Stephen Merchant transforms into Grindr serial killer Stephen Port

Stephen Merchant, with his towering frame and distinctive appearance, may stand out at a Manchester shopping centre but the actor no longer looked like the comedy giant we all loved this week.

Seen for the first time filming The Barking Murders, the 44-year-old was noticeably transformed into 'Grinder Killer' Stephen Port, who took the lives of four men he met on the dating app in 2014 and 2015.

Merchant, a writer and funny man celebrated for such roles in Extras, The Office and Hello Ladies, is taking on a much more sinister role in the new BBC factual drama.

A new direction: Stephen Merchant was seen filming The Barking Murders for the first time this week in Manchester, as he prepares to play 'Grinder Killer' Stephen Port

A new direction: Stephen Merchant was seen filming The Barking Murders for the first time this week in Manchester, as he prepares to play 'Grinder Killer' Stephen Port

He plays 43-year-old serial killer Port, a serial killer who was famously received a whole life sentence for drugging and raping male victims to 'satisfy his fetish' for sex with the unconscious.

Port killed 21-year-old fellow chef Daniel Whitworth, along with Gabriel Kovari, 22,  student Anthony Walgate, 23, and Jack Taylor, 25, a forklift driver from Dagenham.

He met all of the men on gay dating app Grindr and killed them using date rape drug GHB before dumping their bodies in the street or his local graveyard in Barking, east London. 

Serious story: Stephen says he feels compelled to tell the story of how four young lives were lost, at the hands of 'monstrous' serial killer Port (right)

Sick: Port, 43, was sentenced to a 'whole life' order in November 2016 for killing Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25

Serious story: Stephen says he feels compelled to tell the story of how four young lives were lost, at the hands of 'monstrous' serial killer Port (right)

Comedy giant: The BBC drama is a stark departure from the actor's usual, popular comedy roles

Comedy giant: The BBC drama is a stark departure from the actor's usual, popular comedy roles

Sentenced in November 2016, Port got the same term as notorious killers including Fred and Rose West, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, Robert Black and Mark Bridger.

And now it is the challenge of former film student Merchant to act out a story that he said 'could not be ignored,' as the drama follows the aftermath of the killings and how Port tried to cover them up.

In a stark departure from his usual light-hearted characters, Stephen had changed his appearance noticeably to take on the menacing air of the Grindr killer.

He had swept a mop of longer blonde hair into a side-parting, resembling the killer's now-chilling dating app pictures, and was no longer sporting his usual facial hair.

Changing appearances: While his towering frame was hard to miss at a Manchester shopping centre, Stephen looked distinctly different with a blonde, side-swept hairstyle and a clean-shaven appearance

Changing appearances: While his towering frame was hard to miss at a Manchester shopping centre, Stephen looked distinctly different with a blonde, side-swept hairstyle and a clean-shaven appearance

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