‘Stephen’ is a real life hard-hitting drama

Monday: Stephen; (ITV, 9pm)

Sunday, 29th August 2021, 5:00 pm

TV schedulers have a habit of saving up a major drama for bank holiday Mondays, and the latest date is no exception.

However, few programmes in recent times will make as much of an impact as Stephen, ITV’s follow-up to 1999’s The Murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Written and directed by Paul Greengrass, that seminal work focused on the immediate aftermath of the teenager’s death in a racially aggravated attack in 1993, and starred Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Hugh Quarshie as his parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence.

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Doreen Lawrence, Clive Driscoll and Neville Lawrence

Quarshie reprises his role in Stephen, with Sharlene Whyte taking over from Jean-Baptiste.

This time, across three enthralling and moving episodes, the emphasis is on the long fight for justice the couple faced. The story picks up in 2006, following the failure of the original investigation to convict anybody for Stephen’s murder, and the efforts of DCI Clive Driscoll, who worked alongside the Lawrences, to build a case against the killers.

“The case of Stephen Lawrence is a testament to the fortitude, persistence and determination of the Lawrence family,” says director Alrick Riley. “These films will chart the successes, disappointments and the emotional toll they endured.

“It’s also the story of Clive Driscoll, the lead detective, who managed to forge a friendship with the Lawrences over the years it took to achieve two convictions. It’s an honour to have the opportunity to tell their story.”

Mark Redhead, who produced The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, was one of the major driving forces behind getting the production made.

“I went to the Old Bailey trial which resulted from the investigation by DCI Clive Driscoll and his team,” he explains. “I had a chat there with Stephen’s brother Stuart and various other members of the family. I met Clive after the trial and later read his book, which was published in 2015. The section on Stephen Lawrence is about 100 pages long and I was really upset by it.

“I went to ITV to say I would like to return to this story, having done the previous drama in 1999, and they wanted it to happen. I approached Frank Cottrell-Boyce, who I’ve known for a long time, to write it. Frank brought his son Joe in because Joe is a psychotherapist and works in a forensic unit. This is a story about parents and children so having someone younger was helpful.”

Also joining the production was Steve Coogan as Driscoll.

“When someone offers you something like this, you have to do it,” he reveals. “It’s both a privilege and a responsibility. It was an honour to play and celebrate common decency and I couldn’t say no. It’s a privilege to have been a part of telling that story. It was something I took very seriously.”

The drama begins with Driscoll discovering the original files concerning Stephen’s murder and realising the case can still be solved, despite opposition from his own colleagues. And if you want to see its predecessor, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence is available to stream on the ITV Hub.

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