Anthony Walker was a young man who had dreams of becoming a lawyer, moving to the United States and working in civil rights. He was Christian, loved basketball, his brother and sisters, and his mother, Gee.
But in July 2005, Anthony was murdered in a racist attack near his home in Merseyside. He was 18 years old, his life cut cruelly short.
The case made front pages at the time, not only because of the heinous nature of the crime but also because the murderers were the brother and cousin of a famous footballer. Just a few short years later, the hateful backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement has the audacity to claim that racism in this country 'does not exist'.
Gee Walker, Anthony's mother, is a special needs teacher who started a foundation in Anthony's memory which is committed to challenging prejudice, discrimination and inequality and working to promote harmony in the community. Now, she has worked with veteran Liverpool screenwriter Jimmy McGovern to make a film imagining the life her son might have had if it had not been so cruelly brought to an end.
The result is BBC One's Anthony. Superbly acted by Toheeb Jimoh as Anthony and Rakie Ayola as Gee, this feature-length film provides a devastating illustration of the hopes Gee had for her son. His future wife, his children, the people he could have helped, the impact he could have had on his friends, his family and the world around him – they are all there one minute, and gone the next. It's an unusual format that provides the perfect chance to appreciate lost potential, and which makes the film all the harder to watch.
Toheeb, set to star soon as Tunde in the TV adaptation of Naomi Alderman's book The Power, spoke to the BBC about the programme's chance to highlight the racism in this country. "It's not an American problem, we in the UK have just as much to do to rid ourselves of it," he said. "It's being the only Black applicant you see at a job interview, constantly seeing images of people who look like you being murdered in the UK and US and of course being attacked in a park while walking your friend home because you are Black."
There's been contention recently around the decision to have a white writer tackle the BBC adaptation of A Suitable Boy. Jimmy McGovern, the writer of Anthony, is also white — and he says it's something he wrestled with. "How could I, an old white man, tell the story of Anthony Walker, a young Black man? I couldn’t. I shouldn’t," Jimmy said. "But Gee Walker, Anthony’s mum, had asked me to do it and nobody in Liverpool says no to Gee Walker. I knew I had to do it."
The weight of the responsibility they were shouldering was not lost on anyone involved in the film. Rakie Ayola met Gee ahead of filming and was struck by her strength — this is a woman who, after all, humbled the nation when she forgave her son's killers at their trial. "Knowing that Gee was on set as we shot the joyous scenes of Anthony's [imagined] wedding was intensely humbling. Knowing she was witnessing a moment in her son's life that should have been, but never was," Rakie says.
With Anthony, Rakie explains, Jimmy and Gee are asking us to let our imaginations fly. They are asking us to think "not just about the terrible event but the distorted years that follow. Through a horrific act so many lives are changed, so many moments erased. For what? Who gained?"
Toheeb just hopes that the film has the chance to change people. "Especially now, at a time where we are re-examining our relationship with racism in this country, stories like this are vital. It's a part of our history and we have to look at it and talk about it."
He continues: "But also it's a celebration of life – Anthony's story didn’t end when he died – he lives on in his loved ones and also now with this show."
"I hope it's a fitting tribute to the real Anthony Walker."
Anthony is on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday 27th July