The disgraced actor Chris Langham is attempting a comeback with his first foray into screen acting since his release from prison.
Langham, famous for his portrayal of the hapless government minister Hugh Abbott in the political satire The Thick of It, was sentenced to 10 months in prison in 2007 for downloading indecent images of children from the internet. His sentence was later reduced to three months on appeal, but the damage to his career was such that many thought his acting days were over.
But now the two-time Bafta winner has appeared in a low-budget British film, yet to be released, called Black Pond. Written, produced and directed by two young debut film makers, it is described as a comedy drama. It also stars the comedian Simon Amstell, best known for presenting the BBC2 quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
Langham, 61, said of his return this weekend: "I was just grateful for the opportunity to work. That the script was brilliant and the creative team so talented was an unbelievable bonus."
Shooting on the film had been kept secret for fear of controversy after Langham's time in prison, and the producers have yet to find a distributor. But according to the directors, Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley, they have had considerable interest from distributors, and the film could be released nationwide this year.
"We cast Chris because he was the best possible person available for the role," Mr Sharpe said. "We were fully aware of his legal history. He had broken the law and he had served his sentence. He is a good person, a loving father and a great actor. We are proud to have him and hope this performance serves as a reminder to audiences that he is an irreplaceable talent."
The writer and satirist Armando Iannucci also welcomed Langham's return. Iannucci, who wrote and created The Thick of It, said this weekend: "It's great that Chris is back on screen. He's a fantastic comic talent, and people will get a fresh chance to see that for themselves and enjoy his pitch-perfect performances."
Black Pond portrays a family who are accused of murder when a stranger they have taken in, called Blake, mysteriously dies at their dinner table. Langham plays one of the main characters – Tom Thompson – the well-meaning father of the family who struggles to placate his wife Sophie after Blake's death.
The actor, who will remain on the Sex Offenders' Register for another three years, has led a relatively quiet life at his home in Cranbrook, Kent, with his wife and two children since his release from prison.
Prior to his conviction he enjoyed a successful career both as an actor and a writer, starring in the original cast of the BBC comedy show Not the Nine O'Clock News in 1979.
He was awarded a Bafta in 2006 for his role in The Thick of It. Langham has admitted suffering from alcohol and cocaine addiction and used his experiences to co-write the BBC2 series Help with Paul Whitehouse.