee, told viewers they would ‘be outraged’ at watching the scandal unfold.
Whilst Shaun Dooley, who plays Michael Rudkin, a man wrongly convicted of stealing money from the Post Office said it was a privilege to play the role.
‘Thank you to all those involved, who trusted us to briefly walk in their shoes in an attempt to shine a brighter light on this horrific incident,’ he said.
‘A privilege to play Michael Rudkin.’
In an interview yesterday with GMB, Alan Bates said he has watched the drama and gave full praise to all of the performances.
‘I think the actors have done a wonderful job in it and they’ve really portrayed a lot of the suffering that people have gone through so well,’ he said.