Sharlene Whyte is ‘terrified’ of teenage son being victim of racial attack

Actress Sharlene Whyte has opened up about how she is "terrified" for her teenage son in the face of racially motivated violence.

Tracy Beaker star Sharlene will take on the role of Doreen Lawrence in brand-new ITV drama Stephen, a sequel to the 1999 TV movie The Murder of Stephen Lawrence.

The drama is based on real-life events after the murder of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence in 1993, after he was the victim of a racist attack. Stephen focuses on the 2006 court case which finally brought the perpetrators to justice for the attack.

Stephen's parents Doreen and Neville fought tirelessly for justice for their late son, creating The Stephen Lawrence Foundation, which exists "to inspire a more equal, inclusive society, and to foster opportunities for marginalised young people in the UK".

Speaking about taking on the role, Sharlene admitted she hadn't met Doreen before, as she wanted to keep a "respectful space".

"I haven't met her," she confessed to Daily Star. "I was trying to keep a respectful space from Doreen and I didn't feel that it was right that I go to her and start asking her to relive the experience yet again, because I can imagine how raw and traumatic that would be."

Sharlene continued: "I'm hoping that we've got her blessing and she's happy with the story we told and with the way I've portrayed her."

The conversation quickly turned to Sharlene's own son, who is almost the same age as Stephen when he was killed by a gang of white men while waiting for a bus with a friend.

"I've got an 18-year-old – well, he's nearly 18. A young black teenager who's outside and coming across, having dealings with police, so it's tricky at the minute.

"[The show] just highlights life at present. As I say, I've got a 17-and-a-half-year-old young man, and the idea that he wouldn't come back home after going to see his friends just terrifies me.

"[Stephen] has just made me realise that I'm not sure, sadly, how much things have actually moved on today.

"I remember this happening when I was a bit younger than Stephen, it was all part of the community.

"I grew up in Nottingham and news travelled all around the country. So [the show] just highlighted why I'm so precious about my son at his age, and it felt like an important time for me."

Speaking about stepping into Doreen's shoes, Sharlene commented: "There's something about Doreen. She has this inner world that's very much alive, and it just shows as little glimmers on her face, but everything's going on inside.

"Her inner life is absolutely fascinating. You don't see any of that on her face. Of course, if that was my child I would be shouting and screaming. I don't know how she kept it so composed, but she's so bright and intelligent and measured."

The star added: "The fight for justice for her son was at the forefront of her mind and nothing would get past that."

Stephen airs on ITV later this month.

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