The original film is widely recognised as a classic but Jason Merrells, who stars in a stage production of Twelve Angry Men which comes to the Lowry next week, is convinced that it remains as relevant and as thought-provoking as ever.

Jason plays juror number eight - the role undertaken by Henry Fonda in the 1957 movie. He is one member of an all-male jury selected to decide the fate of a young man accused of murdering his abusive father.

The Bolton News: Jason Merrells in Twelve Angry Men

What starts out seeming to be a straightforward case, becomes progressively more complicated - and in turn progressively more dramatic - as juror eight tries to persuade his fellow jurors to deliver a ‘not guilty’ verdict.

“I think the production is almost a definition of what theatre can do rather brilliantly.” said Jason. “It has certainly stood the test of time.”

Jason, who is probably best known for TV roles including businessman Declan Macey on Emmerdale and Jack Rimmer on Waterloo Road, first appeared in Twelve Angry Men in 2015.

“I was only in the show for a month back then,” he said, “but I loved being part of it and jumped at the chance to return for this new tour.

“When I came back to it this time I felt it was so much more pertinent and spoke so much more to now than it did back then weirdly.

The Bolton News: Jason Merrells in Twelve Angry Men

“It’s very much on the nose at the moment and I think people are responding to that.

“It’s a about challenging preconceptions of others and race and tension. All the things that were kicking off in 1957 are unfortunately still kicking off now. But that makes it a really interesting piece of work.”

Jason is returning to the pivotal role of juror eight but admits that his approach to his character is very different second time around.

“When I first played him, it was very much about everything hanging on this idea of reasonable doubt, which it still does and it’s very important to the play.

“The concept of reasonable doubt is at the centre of our judicial system which we gifted to the western world - it’s not perfect but there’s not a lot that’s better than it.

“It rests on the premise that you have to be sure; if you’re not sure, if you have a reasonable amount of doubt then you can’t convict.

The Bolton News: Jason Merrells in Twelve Angry Men

“When I first approached the character that was his mantra, that’s what he was pushing for.

“This time around I felt he was probably a little bit more politically progressive than that and as a New Yorker probably thought ‘you know what, I don’t think we should be burning someone alive in a chair as punishment. I don’t think we should be doing that to anybody’.

“I feel he’s more front footed and wants to make sure that this doesn’t happen. He’s pretty sure there is enough doubt anyway but he’s going for it and that attitude seems to feel more in tune with now.”

Twelve Angry Men features a host of well known names including Michael Greco from EastEnders, Gray O’Brien from Coronation Street and former Minder star Gary Webster.

“It’s a really great company,” said Jason. “I’m surrounded by some really great actors and it’s a joy to play with them.”

Audiences are revelling in the tension of the play as the fate of the accused hangs in the balance.

“There is a lot to like in this production,” said Jason. “There are some really interesting character studies and there is a lot of humour too. But ultimately it is a tense, thrilling experience.”

In building up the profile of his character Jason based some of it on some of his friends.

The Bolton News: Jason Merrells in Twelve Angry Men

“I’m prone to use what’s in the script and then let my imagination bounce around for the rest of it,” he said. “But with juror eight, all that we know is that he’s an architect and a New Yorker.

“But that was enough for me as I had some old mates in London and architects are usually quite progressive, quite liberal. It’s a profession with a kind of honour to it.

“I think juror eight would have listened to Charlie Parker and worn a well-cut, fashionable suit and all that helps when you are building up a character.”

Twelve Angry Men is on a major UK tour - in April the show will be at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre for a week.

“Touring is one of those things that you sort of enjoy and sort of don’t,” laughed Jason. “It’s not easy being away from family and because of schools you can’t just drag everyone along with you.

“But it has a certain rhythm to it and it’s a very interesting way of seeing the country.

“But the theatre is a funny beast. You have to gear up to your energy peaking for 7.30 then after the show you are still buzzing with the energy most people have around lunchtime so it does alter your clock a bit.

“But when you have a production like this which audiences both relate and respond to it is such a joy. That’s what art does so well.”

Twelve Angry Men is at The Lowry from Tuesday until Saturday, March 2. Details from and also at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Monday, April 29 to Saturday, May 4. Details from