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Dan Stevens explains why he took a swipe at Boris Johnson on The One Show

Dan Stevens (Ian West/PA)
Dan Stevens (Ian West/PA)

Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens has said he took a swipe at Boris Johnson on The One Show because he wanted to hold the Prime Minister to account over “absolutely outrageous” behaviour in Government.

The actor, 39, said the joke prompted “massive applause and laughter” in the studio and suggested he had not been rebuked by BBC bosses.

On Wednesday, he featured on the evening chat show to discuss his new political drama Gaslit from US network Starz, based on the events of the 1970s Watergate scandal that led to former US president Richard Nixon resigning.

Boris Johnson visit to Kent
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Matt Dunham/PA)

Describing the show, Stevens said: “Well, what you’ve got is a criminal for a leader who is wrapped in a messy war, embroiled in a stupid scandal and surrounded by ambitious idiots and really should resign and… no I’m sorry… that’s the intro to Boris Johnson.”

The comments left hosts Alex Jones and Jermaine Jenas speechless as they quickly tried to move the conversation along.

Speaking to GQ following the appearance, he said: “It’s hard to ignore the parallels really. And I think with a show, like Gaslit, you know, especially in this country, and people might wonder, ‘well, this is a very American story. I’m not sure if there’s anything that for me.’

“It’s like, well, actually, a scandal’s a scandal, corruption in a political administration is universally relevant, and it doesn’t matter what country you’re in.

“There’s already some, there’s always somebody up to some shady shit. It’s very much headline news here. I hadn’t really realised until I got on the ground. I mean, it’s, it’s one thing to sort of read about it from across the pond.

“But you know, I got here and it’s on every radio bulletin. Absolutely outrageous. And yeah, it got me quite fired up. I thought it was worth highlighting the extraordinary similarities.”

Stevens said politicians were now able to get away with things that would have previously led to their resignation.

He added: “I think people need to be held to account and yeah, not a huge amount changes.”

Asked whether the producers had spoken to him after the incident, he aimed a quip at the Culture Secretary.

He said: “And Nadine Dorries storming in trying to privatise me? Yeah.

“No, I mean, it seemed to go down fairly well. There was massive applause and laughter.

“I think you know, sadly, it’s all too rare to see someone speaking their mind and the truth on live television these days.

“Even our best political journalists are afraid to actually say what’s going on, which makes me quite cross.”

As a BBC programme, The One Show must follow the broadcaster’s impartiality guidelines.

But Stevens added: “There’s impartiality. And then there’s just calling it like it is and just saying what is happening.

“And I don’t think I said anything that should have been any surprise to anyone.”

In Gaslit, Stevens plays John Dean, one of the lawyers integral to the case at the time, alongside a star-studded cast including Julia Roberts and Sean Penn.

The criticism follows police fining the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday over a birthday party held for Mr Johnson in No 10 during Covid restrictions in June 2020.

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak – and the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie, who was also fined over the party in the Cabinet Room – apologised on Tuesday and confirmed they had paid the fines.

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