A young actor from Blackpool has taken on the challenge of turning murderer in a true life BBC drama.
Ezra Watson appears as one of the killers in Murdered For Being Different, the dramatisation of the killing of Sophie Lancaster in a Lancashire park 10 years ago.
Former St Mary’s Catholic Academy pupil, 17-year-old Ezra plays Brendan Harris, then 15, who was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the brutal attack on Sophie, 20, and her boyfriend Robert Maltby, then 21.
Sophie was kicked to death, her life support machine switched off a fortnight after the attack in Bacup, and Robert was beaten into a coma and left for dead.
The two of them were randomly attacked by the gang, led by Harris and Ryan Herbert, then 16, because they were dressed as Goths.
In Murdered For Being Different, Abigail Lawrie and Nico Mirallegro play the young couple.
The factual drama has been made in close collaboration with Robert, his family, Sophie’s family and the police investigating team.
Ezra said: “Hundreds auditions and I couldn’t believe it when I landed the role of Brendan Harris.
“It was a really great experience. I enjoyed every minute of performing what was a very challenging role.
“Let’s hope it raises awareness of hate crime in this community, as it is such a sad and moving, tragic story.
“Everyone in the cast and production team got on so well together and I have made life-long friends who I am going to keep in touch w ith.”
The teenager trained at Scream Theatre School’s triple threat academy from the age of 11, and was signed to their sister company Scream Management, based at Media City, Salford.
He previously appeared in ITV series Prey as resort actor John Simm’s son and in TV commercials for Halfords and Thorpe Park.
Last year, Ezra was the youngest volunteer on site at the DIY SOS Big Build - Children In Need special at Blackpool Children’s Carers Centre, and impressed some of the professional tradesmen so much with his work ethic, personality and punctuality that he was offered three apprenticeships. He took up the offer of civil engineer contractor Stuart Pulfer, and combines his work with acting commitments.
Currently available on BBC Three through iPlayer, Murdered For Being Different will go out on BBC One on Thursday.
A spokesman for Scream Management casting agency said: “Ezra did so well to secure the role of Brendan Harris in Murdered for Being Different. Thousands auditioned for it so he did amazing.
“I think the film shows such an important message; we should be encouraging difference and diversity wherever we can.”