Stephen Merchant to play real-life serial killer Stephen Port in new drama
Stephen Port killed four men between 2014 and 2015
Stephen Merchant had his place in British comedy history assured when he created The Office with Ricky Gervais. He then, of course, went on to take a larger on-screen role in the duo's next collaboration, Extras, and appear alongside Gervais and Karl Pilkington in An Idiot Abroad and its assorted spin-offs.
His next role, however, will be something very, very different.
The BBC has announced that Stephen Merchant will play Stephen Port, the so-called 'Grindr Killer', in a new fact-based drama set to film this spring.
Port murdered four men he met on the gay dating app between 2014 and 2015, drugging and raping his victims before dumping their bodies in Barking, East London. He was given four life whole-life sentences in 2016 for the murders of Anthony Walgate, Jack Taylor, Daniel Whitworth and Gabriel Kovari.
The Metropolitan Police's handling of the case was criticised by police watchdogs after they initially failed to connect the four similar killings.
The Barking Murders will be told from the perspectives of the families of Port's victims. Sheridan Smith is to play the mother of Anthony Walgate, and Jaime Winstone will play the brother of Jack Taylor.
The film is written by Neil McKay, who also wrote Appropriate Adult, about Fred and Rose West, and The Moorside, on the kidnapping of schoolgirl Shannon Matthews.
Stephen 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.”
Marchant has begun to take steps into more dramatic acting, and in recent years has taken non-comedic roles in Logan and The Girl in the Spider's Web.
He will next be seen in Fighting With My Family, the Dwayne Johnson-produced comedy about real-life WWE wrestler Paige, which he also wrote and directed.