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My Murder: Why this drama had to have a heart

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Levi David Addai Levi David Addai | 10:13 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

As much as television commissions can be few and far between for any writer, let alone newer writers like me, My Murder wasn't a project I immediately jumped at.

Danny (Malachi Kirby), Samantha (Simona Zivkovska) and Shakilus (John Boyega)

Danny (Malachi Kirby), Samantha (Simona Zivkovska) and Shakilus (John Boyega)

I guess I needed assurance that the Beeb wasn't using Shakilus Townsend's death and his mother's anguish so that they could seem edgy - tick a box and get one up on their broadcast rivals.

Shakilus was 16 when he was beaten and stabbed to death in a planned attack by members of a gang in south London in 2008.

He'd been led into the ambush, widely reported as the 'honey trap murder', by Samantha Joseph - a girl Shakilus' mum said he was 'smitten' with.

Samantha was sentenced to at least 10 years for her part in his murder and six other teenagers including her ex-boyfriend Danny McLean were jailed for life.

There had to be a heart to this drama and fortunately the producer Colin Barr was of the same mind.

I always made it clear that I didn't want the film to go into Crimewatch territory. Nor did I want it to seem like an 'urban drama' with a stereotypical knife crime story - and I was encouraged that Colin and the BBC felt the same.

The finished film is the opposite of that.

Of course there'll be many people that will see Shakilus, in his hoody, being loud with his friends and automatically make assumptions.

But for me the fact that Shak wasn't an angel makes his story richer and dare I say 'normal'.

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Shakilus gets a warning

My approach was to chew over all the extensive material that the research team provided me.

I read through mountains of research and court evidence as I tried to visualise in my mind's eye the events of 2008.

I'd asked myself questions like why was Shakilus interested in Sam? Why was Shak so persistent?

What was Sam's interest in Shak? Why did she feel she couldn't let Danny know about Shak? Was she at fault for not 'declaring' Shak to Danny?

One thing that was very clear from the interviews and research was Shakilus' bubbly, charismatic character.

This was a guy who was so popular amongst his friends and family.

Also, he wasn't short on female friends and definitely wasn't scared to talk to girls. His charm, his wit and his boldness is what drew me to Shakilus.

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Shakilus meets Samantha for the first time

You can't help but think what potential he had.

But on reflection I guess what drew me to the story is that I, in my adolescent years, and the teenage Shakilus were both driven by the most basic of human emotions - attraction.

I, like many billions of others, have been so blindly infatuated - calling it love - only to find you have been taken for a ride.

But I and so many others were lucky because the only consequence we suffered was a 'broken heart'.

Shakilus wasn't as fortunate.

Levi David Addai is the writer of My Murder.

My Murder is on Monday, 26 March at 9pm on BBC Three. For further programme times please see the episode guide.

You can watch an interview with the cast on the BBC News website and also read a post by John Boyega, who plays Shakilus, on the BBC Three blog.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    totally fantastic. brillant actors, brillant writer. well done.

  • Comment number 2.

    Just wanted say, thank you for such an insightful docu-drama as 'my murder' truly a brilliant piece of writting with such a delicate subject as this. I believe drama of this quality and weight could change the path of someone involved in a gang. I hope so.
    Levi David addai is a writer that speaks to a generation. Please listen!

  • Comment number 3.

    I find it unbelievable that someone is writing about these horrendous people making them notorious is there really nothing better you want to do with your time. Are we so stupid we need you to shine some light on this tragic story. What a waste of time and money. Vincent McGrath London

  • Comment number 4.

    What a wonderful and touching piece of television that should be made compulsory viewing in secondary schools all over the UK.

    I was moved to tears by the story and the fact it is true makes the tragic outcome even more relevant. Well done on handling such a subject with realism and sensitivity.

    I grew up in South London and saw street gangs at first hand even being a victim of their behaviour; this gave a small insite into what is happening on our streets today.

  • Comment number 5.

    I totally agree with Vincent Mcgrath...I cannot see why this programme had to be made as it only glorifies the murderers...the only people who gain anything from the show was the BBC who love to show black youths at their worse which helps to reinforce the stereotypes in the white man's eyes that all we do is kill each other and are no good. Has this never happened in the white commuinity, where is that "drama" ?? If it's not the riots that the BBC are showing its something else to make us look bad. Are we ourselves so blind that we dont see what they are doing?? Come on BBC , fix up !! If you want youngsters to have a positive outlook show POSITIVE images of black people !

  • Comment number 6.

    I watched this as a mother and was overwhelmed by the professional way this was portrayed. Especially at the end when Shak's mother appeared. What a truely outstanding woman! I wanted to say thank you for showing a horrific murder in such a clever and poweful way - stunning!

  • Comment number 7.

    I am gobsmacked at the negative comments about a young boys life taken in terrible circumstances. NOT once did I see anything geared towards promoting violence or murder- it should a very balanced approach to a unforgiveable crime - as awhite woman I speak to you Vincent & fadab - NOT once did it occur to me that the murders were about black people - I watched a drama about Shakilus and the impact of decisions to kill him impacted on other people - including the murderers themselves - please do not belittle a eductaional and emotional programme and turn it into an opportunity to use colour again - as normal people like me do not see a persons colour just their personality. If you watch most drama's on TV they are white actors killing each other - otherwise your comments would be agreed with! - but this was a factal case and you must accept Facts! Surely his mother felt it was right to do and its her thoughts and needs that should be respected - sorry!

  • Comment number 8.

    I also have to say - to balance Fadabs question - there have been several programmes to show how Stephen Lawrence was murdered by white men and the indecent way the police made mistakes - which touched every normal human being - again excellent but sad programmes.

  • Comment number 9.

    I am a secondary school teacher. I watched some of this with some of the kids in school today. They were as touched and shocked as I was. They didn't think that murder was glorified. Job's a good 'un, I think :o) Anything that helps point young people's moral compass in a humane direction is good, in my book!

  • Comment number 10.

    I hear you Claire, but unfortunately you wouldn't, dont and wont understand the bigger picture because the bigger picture does not affect you but affects me in the workplace, on the street etc...How often have you seen a white crime and form a view of white people , the way black crimes forms a view of black people in a majority white country...Its newpapers and TV that gives off these views...BTW, this has nothing to do with "chip on the shoulder" this is reality, what you see helps to form your opinions. As for the Stephen Lawrence issue that is just one person...I have now seen last night show, shows on the recent riots and Top Boy...even Dr David Starkey got on the act...

  • Comment number 11.

    I thought this was brilliantly written and acted.

    I have NO idea where these skin colour comments are coming from though! All I saw were a group of nasty soulless indivuals who set out to inflict serious harm on a young lad, all because he fell for the wrong girl!
    There was NO racial stereotyping in this programme at all-and I honestly dont see how people imply that there was! It was written using fact! How did it glorify the murderers?

    I am by no means from a rough area, yet we have had our share of tragedy-recently a young lad was stabbed to death for getting caught in the middle of a fight he was trying to break up. Another lad was in hospital for 2 months with suspected brain damage after he tried to stop a guy from hitting his girlfriend. He caught the punch instead.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ Vincent & Fadab, I too was totally taken aback by your nasty negative comments - How dare you???? We're talking about a human being here, a vibrant personality who just happened to fall for the wrong girl and did nothing wrong at all.. and how did it glorify the murderers - I hated them to the core of my very being. I am glad the BBC showed this docu-drama, 1) There are too many of our children dying a senseless death, because of something stupid was said or done, 2) We've become so desensitized, that we have idiots on this blog making stupid comments. 3) I am glad that this writer has brought light to the plight of these forgotten youngsters. I remember you well Shakill Townsend RIP and Love to your dignified mother xxxx

  • Comment number 13.

    Firstly, I would like to say RIP Shak, blessings and prayers to his mother who shared this painful story with us. I think that some people here have misinterpreted the message in this sad docu-drama, which is our young people are not respecting life and innocent young people are being killed. I think this has kept the older generation informed about what is actually happening here on British soil. I do not feel it has glorified murders but has shown a horrendous reality. Instead of debating the creed of the skin, lets work out what we can do to stop this. Excellently written and screened played.

  • Comment number 14.

    Vincent and Fadab are so misguided that it's almost amusing. This drama did not, in any way whatsoever, 'glorify' knife crime. It DID dignify a teenager who was conned by someone he trusted and then murdered in cold blood. The idea that people would watch this - or ANY drama, for that matter - and think that it was 'cool' to brutally end someone's life and go to prison relies on a very arrogant and very ignorant belief that the audience is too stupid to differentiate reality from fiction. Vincent and Fadab remind me of the sort of uneducated philistines who still believe violent films, music, and videogames are to blame for today's culture of violence - a childishly simplistic view that not only negatively profiles the huge number of people who enjoy these media forms and DON'T become killers (i.e. virtually all of them), but also utterly undermines and trivialises the complexities of crimes that ARE carried out, since they can be so quickly blamed on whatever media form is convenient at the time to prevent people from actually analysing the many socio-political problems that actually exist in this country and the world in general. It's a disgusting tactic that has no place in 21st century thought.

    If you want to target any area of the media for glorifying crime, the news is far more to blame. They turn every CURRENT crime (i.e. not crimes that took place four years ago, such as the one that inspired this drama) into a series of hyperbolic statements, they warp every event in a way that suits their political ideology, and they focus more on gaining an emotional response from the audience than from actually informing them. The abundance of negatively-biased news is far more culpable for society's descent into US-levels of violent crime, because they tell us that this is the way things are - they claim to be objective, to simply be a source of information, when they are anything but. You can blame The Guardian for the misled belief that anyone who opposes open-door immigration or EU membership is an "IDL-supporting racist Thatcherite", just as you can blame The Times and The Daily Mail for the belief that immigrants are some sort of enemy figure when the real problem is our governance. The press does far more to depress, oppress, ridicule and terrorise the general public than any fiction writer could ever dream of - and they do so while claiming to be a voice of truth.

    As for the drama, I thought it was very well produced and acted. It didn't glamourise Shakill or make him out to be a perfect person, but it didn't need to. He was engaging, likeable, and endearing - and it really hit home how much potential was wasted when he was killed. We tend to become somewhat apathetic about these South London teenage murders - again, blame the press for their constant 'broken Britain' agenda - because they get reported with such regularity these days, albeit seemingly not so much the last couple of years, that the poor victims turn into statistics. Taking this one sad event and re-humanising a real murder victim made it that much more effective than if it had been a stereotyped story about a non-existent teenager. Whatever politics you subscribe to, it was a well made drama and was well worth the hour spent watching it.

  • Comment number 15.

    Thought provoking tragic story well dramatised! I felt this was about the youth of today not about colour. Greatest respect to Shakilus's family.

  • Comment number 16.

    It is not too difficult to find positive black role models either in the pulic eye or otherwise. Where do we start? Barrack Obama, Lewis Hamilton, John Boyega even. There were sensless gang related murders before and unfortunatelty there will continue to be. This drama gave the closest thing to what could be considered a unique perspective on the fallout of such a senseless incident. The perspective of Shakilus. At the end of the day I feel no pride in seeing this part of society portrayed on TV but, if this drama goes on to prevent at least one more senseless killing, then credit and recognition is deserving of the BBC and Levi David Addai.

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi I would like to contact someone in production please with an offer of support for Nicola Dyer that I would like to be passed on, thanks.

  • Comment number 18.

    id like to know where the white gang member came from, the 1 with the bat cos in the final scenes it shows no white guy getting prosecuted for shakis murder. if there was no white man involved id like to know why u decided to add 1 into the film??

  • Comment number 19.

    id like to know why a white youth was added to the film when it was all black youths prosecuted for the murder and no white youths. where there white youths prosecuted for lesser actions?
    i wud like to know otherwise if no white youths was involved why are u portraying a different perspective...

  • Comment number 20.

    white,black, asian whatever they should be hung for what they did to that poor kid...

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi, I'm the producer of My Murder. Thank you for posting your comments on Levi's blog - it's very interesting and helpful to read your reactions to the programme. To pick up on your point, hunter (comments 18-20), Tiny Bouncer was played by a young actor of mixed race, Elijah Baker. Like the rest of the cast we didn't cast him on the basis of pure ethnicity instead we were looking for someone who was culturally suitable, fitted into the gang well and, ultimately, was talented enough to play the part.

    Thanks again for your question and your interest in My Murder.

  • Comment number 22.

    r .i.p shak you was sweet bwoy who fell in love with the wrong gurl.

  • Comment number 23.

    Fadab..you wrote: "How often have you seen a white crime and form a view of white people , the way black crimes forms a view of black people in a majority white country."

    Often.
    The two biggst crimes committed by white people in the UK:

    Crimes against children (from murder to sexual abuse to paedophilia)
    Muggings

    Every time I hear of one of those crimes I expect the perpetrator to be white...and most of the time it is

  • Comment number 24.

    the crime seaosn Inspired me to make a Spoken Word piece about the subjects raised have a listen if you would

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mtAAhFjrmY

 

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