Mark McGann, a fellow Liverpudlian who already has experience portraying John Lennon, has been signed to play the slain ex-Beatle in NBC's TV movie about the life of Lennon and his widow, Yoko Ono, the network said.

He replaces Mark Lindsay, who was fired June 26 by NBC and Carson Productions, the movie's co-producers, after it was revealed that Lindsay's real name was Mark Chapman, the same as that of Lennon's assassin, who is serving a life sentence in prison.

"It was real unfortunate," McGann said of his predecessor when contacted by reporters. "I was very, very sad for the bloke. I hadn't even thought about screen-testing for the show before I read about what happened to him."

But it was a fortunate stroke for McGann, who was awarded the role in "Imagine: The Story of John and Yoko" on the day he turned 24.

McGann, who grew up in Liverpool within a guitar pick's throw of Lennon's childhood home, got his first acting break at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool playing Lennon in a musical.

McGann's other acting credits include several productions in both Liverpool and London, and British TV films such as "Moving on the Edge," "Recording Studio" and "Scully."

McGann told reporters that he will be repeating his role in the musical about Lennon on London's West End as soon as the film is completed, but he said that playing Lennon on TV will be different.

"It won't be difficult because it's hard for me to play John," McGann remarked, "but it'll be difficult because of how much it means to me." The actor added that he cried when he got the news of his hiring.

NBC and Carson Productions expect production on the film to begin in London on July 25. It is due to air next season.

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