‘Quiz’ Episode 1: Matthew Macfadyen perfectly portrays Charles Ingram as a victim of a conspiracy
Macfadyen plays the character of Charles and walks us through how a simple, middle-class man lured by the bait of game shows got roped into a scandal that would change his life forever
AMC’s recently miniseries ‘Quiz’, an original British series (adapted from a play) is a dramatization of the real-life scandal of the Ingrams, a couple who were accused of cheating their way through the iconic game show ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ and win the final prize money of one million pounds. Although the couple, Charles and Diana Ingram and their aide, Tecwen Whittock were all sued by the television network, Celador, it was Charles who took most of the fall. It was because he was the winner and the player on the hot seat and hence, the topic of our discussion here.
Actor Matthew Macfadyen plays the character of Charles and walks us through how a simple, middle-class man lured by the bait of game shows got roped into a scandal that would change his life forever. We don’t know and perhaps would never know the real Charles Ingram but Macfadyen’s Charles is picture enough of what the character would have been like. To understand better, we must first know a little about Charles Ingram as portrayed in the three-part series.
A Major in the British Army, Charles and his wife Diana (quite a pun on the British royal personalities) lived a humble, middle-class life in an unassuming town of England, with their three daughters. While Charles is your regular Joe, working and making ends meet for his family, his wife is a tad different than what you would expect of a working mother of three. She and her family are quiz fanatics, so much so that they get passionate about getting the answers right, every single time, whether they are playing for fun or for money.
This obsession for winning rubs off on Charles after his wife Diana (played by Sian Clifford) and her brother-in-law, Adrian Pollock (played by Trystan Gravelle) manage to go on the show and lose miserably. Charles was never into games or quiz, mostly because he was bad at trivia and general knowledge. So, how does a man like him end up on the hot seat of the hottest, new game that had taken the nation by storm? The answer is simple: like most husbands, Charles also wanted to make his wife happy and proud. He wanted to do it for the financial benefit and to fulfill the dream that Diana had. He even went through the rigorous training Diana put him through.
Making his way through every level of the game, he finally reached the final round, causing much controversy and raising questions for the network and the production company. In every winning question, he opted for the wrong answer at first and then locked in the right answer at the last moment. And this caused all the controversy! The prosecution claimed that he cheated by hearing his “ally” Tecwen and wife coughing at the right answer option, but Charles claims that he never heard the coughing or even intended to cheat.
Throughout the trial, it becomes quite clear that Charles is nothing but a victim of a twisted conspiracy by Celador who created an illusion for the jury and the public.
When Charles is dragged to the court on the accusation of a “heist”, you cannot but feel sympathetic towards a man who only got pulled into a mess because he simply wanted to play a game and win for his family. This becomes clearer when you see Sonia Woodley (Helen McCrory) presenting her arguments to the jury about how a collective suggestion can solidify into a common truth. The network’s disbelief that an inept and disenchanted man like Charles could rake in so much money pushed the matter into becoming a sensational affair, making Charles look like a pawn of a vicious plot.
Charles’s character or what we see on the show portrays the tension that a falsely accused person would be going through. But his response to the lawyers’ questions also makes you wonder if he is too clever or too dumb. He is uneasy at every step of the trial, making you convinced at one point that he is clearly unaware of how he got tangled into this mess.
Macfadyen’s Charles, is unarguably brilliant, making you see through the loopholes of the system, the blindsided approach of the law, the lure of entertainment makers, and most importantly, how the entire country turned against one man simply on the basis of an accusation.
‘Quiz’ will air every Sunday night at 10 pm/9c only on AMC.