The show is centred on the Scottish killer and necrophile, who brutally murdered at least 12 young men and boys in London between 1978 and 1983. The drama follows the arrest and trial of Nilsen, whose nickname was Des. A trailer for the drama gives a glimpse of Tennant in character.
Having his mugshot taken as Nilsen, an officer is heard saying: “Just take your time, take us through it again.”
And on being asked whether he was “talking one body or two”, an unfazed Nilsen replies “15 or 16”.
The clip also features a string of newsreels, the start of the police investigation, and Nilsen’s first meeting with writer Brian Masters, played by Bafta winner Jason Watkins.
Mr Masters met Nilsen multiple times to create the biography Killing For Company which the drama is based on.
The trailer ends ominously, with Nilsen claiming it is “nice to be listened to, makes me feel human again”.
The harrowing series will also cast viewers’ minds back to the infamous shot of Nilsen being led out of Hornsey Police Station after admitting murder.
The murders were all committed in the two north London addresses where the former civil servant lived at the time.
He became known as the Muswell Hill Murderer, as he committed his later atrocities in the leafy suburb.
Most of Nilsen’s victims were gay or homeless men who he would pick up in bars or on the street.
After inviting them into his home, Nilsen would ply his victims with food and alcohol before killing them, often by strangulation.
He then dismembered their bodies, burying the remains in his garden until he moved and had to take other measures to avoid discovery.
His murders went undetected for five years until Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay, played by Daniel Mays, was called to Cranley Gardens in 1983 to investigate fragments of human flesh and bone clogging the drains.
Once arrested, Nilsen told police how he boiled the heads of his victims in a large cooking pot to dispose of their brains.
He was convicted of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder and jailed for life.
The serial killer died from a pulmonary embolism in prison at HMP Full Sutton on May 12, 2018 at the age of 72.
ITV said: “Des will explore how a man like Nilsen was able to prey on the young and vulnerable in 1980s Britain.
“The series will not only highlight the police investigation and trial but also the effect of the media coverage on public perceptions of the victims at the time, raising questions of just how far we have really come since then.”