The Widower, Reece Shearsmith,

Reece Shearsmith portrays real convict Malcolm Webster.

If you’re a fan of thrilling entertainment based on true events, you’ll love The Widower. Airing on Thursdays on ITV Choice (DStv channel 123) at 21:00, this series looks at the life of convicted murderer Malcolm Webster, played by Reece Shearsmith.

Here is what Reece has to say about his role as a real-murderer.

What attracted you to the part of Malcolm Webster?
I felt that it was a huge journey to go on with a person, and a real horror to play the innocence of his reality as he saw it. He’s not doing it with a twirl of a moustache – the entire thing is just a means to an end. Every step of the way, he justifies his actions.

It was a really big part for me, and a real challenge. I read the script and thought, ‘I can do this.’ But although it was really exciting to read the script, it was also quite scary – I thought, ‘God, do I really want to be in that world?’ It’s a horrible thing to take on. But I couldn’t not try.


How did you feel about playing a real person and convicted criminal?
As an actor, you do feel a sense of responsibility on your shoulders when you play a real person. With The Widower, I felt I needed to capture the spirit of Malcolm Webster – I’m not trying to do an impression of him. I also felt a responsibility because he is a convicted murderer and people were profoundly affected by his actions. There’s a duty to care that he is not presented frivolously.


How did you cope with getting into the head of a convicted murderer day in and day out?
The responsibility was so profound, especially having some of the families and victims coming to watch the filming. The weight suddenly dawns on you and that was always there. I was quite isolated in Ireland away from my family but then it was good to be immersed in that world.


What is it about The Widower that will appeal to and fascinate an audience?
I think it’s endlessly jaw-dropping. I was really pleased with the level of tension within the scenes. First you’re with Webster, seeing his lies and how they ripple out into the world, but then as the drama unfolds you’re with Charlie Henry as he’s slowly working towards capturing Webster. The element of cat and mouse is gripping.

It’s always quite chilling to read at the beginning of a drama ‘This is a true story’ - you don’t have to do much more than that to enhance the impact of what you’re depicting. This story is extraordinary because some of the beats in it are similar to those you’d write in a drama.


Kwadjo Dajan, producer of The Widower, says it’s important to tell real-life stories:
One thing a drama enables you to do is go beyond the headlines to bring out the emotions and impact, thus giving a much more rounded perspective. When you read articles or hear about a case in the news, you instantly imagine the extremes. Seeing it played out in a drama, you can see the reality of the situation, and in cases such as the Webster case, exactly how plausible or ‘normal’ some criminals can appear while carrying out their despicable crimes. You can see for yourself how easy it would have been for people to be taken in by Webster. It gives you a much more balanced and authentic view of his criminality.


Be sure to catch The Widower - Thursdays on ITV Choice at 21:00.