Will Mellor got ’emotional’ meeting the real-life man he plays in Mr Bates vs The Post Office (Picture: ITV)
The four-part ITV drama series shares the story of former sub postmaster Alan Bates who lost his Post Office in north Wales after being accused of theft.
Determined to prove he’d done nothing wrong, Alan spent years tracking down and then working with hundreds of others who had been affected by the scandal, which has previously been called one of the UK’s ‘biggest miscarriages of justice’.
Over nearly 20 years, the Post Office took 700 employees to court for theft, false accounting and fraud, with some even jailed.
Of the 3,500 affected, four also took their own lives whilst trying to clear their names.
One of those affected was Lee Castleton, who bought a post office in Bridlington in 2003.
He plays Lee Castleton, who was made bankrupt after being falsely accused by the Post Office (Picture: ITV/ Shutterstock)
However, within a year, huge discrepancies started appearing in his branch accounts.
Suspecting the Horizon computer system was to blame, he called the helpline 91 times pleading for help.
By March 2004 the unexplained losses had hit £25,000 and he was suspended after an audit and ordered to repay the money.
Knowing he’d done nothing wrong he also refused but was taken to the High Court by the Post Office where he had to represent himself.
When he lost his case, the Post Office pursued him for legal costs of £321,000 which ended up bankrupting him.
In the series he is played by Will, best known for his roles in Hollyoaks, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, EastEnders and Broadchurch.
Lee is one of the real-life figures whose stories are told in the series (Picture: PA)
Last year he also appeared on Strictly.
Just before cameras on the series started rolling, Will asked to meet Lee, however was told the man he was playing was nervous to speak.
‘He was a bit hesitant coming forward. To go through what they went through, I think it might have been a bit hard for him to go back and revisit it and be a part of it. And I didn’t want to force the issue. The last thing I wanted to do was make things harder for him, so I learned about him as much as I could,’ he told Radio Times.
But the pair eventually did come face to face during a screening for the drama.
‘On the way in I had a coffee and my suitcase in my hands, and somebody opened the door for me and it was Lee Castleton,’ he continued.
‘And he went, “Will, I’m Lee”. And I put the coffee and my case down and we hugged it out and we both got really emotional, I think because I know, because I played him, what he’s been through, and he knows I know what he went through, and I emotionally went through a bit of it myself doing it for him.’
He added: ‘So we both had a moment, and it was amazing, it really was. And I just said, “I hope I’ve done you proud mate”. And he said he was over the moon when he heard I was playing him, and he’s messaged me since saying he’s watched it and he was overwhelmed with how much he enjoyed it, and he thanked me for what I did.’
Will went on to say he was ‘over the moon’ Lee was happy with his portrayal.
Viewers have expressed their shock and anger learning about what happened (Picture: ITV/ REX/ Shutterstock)
However, the actor said he was ‘so angry and upset’ at how everyday people were treated.
He questioned why the Post Office couldn’t ‘draw a line under it and rectify the problem’ knowing their employees were innocent.
Back in 2021, then-chairman of the Post Office Tim Parker said he was ‘sincerely sorry’ on behalf of the company for its ‘historical failings’.
‘Post Office is resetting its relationship with postmasters with reforms that prevent such past events ever happening again,’ he added.
Mr Bates vs the Post Office continues tonight at 9pm on ITV1. Also airing on January 4 is Mr Bates vs the Post Office: The Real Story at 10.45pm on ITV1.
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