First image of Stephen Merchant as depraved killer released

Stephen Merchant as Stephen Port in upcoming BBC drama The Barking Murders

The first image of the Stephen Merchant playing a real-life killer has been released, showing a much creepier side to the actor than we are used to.

Merchant will play Stephen Port in BBC One show The Barking Murders, a drama about the so-called ‘Grindr Killer’ who was jailed in 2016 for killing four men after meeting them using dating app Grindr.

The image shows Merchant in character as Port staring vacantly into the middle distance, looking far more sinister than usual.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 25: Stephen Merchant attends the UK Premiere of ‘Fighting With My Family’ at BFI Southbank on February 25, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)

Speaking to the BBC after the casting was announced back in February, Merchant said: “This is a story that can’t be ignored – how four young lives were lost and their families’ brave attempt to uncover what happened.

“This factual drama will shed light on their story, so it’s a privilege to be a part of telling it with the brilliant combination of Jeff Pope, Neil McKay and the BBC.”

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Jeff Pope and Neil McKay, take the helm of the project, which will consist of three episodes at sixty minutes long. The pair have history of making factual dramas about British crime, with both The Moorside and Appropriate Adult winning plaudits in years gone by.

The Barking Murders tells the story of four victims of Stephen Port: Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor and their families and friends who struggled to find out what happened to them.

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Also starring will be telly favourite Sheridan Smith, who will play Sarah Sak, the mother of Anthony Walgate. The Cilla star said of the project: “I love playing real life characters – especially an inspirational woman like Sarah Sak – but with it comes responsibility.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 27: Sheridan Smith attends a photocall to launch the new BBC One drama ‘Care’ at BAFTA on November 27, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images)

“Along with the other families, Sarah went through so much heartache and it would have been easy for her to just accept what she was being told by the police, but something inside made her keep fighting for her son.”

It is yet to be announced when The Barking Murders is to be screened.