Ellie Simmonds is ‘motivated to make change for people like me’ after Bafta nod

Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds said she has found new motivation to “make life even easier for people like me” outside of the swimming pool after her ITV documentary exploring the relationship between disability and adoption received a Bafta nomination.

The former Strictly Come Dancing star, who was born with a form of dwarfism named achondroplasia, starred in a 2023 documentary titled Ellie Simmonds: Finding My Secret Family – which saw the athlete track down her birth mother.

The gold-medallist said she was “over the moon” when she discovered the TV special had been nominated for best single documentary and was invited to the awards ceremony, which will be hosted by Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan on Sunday May 12.

Strictly Come Dancing 2022
Nikita Kuzmin and Ellie Simmonds during the first live show of Strictly Come Dancing 2022 (Guy Levy/BBC)

“I was shocked in a way,” 29-year-old Simmonds told the PA news agency at the 2024 Bafta Television Awards nominees’ party in London.

“Sharing my story and talking about disability in the care system and adoption, you never think your documentary is going to be up for a Bafta.

“I was an athlete and a swimmer for so long. I think my motivation now is trying to create change and make an impact for people with a disability now, outside of the swimming pool.”

Simmonds also described the impact of seeing her documentary air during an ITV prime-time slot.

“The power of TV, the power of the media and representation is so, so powerful… and talking about disability on (an) ITV prime show, you know it was just incredible,” she said.

“That’s the honour, that is what’s keeping me motivated to create change and make life even easier for people like me.”

European premiere of Wicked Little Letters – London
Anjana Vasan was nominated for her role in an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror (Ian West/PA)

Among the TV stars at the Bafta nominees’ party was best actress nominees Anjana Vasan, for her role in Netflix’s Black Mirror episode Demon 79, and Anne Reid – who starred in BBC drama The Sixth Commandment.

We Are Lady Parts star Vasan told PA “I couldn’t believe it” when she was nominated for her role as Nida Huq, a sales associate from Northern England in 1979, who mistakenly summons a demon who tells her she must commit three murders in three days to prevent the end of the world.

“It’s hard to prepare for a show that’s about a girl meeting a demon that’s for sure, very hard to do research for that kind of role,” the 37-year-old said.

“But in terms of preparation, I looked into the time that we were in the 70s in Britain, it was a very interesting time politically and socially and a lot went into her story and her backstory before we meet Nida.”

While veteran actress Reid was nominated for her role in The Sixth Commandment, which explores the deaths of Peter Farquhar, played by Timothy Spall, and Ann Moore-Martin (Reid) in Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire.

The Trouble With Jessica premiere – London
Anne Reid received a nod for her performance in The Sixth Commandment (Ian West/PA)

Reid told PA: “I think it was very frightening and I think Eanna Hardwicke who played the murderer (Ben Field) was absolutely brilliant and I think we owe him a great deal because he was so frightening and it made it work. People always like a thriller.

“The family of Ann and Peter… it was very nice of them to let us tell their story,” the 88-year-old added.

British broadcaster Clare Balding was also at the nominee party, after receiving two nods for best sports coverage for the BBC’s Wimbledon men’s final, and best live event coverage for the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance which also aired on the BBC.

Balding said she is “thrilled” the two programmes have been recognised as the team at the BBC are “terrific” who produce with “so much kindness and compassion”.

“The men’s final at Wimbledon was an absolute thriller, a real honour to host it, and first time I was in that role,” 53-year-old Balding told PA, referencing the retirement of Wimbledon broadcaster Sue Barker.

“And the other is the Festival of Remembrance, which I hosted for the first time… it was very, very moving.”