John Simm

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John Simm
John Simm (2010).jpg
Simm in 2008
John Ronald Simm

(1970-07-10) 10 July 1970 (age 50)
  • Actor
  • director
  • musician
Years active1992–present
(m. 2004)

John Ronald Simm (born 10 July 1970) is an English actor, director and musician. He has been nominated twice for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor, and is a Laurence Olivier Award nominee for Best Actor. 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 films include Wonderland, Everyday, Boston Kickout, Human Traffic and 24 Hour Party People.

Early life[edit]

The eldest of three children, Simm was born in Leeds and grew up in a series of places around North West England, including Blackpool, Burnley, Nelson, Colne, and Manchester. He attended Edge End High School, where he was inspired by drama teacher Brian Wellock. His father, Ronald, a Mancunian, was a musician; and from the age of twelve, John sang and played guitar with his father on stage in the working men's clubs.[citation needed]

In 1986, Simm enrolled at Blackpool and The Fylde College in Lytham St. Annes 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 to train at the Drama Centre London at the age of 19, where he studied Stanislavski's system of method acting. His acting teacher was Reuven Adiv, whom Simm credits as a major influence on his life. He graduated in 1992.[citation needed]


Independently of his acting, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Simm was a founding member, songwriter, and guitarist with the rock band Magic Alex[2] (named after the Beatles self-styled electronics wizard "Magic Alex" Mardas). 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. Simm 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.[3] 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 another Michael Winterbottom film, 24 Hour Party People, as New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. At a live concert in Finsbury Park that same year, Simm 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.[4]

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).[5] 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[6] and Simm was nominated for an Olivier Award for his performance.

In 2007, Simm was chosen by Russell T. Davies to play The Master, the nemesis of The Doctor in the long-running BBC series Doctor Who. He appeared in the final three episodes of series three: "Utopia", "The Sound of Drums", and "Last of the Time Lords". When originally cast in the third series of Doctor Who, 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 character he was portraying.[7] He reprised the role in the 2009 two-part special "The End of Time",[8][9] returning again in 2017, in the two part finale of series 10.[citation needed] In 2008, Simm 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.[10]

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[11] in a revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal at the Crucible Theatre.[12] He played John Middleton in The Village, a six-part BBC drama which portrays life in a Derbyshire village during World War I.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

He took the title role of Macbeth in the Chichester Festival Theatre production that ran from 21 September to 26 October 2019.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

Personal life[edit]

In April 2004, Simm married actress Kate Magowan in the Forest of Dean; they have a son and daughter.[19]

He is a supporter of Manchester United.[20]



Year Title Role Notes
1995 Boston Kickout Phil
1997 Diana & Me Neil
1999 Human Traffic Jip
1999 Wonderland Eddie
2001 Understanding Jane Oz
2002 24 Hour Party People Bernard Sumner
2002 Miranda Frank
2004 Nero Caligula
2005 Blue/Orange Dr. Bruce Flaherty
2005 Brothers of the Head Boatman
2006 Devilwood Gabriel Short film
2008 Tu£sday Silver
2009 Skellig Dave Television film
2012 Everyday Ian Filmed in real-time over five years


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Rumpole of the Bailey Joby Jonson Episode: "Rumpole and the Reform of Joby Jonson"
1993 Oasis Posh Robert 7 episodes
1993 Heartbeat Richard Francis Episode: "Wall of Silence"
1993 The Bill Paul Jeffries Episode: "Blind Spot"
1993 Men of the World Kendle Bains Series 1–2. Credited as Season 1 title song singer, together with David Threlfall.
1994 A Pinch of Snuff Clint Heppelwhite 3 episodes
1994 Screen One Cecil Episode: "Meat"
1995 Chiller Gary Kingston Episode: "Here Comes the Mirror Man"
1995 Cracker Bill Nash Episode: "Best Boys"
1997 The Locksmith[21] Paul 3 episodes
1997–1999 The Lakes Danny Kavanagh Series 1–2
2000 Forgive and Forget Theo
2000 Clocking Off Stuart Leach Episode: "The Leaches' Story"
2000 Meet Ricky Gervais Himself Episode 6
2000 Never Never John Parlour 2 episodes
2001 Spaced Stephen Edwards Episode: "Back"
2002 Magic Hour Alex
2002 Crime & Punishment Raskolnikov 2 episodes
2002 White Teeth Mr. Hero Episode: "The Peculiar Second Marriage of Archie Jones"
2003 State of Play Cal McCaffrey 6 episodes
2003 The Canterbury Tales Ace Episode: "The Knight's Tale"
2003 Play Like Champions Narrator
2004 Monkey Trousers Various
2004 Sex Traffic Daniel Appleton 2 episodes
2006–2007 Life on Mars Sam Tyler Series 1–2. Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor
2007 The Yellow House Vincent van Gogh
2007, 2009–2010, 2017[14] Doctor Who The Master 7 episodes
2008 The Devil's Whore Edward Sexby 4 episodes
2010 Moving On Moose / Mike Episode: "Malaise"
2011 Exile Tom Ronstadt 3 episodes. Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor
2011–2013 Mad Dogs Lloyd Baxter 14 episodes
2013–2014 The Village John Middleton 12 episodes
2014 Prey DS Marcus Farrow 3 episodes. Royal Television Society North West Award for "Best Male Performance"
2014 Intruders Jack Whelan 8 episodes
2015 Code of a Killer Alec Jeffreys 2 episodes
2015 Toast of London Himself Episode: "Global Warming"
2016–2017 The Catch Rhys Griffiths Seasons 1–2
2018 Trauma Dan Bowker 3 episodes
2018 Collateral David Mars 4 episodes
2018 Strangers Jonah Mulray 8 episodes
2020 Cold Courage Arthur Fried 8 episodes
2021– Grace DSU Roy Grace Upcoming series based on the novels by Peter James, 2 feature-length TV films


Year Title Role Notes
1996 Goldhawk Road Colin Bush Theatre
2007 Elling Elling Bush Theatre
Trafalgar Studios 1
2009 Speaking in Tongues Leon[22] Duke of York's Theatre
2010 Hamlet Hamlet[23] Crucible Theatre
2012 Betrayal Jerry[11] 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
2018 Party Time / Celebration Harold Pinter Theatre – Pinter at the Pinter Season
2019 Macbeth Macbeth[24] Chichester Festival Theatre (September/October 2019)

Music videos[edit]

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



Year Title Artist Role
2006 Dated and Sexist Magic Alex Guitar and backing vocals


Year Title Artist Role
2003 "Sliding" Ian McCulloch Guitar
2015 "Older" / "Outside" Magic Alex Guitar and backing vocals


  1. ^ "Interview: John Simm – on fatherhood and family". RadioTimes. 30 April 2011.
  2. ^ "John Simm: Clocks and robbers". Total SciFi. 1 February 2007. Archived from the original on 31 January 2008. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
  3. ^ "Best Boys" at IMDb
  4. ^ "Victoria Wood scoops Bafta double". BBC News Online. 20 May 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2007.
  5. ^ "Talkback Thames news release". Talkback Thames. 15 November 2006. Retrieved 5 February 2007.
  6. ^ "John Simm: The time of his life". London: Independent on Sunday. 11 February 2007. Archived from the original on 13 February 2007. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  7. ^ Rees, Jasper (17 April 2007). "Why I'm so furious with the BBC".
  8. ^ Lewinski, John Scott (4 April 2009). "Simm Returns as The Master in Doctor Who". Wired News. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  9. ^ Colville, Robert (11 April 2009). "Russell T Davies Doctor Who interview: full transcript". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  10. ^ John Simm on playing Hamlet Daily Telegraph, 14 September 2010
  11. ^ a b "Betrayal at Sheffield Theatres". 9 June 2012. Archived from the original on 9 January 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  12. ^ "London Theatre News, Reviews, Interviews and more". WhatsOnStage. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  13. ^ "The Village Press Pack", BBC Press Office, 19 March 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  14. ^ a b "John Simm to return as the Master in Doctor Who". BBC. 6 April 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  15. ^ "John Simm, Rupert Graves and Maggie Steed join Pinter at the Pinter cast". WhatsOnStage. 21 June 2018. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Macbeth". Chichester Festival Theatre. 14 February 2019. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  17. ^ "John Simm joins Big Finish for Doctor Who: Masterful – News – Big Finish". Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  18. ^ "John Simm to star in adaptation of Peter James' Grace for ITV". Radio Times. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  19. ^ "Life On Mars star John Simm takes the stage to be near his children". Archived from the original on 21 February 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Heritage, Stuart (12 November 2014). "Warren Clarke: A Life in Clips". Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  22. ^ "Speaking in Tongues, Duke of York's Theatre, London". The Independent. 1 October 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  23. ^ "First Night: Hamlet, Sheffield Crucible". The Independent. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  24. ^ "Macbeth". Chichester Festival Theatre. 14 February 2019. Retrieved 14 February 2019.

External links[edit]