John Simm

Last updated
John Simm
John Simm (2010).jpg
Simm in March 2010
Born (1970-07-10) 10 July 1970 (age 50)
Leeds, England
  • Actor
  • director
  • musician
Years active1992–present
(m. 2004)

John Ronald Simm (born 10 July 1970) is an English actor, director, and musician. He is best known for playing Sam Tyler in Life on Mars , and The Master in Doctor Who . His other television credits include State of Play , The Lakes , Crime and Punishment , Exile , Prey , and Cracker . His film roles include Wonderland , Everyday , Boston Kickout , Human Traffic , and 24 Hour Party People . He has been nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor twice and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor once.


Early life

John Ronald Simm was born on 10 July 1970 in Leeds, the eldest of three children. His father, Ronald, was a musician from Manchester; from the age of 12, Simm sang and played guitar with his father on stage in the working men's clubs.[ citation needed ] He grew up in numerous places around northwest England, including Blackpool, Burnley, Colne, Manchester, and Nelson. He attended Edge End High School in Nelson, where he was inspired by his drama teacher. In 1986, he enrolled at Blackpool and The Fylde College in Blackpool for three years, and starred in Guys and Dolls and West Side Story at Blackpool's Grand Theatre. However, he soon decided that musical theatre did not interest him, so he joined an amateur dramatic group and honed his skills in his spare time, playing the title roles in Billy Liar and Amadeus . He then moved to London at the age of 19 to train at the Drama Centre London, where he studied Stanislavski's system of method acting. His acting teacher was Reuven Adiv, whom he credits as a major influence on his life. He graduated in 1992.[ citation needed ]


Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Simm was a founding member, songwriter, and guitarist with the rock band Magic Alex; the band was named after "Magic Alex" Mardas, a Greek electronics engineer best known for his work with the Beatles. [1] The group played support on two British tours with Echo & the Bunnymen. Simm plays guitar on the album Slideling by his friend, Echo & the Bunnymen singer Ian McCulloch. He also played lead guitar on a few of McCulloch's solo live shows, including one at Wembley Arena as the main support to Coldplay. Magic Alex released one album, Dated and Sexist, before splitting in 2005.

Simm made his professional acting debut in 1992 with the role of Joby Johnson in an episode of the TV series Rumpole of the Bailey (there had been an earlier part in the BBC drama Between the Lines where Simm was in one scene as PC Witty, but the scene was cut). There then followed a variety of roles during which time he honed his craft in front of the camera, including a psycho in The Bill , as lovestruck schoolboy Richard Francis in Heartbeat , and a drugged-up burglar in The Locksmith. He also made two series of the BBC sitcom Men of the World , playing the lead role of Kendle Bains. His next project saw him take the role of Gary Kingston, a deluded murderer, in Chiller .

In 1995, Simm played the troubled teenager Bill Preece in the acclaimed ITV police drama Cracker . [2] This is considered his breakthrough role. He also made his feature film debut in Boston Kickout , beating Dennis Hopper to the Best Actor award at the Valencia Film Festival. In 1996, he made his professional stage debut in the Simon Bent play Goldhawk Road at the Bush Theatre, directed by Paul Miller. In 1997, he won the lead role of Danny Kavanagh in the first series of The Lakes , a BBC series written by Jimmy McGovern. In 1999, he starred in the second series of The Lakes as well as appearing as Jip in the award-winning cult clubbing film Human Traffic and Michael Winterbottom's acclaimed Wonderland . In 2000, he starred in the opening episode of the BBC drama Clocking Off , written by Paul Abbott, with whom he would work again in 2002 when he starred as Cal McCaffrey in the multi-award-winning political thriller series State of Play . Simm also played the lead role of loan shark John Parlour in Tony Marchant's Never Never for Channel 4.

In 2002, Simm featured in the film 24 Hour Party People as New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. At a live concert in Finsbury Park that same year, he sang the Joy Division song "Digital" onstage with New Order. It was also this year that he played Raskolnikov in the BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment , adapted by Tony Marchant. Marchant also wrote The Knight's Tale , one of a series of modern reworkings of The Canterbury Tales , in which Simm played Ace. Later that year, Simm starred opposite Christina Ricci and John Hurt in the film Miranda .

In 2004, he played the researcher and charity investigator Daniel Appleton in the BAFTA award-winning Channel 4 drama Sex Traffic . This two-parter followed the plight of two young Moldovan sisters sold into sexual slavery. After playing Dr. Bruce Flaherty in Howard Davies' production of Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange , Simm starred as Detective Inspector Sam Tyler in the 2006 BBC series Life on Mars , playing a police officer sent back in time to 1973. The show won the Pioneer Audience Award for Best Programme at the 2007 BAFTA TV Awards, Simm was nominated but lost out on the award for Best Actor. [3]

His next project, in March 2007, was The Yellow House for Channel 4, a biographical drama produced by Talkback Thames, based on the book of the same name by Martin Gayford about the turbulent relationship of artists Vincent van Gogh (Simm) and Paul Gauguin (John Lynch). [4] In the same year, Simm also returned to the theatre as the title character in Paul Miller's acclaimed Bush Theatre staging of Simon Bent's version of Elling , a comedy about two men just out of a psychiatric hospital adjusting to normal life and to each other. Following positive press reviews and an extended, sell-out run, the production was transferred to the Trafalgar Studios 1 in July 2007 [5] and Simm was nominated for an Olivier Award for his performance.

In 2007, Simm was chosen by Russell T. Davies to play an incarnation of The Master, the nemesis of The Doctor, in the long-running BBC series Doctor Who . He appeared in the final three episodes of the third series: "Utopia", "The Sound of Drums", and "Last of the Time Lords". When originally cast, it was announced that he would be playing a character by the name of Mr. Saxon, a name that was later revealed as an alias of The Master. [6] He reprised the role in the 2009 two-part special, "The End of Time", [7] [8] and returned again in 2017 for the final two episodes of the 10th series: "World Enough and Time" and "The Doctor Falls". In 2008, he played Edward Sexby in The Devil's Whore , a four-part English Civil War epic for Channel 4. He performed at the Royal Variety Performance with Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller, and starred in the film Skellig , broadcast on Sky1 in April 2009.

Simm became involved in an ongoing project with Michael Winterbottom called Everyday, to be filmed in real time over five years. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012, and was in competition at the 2013 London Film Festival. Simm returned to the West End stage in autumn of 2009 to critical acclaim, starring in the Andrew Bovell play Speaking in Tongues at the Duke of York's Theatre. In September 2010, Simm played Hamlet at the Sheffield Crucible. [9]

In 2011, Simm starred in Mad Dogs on Sky 1. He played Baxter in the project, that reunited him with Philip Glenister and Marc Warren along with Max Beesley and Ben Chaplin. Mad Dogs became a critical and ratings success and received a BAFTA nomination for best drama serial, and a second and third series were commissioned. The second series was shot in Mallorca and Ibiza in late 2011, and appeared on Sky 1 in January 2012, the same time as the third series was being shot in South Africa. A final series aired in January 2014. On BBC One in May 2011, Simm starred as Tom Rondstadt in Exile , alongside Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, and Simm's wife, Kate Magowan. His performance earned him his second BAFTA nomination for Best Actor.

From 17 May to 9 June 2012, Simm starred as Jerry [10] in a revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal at the Crucible Theatre. [11] He played John Middleton in The Village , a six-part BBC drama which portrays life in a Derbyshire village during World War I. [12]

In 2013, Simm starred in a play by Morwenna Banks, Goodbye, about a woman diagnosed with breast cancer, played by Olivia Colman. The play also starred Natascha McElhone, Darren Boyd, Harley Bird, and Alison Steadman.

From May to August 2013, he returned to Trafalgar Studios in London's West End to star opposite Simon Russell Beale in a new production of Harold Pinter's The Hothouse , directed by Jamie Lloyd. He then completed work on the three-part thriller, Prey , in which he plays detective Marcus Farrow. The mini-series began airing on 28 April 2014 on ITV. The second series starred Philip Glenister in the leading role.

In February 2014, Simm began filming the BBC America eight-parter Intruders in Vancouver, British Columbia. He plays ex-LAPD officer Jack Whelan. The series aired on BBC America in August 2014, and also starred Mira Sorvino, James Frain and Millie Bobby Brown. It was cancelled after only one season. In addition to this, he completed the second season of The Village in Derbyshire. Later that year, Simm played Alec Jeffreys, the man who discovered DNA fingerprinting, in Code of a Killer , a two-part drama for ITV.

In 2015, he took a break from the screen to concentrate on theatre. He appeared for the first time at The National Theatre, playing the role of Rakitin to great acclaim, in Patrick Marber's Three Days in the Country , (a version of Turgenev's A Month in the Country) and was reunited with Jamie Lloyd, playing the role of Lenny in the 50th anniversary production of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming in London's West End.

In 2016, Simm was invited to the US to act in The Catch for ABC. Starring Mireille Enos and Peter Krause, the show was executive produced by Shonda Rhimes and filmed at Sunset Bronson studios and on location around Los Angeles. Simm played the character of Rhys Griffiths, a recurring character in season 1 and a regular in season 2. The show was cancelled after the second season.

On 6 April 2017, the BBC confirmed that Simm would be reprising his role as the Master in the tenth series of Doctor Who; he appears in the two-part finale, World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls . [13]

In 2018, he starred as Dan Bowker opposite Adrian Lester in Mike Bartlett's Trauma on ITV. The same year he also played the role of Labour MP David Mars in Collateral , written by David Hare, opposite Carey Mulligan and Billie Piper for the BBC. He then starred in Strangers on ITV, starring as Jonah Mulray, a professor whose life comes crashing down when his wife is killed in a car crash in Hong Kong.

In 2018/2019, Simm returned to the West End stage in Jamie Lloyd's staging of Pinter at the Pinter—a groundbreaking season of Harold Pinter's one-act plays. He starred in Pinter Six, consisting of Party Time and Celebration. [14]

He took the title role of Macbeth in the Chichester Festival Theatre production that ran from 21 September to 26 October 2019. [15]

On 13 December 2019, Simm was announced to be reprising his role as the Master again in Masterful, an audio drama from Big Finish Productions, alongside several other actors who have played the role, including Derek Jacobi, Mark Gatiss, and Geoffrey Beevers. Michelle Gomez will also return as Missy. [16] It is due to be released in January 2021. He will also be playing DS Roy Grace in Grace, an adaptation of the first two of Peter James's crime fiction series novels. [17]

Personal life

In April 2004, Simm married actress Kate Magowan in the Forest of Dean; they have a son and daughter. [18] He is a supporter of Manchester United FC. [19]



1995 Boston Kickout Phil
1997Diana & MeNeil
1999 Human Traffic Jip
1999 Wonderland Eddie
2001Understanding JaneOz
2002 24 Hour Party People Bernard Sumner
2002 Miranda Frank
2004 Nero Caligula
2005 Blue/Orange Dr. Bruce Flaherty
2005Brothers of the HeadBoatman
2006 Devilwood GabrielShort film
2008 Tu£sday Silver
2009 Skellig DaveTelevision film
2012 Everyday IanFilmed in real-time over five years


1992 Rumpole of the Bailey Joby JonsonEpisode: "Rumpole and the Reform of Joby Jonson"
1993 Oasis Posh Robert7 episodes
1993 Heartbeat Richard FrancisEpisode: "Wall of Silence"
1993 The Bill Paul JeffriesEpisode: "Blind Spot"
1993 Men of the World Kendle BainsSeries 1–2. Credited as Season 1 title song singer, together with David Threlfall.
1994 A Pinch of Snuff Clint Heppelwhite3 episodes
1994 Screen One CecilEpisode: "Meat"
1995 Chiller Gary KingstonEpisode: "Here Comes the Mirror Man"
1995 Cracker Bill NashEpisode: "Best Boys"
1997 The Locksmith [20] Paul3 episodes
1997–1999 The Lakes Danny KavanaghSeries 1–2
2000 Forgive and Forget Theo
2000 Clocking Off Stuart LeachEpisode: "The Leaches' Story"
2000 Meet Ricky Gervais HimselfEpisode 6
2000 Never Never John Parlour2 episodes
2001 Spaced Stephen EdwardsEpisode: "Back"
2002Magic HourAlex
2002 Crime & Punishment Raskolnikov2 episodes
2002 White Teeth Mr. HeroEpisode: "The Peculiar Second Marriage of Archie Jones"
2003 State of Play Cal McCaffrey6 episodes
2003 The Canterbury Tales AceEpisode: "The Knight's Tale"
2003Play Like ChampionsNarrator
2004Monkey TrousersVarious
2004 Sex Traffic Daniel Appleton2 episodes
2006–2007 Life on Mars Sam Tyler Series 1–2. Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor
2007The Yellow House Vincent van Gogh
2007, 2009–2010, 2017 [13] Doctor Who The Master 7 episodes
2008 The Devil's Whore Edward Sexby4 episodes
2010 Moving On Moose / MikeEpisode: "Malaise"
2011 Exile Tom Ronstadt3 episodes. Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor
2011–2013 Mad Dogs Lloyd Baxter14 episodes
2013–2014 The Village John Middleton12 episodes
2014 Prey DS Marcus Farrow3 episodes. Royal Television Society North West Award for "Best Male Performance"
2014 Intruders Jack Whelan8 episodes
2015 Code of a Killer Alec Jeffreys2 episodes
2015 Toast of London HimselfEpisode: "Global Warming"
2016–2017 The Catch Rhys GriffithsSeasons 1–2
2018TraumaDan Bowker3 episodes
2018 Collateral David Mars4 episodes
2018 Strangers Jonah Mulray8 episodes
2020 Cold Courage Arthur Fried8 episodes
2021– Grace DSU Roy GraceUpcoming series based on the novels by Peter James, 2 feature-length TV films


1996Goldhawk RoadColin Bush Theatre
2007 Elling Elling Bush Theatre
Trafalgar Studios 1
2009Speaking in TonguesLeon [21] Duke of York's Theatre
2010 Hamlet Hamlet [22] Crucible Theatre
2012 Betrayal Jerry [10] Crucible Theatre
2013 The Hothouse Gibbs Trafalgar Studios
2015 Three Days in the Country Rakitin National Theatre, London (Lyttelton auditorium)
2015 The Homecoming Lenny Trafalgar Studios
2018Party Time / Celebration Harold Pinter Theatre – Pinter at the Pinter Season
2019 Macbeth Macbeth [23] Chichester Festival Theatre (September/October 2019)

Music videos

2002 Here to Stay New Order Bernard Sumner Closing track from the movie 24 Hour Party People
2009So Low Matt Berry Album: Witchazel
2013Some Better Day I Am Kloot Album: Let It All In
2019God Has Taken A Vacation The Leisure Society Album: Arrivals & Departures



2006Dated and SexistMagic AlexGuitar and backing vocals


2003 "Sliding" Ian McCulloch Guitar
2015"Older" / "Outside"Magic AlexGuitar and backing vocals

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  17. "John Simm to star in adaptation of Peter James' Grace for ITV". Radio Times . Retrieved 4 August 2020.
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