Let’s shine a light on Anthony Walker’s story
Monday: Anthony; (BBC One, 8.30pm)
A couple of weeks ago, ITV re-screened its landmark 1999 drama The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, to tie in with a debate about racial equality in modern Britain.
Although now more than 20 years old, it still packed a powerful punch thanks to moving performances from Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Hugh Quarshie as the tragic teenager’s parents, Doreen and Neville. The storyline, sadly, also remained relevant.
Now the BBC is broadcasting Anthony, a new drama inspired by the story of Anthony Walker, almost 15 years to the day since he was killed in an unprovoked attack by Michael Barton (brother of ex-footballer and current Fleetwood Town manager Joey) and his cousin, Paul Taylor; they are currently serving minimum terms of 17 years and eight months, and 23 years and eight months respectively, for murder.
Anthony was 18 at the time and studying for his A-levels. A devout Christian and basketball fan, he was dreaming of a law career and of visiting America when he was attacked while out with his girlfriend Louise Thompson and cousin Marcus Binns in Huyton, Merseyside. But unlike the Stephen Lawrence drama, it doesn’t on his death and its impact on those who loved him. Instead the drama imagines the life he might have lived had he survived.
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The screenplay of this feature-length project has been written by someone who is used to shining a light on difficult, hard-hitting and often controversial subjects – Jimmy McGovern. He in turn was inspired by conversations with Gee Walker, Anthony’s mother.
“I went to Jimmy because I couldn’t think of anyone more suited who could depict, highlight and draw attention to the hard messages of a life not lived – Anthony’s unfilled dreams, his potentials and the many lives he would have impacted on – which now will never be realised,” says Gee.
McGovern adds: “I’d known Gee Walker for many years and every time I had needed to write about loss or grief I had gone to her and she had always been generous with her time and her profound wisdom. But one day SHE came to ME and asked me to write about her beloved Anthony. I said, ‘Gee, if you’re asking such a thing, I feel I have a God-given duty to do it.’ And so I did it.”
Toheeb Jimoh has been entrusted with portraying Anthony, alongside Rake Ayola as Gee.
“I’m so grateful we’ve been able to shine a light on Anthony Walker’s story with the blessing and generosity of his mother,” says Ayola. “When commissioning drama linked to real life, we consider carefully the individual lives at the heart of the drama but also the wider societal story it might tell,” explains Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama. “Anthony is a case in point.
“A unique blend of fiction and reality, steered by Jimmy McGovern’s conversations with Anthony’s mother Gee Walker, it is the story of a man who tragically lost his life but also of a life he might have led. We are honoured to be telling it on BBC One.”
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