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Will Mellor reveals he was just hours away from quitting acting when he landed role in Mr Bates vs The Post Office – after it was named as ITV’s biggest new drama in a decade

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Will Mellor has revealed he was just hours away from quitting acting before landing a role in ITV’s acclaimed drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office.

The miniseries has become ITV’s biggest new drama in over a decade, after telling the story of a long-running campaign to expose the Horizon IT system scandal, in which hundreds of Post Office staff were wrongfully accused of theft and fraud. 

Will, who has acted for 35 years, has now revealed that he was considering giving up acting in favour of presenting work when he got the call offering him a part in the series.

Speaking on the Two Pints with Will and Ralf podcast, he said: ‘The day before I got the phone call from my agent about Mr Bates I was gonna give it up. 

‘I swear on my life. I said to my missus, ‘I don’t think I want to keep acting. It’s just not happening’. 

Will Mellor has revealed he was just hours away from quitting acting before landing a role in ITV's acclaimed drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office

Will Mellor has revealed he was just hours away from quitting acting before landing a role in ITV’s acclaimed drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office

The actor said that he was considering a focus on presenting work after a number of failed auditions when he got a phonecall from his agent offering him the part

The actor said that he was considering a focus on presenting work after a number of failed auditions when he got a phonecall from his agent offering him the part

‘I’m hosting this thing called Cops Gone Bad and was thinking I might go down that route and do more presenting, factual stuff.’

The actor played the role of Lee Castleton in the series, a postmaster wrongly accused of fraud and theft, and he starred opposite Amy Nuttall, who played his wife Lisa.  

He added: ‘It’s been the biggest drama I’ve ever done and the biggest drama of the last 10 years. 

‘You don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, so don’t give up.’

‘We knew people would talk about it because it was a true story. But you could not even imagine how big it’s gone.’

Since his role in the series, Will has reprised his role as the villainous Harvey Gaskell on Coronation Street. 

More than 700 Post Office staff were falsely prosecuted based on erroneous data from the firm’s Horizon computer system, which was developed by Fujitsu.

Some of these people were sent to prison after being convicted of false accounting and theft, some had their finances left in tatters and some will never see justice as they have since died. It is considered to be the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history. 

The actor played the role of Lee Castleton in the series, a postmaster wrongly accused of fraud and theft, and he starred opposite Amy Nuttall, who played his wife Lisa

The actor played the role of Lee Castleton in the series, a postmaster wrongly accused of fraud and theft, and he starred opposite Amy Nuttall, who played his wife Lisa

The series has now reached nearly 14 million viewers after 28 days of catch-up and viewing on non-TV devices.

This means the programme is the biggest drama across all channels since Line of Duty series 6 on BBC One in 2021.

It is the biggest new drama across all channels since Bodyguard on BBC One in 2018 and it is ITV’s biggest drama since Broadchurch in 2017.

The four episodes are the most watched programmes on any channel so far this year.

After it was announced earlier this week that Mr Bates vs. the Post Office was the most-watched programme of the year so far, Kevin Lygo, Managing Director, Media & Entertainment ITV said: ‘The unwavering success of Mr Bates vs. The Post Office demonstrates the undeniable power of TV, particularly public service broadcasting.

‘Aside from it being a ratings hit, dramatising the story with such a high calibre of British actors has reignited the campaign for justice nearly 25 years on, for a group of ordinary people – and the entire nation is behind them.’

Polly Hill, Head of Drama ITV said: ‘We commissioned this drama because it was a story that demanded to be told. Like everyone watching the show, I couldn’t believe what had happened. We all just wanted the drama to help get that story heard by as many people as we could.

‘We are all proud and overwhelmed by the power our drama has had. Alan, Jo, Lee, Jess and every sub-postmaster and sub-postmistress are being heard now, and it looks like they will finally get the justice they deserve. ITV is proud to have told this story and to support the sub-postmasters.’

It comes after it emerged the Post Office tried to interfere with the ITV drama about the Horizon IT scandal, the show’s producer has claimed.

Mr Bates vs The Post Office tells the story of the mass miscarriage of justice that engulfed hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses as a result of the faulty Horizon IT system and subsequent cover up.

The outrage generated by the show prompted the Government this week to announce legislation that will ‘swiftly exonerate and compensate’ victims who are yet to have their convictions overturned.

Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office prosecuted more than 700 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses based on incorrect information from the Horizon system.

Former postmaster Alan Bates led and won a legal battle after himself falling victim to the faults. His victory paved the way for dozens of convictions to be overturned. 

Mr Bates vs. the Post Office told the story of a campaign to expose the Horizon IT system scandal, in which hundreds of Post Office staff were wrongfully accused of theft and fraud

Mr Bates vs. the Post Office told the story of a campaign to expose the Horizon IT system scandal, in which hundreds of Post Office staff were wrongfully accused of theft and fraud

Mr Bates vs The Post Office producer Patrick Spence said executives at the under-fire firm tried to get the show’s script amended in exchange for their cooperation

He told the Evening Standard‘What they offered to do was to change our story to suit their purposes.

‘They were obviously keen to change the narrative, but we had our facts and they couldn’t stop us.’

The script for the show relies on public documents and emails written by Post Office employees, including Paula Vennells, who was the firm’s CEO until 2019.

This week she bowed to public pressure and announced she would give up her CBE following her role in the scandal.

Spence said the Post Office was ‘so litigious and ghastly’ that show bosses ‘couldn’t take the risk of inventing anything for fear they would stop it being transmitted.’

The Post Office has been contacted for comment.  

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