Samuel West

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Samuel West
West in 2014
Samuel Alexander Joseph West

(1966-06-19) 19 June 1966 (age 57)
  • Actor
  • theatre director
  • narrator
Years active1975–present
PartnerLaura Wade
Parent(s)Timothy West
Prunella Scales
RelativesLockwood West (grandfather)

Samuel Alexander Joseph West (born 19 June 1966) is an English actor, theatre director and narrator. He has directed on stage and radio, and worked as an actor in theatre, film, television, and radio.[2] He has appeared as reciter with orchestras and performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2002.[3] He has narrated several documentary series, including five for the BBC about the Second World War.

He stars as Siegfried Farnon in the Channel 5 remake of the veterinary drama series All Creatures Great and Small.

Early life and education[edit]

Samuel Alexander Joseph West[4] was born on 19 June 1966[5] in Hammersmith, London, the elder son of the actress Prunella Scales and the actor Timothy West, and the grandson of the actor Lockwood West.[6][7] He has one brother, Joe.

He was educated at Alleyn's School[8] and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where he studied English literature[9][7] and was president of the Experimental Theatre Club.[10] West originally intended to attend Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, but chose instead to focus on his career after he was cast as King Caspian in the BBC's 1989 series The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.[11]



West made his London stage debut in February 1989 at the Orange Tree Theatre, playing Michael in Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles,[12] of which critic John Thaxter wrote: "He invests the role with a warmth and validity that silences sniggers that could so easily greet a lesser performance of this difficult role, and he lets us share the tumbling emotions of a juvenile torn between romantic first love and filial duty."[13] Since then, West has appeared frequently on stage; he played Valentine in the first production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia at the National Theatre in 1993,[14] and later spent two seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company playing the title roles in Richard II and Hamlet, both directed by Steven Pimlott.[15][16]

In 2002, West made his stage directorial debut with The Lady's Not for Burning at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester.[17] He succeeded Michael Grandage as artistic director of Sheffield Theatres from 2005 to 2007.[17][18] During his time as artistic director, West revived the controversial The Romans in Britain,[19] and also directed As You Like It as part of the RSC's Complete Works Festival.[20][21] West left Sheffield when the theatre closed for refurbishment in 2007, and made his West End directorial debut with the first major revival of Dealer's Choice following its transferral to the Trafalgar Studios.[22] He also continued his acting career: in 2007 he appeared alongside Toby Stephens and Dervla Kirwan in Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse.[23]

In 2008, he played Harry in the Donmar revival of T. S. Eliot's Family Reunion,[24] and in 2009 he starred as Jeffrey Skilling in Enron by Lucy Prebble.[25] His 2008 production of Waste at the Almeida Theatre was chosen by The Times as one of its "Productions of the Decade".[26] From November 2012 to January 2013, he appeared as Astrov in a production of Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre.[27] He played Ivanov and Trigorin in the Chichester Festival Theatre's Young Chekhov Season from September 2015, alongside Nina Sosanya, Anna Chancellor, and James McArdle.[28][29]


West at the London Film Festival screening of Hyde Park on Hudson in 2012

West appeared in the film Reunion (1989) with Jason Robards and Christien Anholt as an aristocratic boy who befriends the son of a Jewish doctor in 1930's Germany. West played the lower-middle-class clerk Leonard Bast in the Merchant Ivory film adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel Howards End (1992), featuring Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anthony Hopkins. For this role, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the 1993 BAFTA Film Awards.[30] West appeared with Thompson again in the film Carrington (1995).[citation needed]

His film career has continued with roles in films such as Franco Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre, Notting Hill, Iris, Van Helsing and Darkest Hour. In 2004, he appeared in the year's highest rated mini-series on German television, Die Nibelungen, which was released in the United States in 2006 as Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King. In 2012, he played King George VI in Hyde Park on Hudson.[citation needed]


West has appeared in many long-running series: Midsomer Murders, Waking the Dead and Poirot, as well as one-off dramas. He played Anthony Blunt in Cambridge Spies, a BBC production about the four British spies, starring alongside Toby Stephens (Philby), Tom Hollander (Burgess) and Rupert Penry-Jones (Maclean). He reprised his role as Blunt in "Olding", the premiere episode of the third season of The Crown released in 2019.[31]

In 2006, West took the lead role in a BBC production of Random Quest adapted from the short story by John Wyndham and the next year played Edward Heath in Margaret Thatcher – The Long Walk to Finchley, also for the BBC. In 2010 he played Peter Scabius in the televised adaptation of William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart, while in 2011 he starred as Zak Gist in the ITV series Eternal Law. In addition, he appeared in the BBC sitcom As Time Goes By, as Terry in the episode "We'll Always Have Paris" (1994).[citation needed]

He played Frank Edwards in the ITV drama Mr Selfridge, and Sir Walter Pole in the 2015 BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.[citation needed]

He stars in the Channel Five series (broadcast in September 2020) All Creatures Great and Small as Siegfried Farnon. A second six-episode series and Christmas special was broadcast in 2021, followed by a third season airing in late 2022.[citation needed]


West is regularly heard on radio as a reader or reciter and has performed in many radio dramas, including Otherkin by Laura Wade, Present Laughter by Noël Coward,[32] Len Deighton's Bomber, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, Michael Frayn's Here, The Meaning of Zong by Giles Terera and The Homecoming as Lenny to Harold Pinter's Max.[33] In 2011, he made his radio directing debut with a production of Money[34] by Edward Bulwer-Lytton on BBC Radio 3.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

West has appeared alongside his actor parents on several occasions: with his mother Prunella Scales in Howards End and Stiff Upper Lips, and with his father Timothy West on stage in A Number, Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2. In two films (Iris in 2001 and the 1996 television film Over Here), Sam and his father played the same character at different ages.

West in 2010

In Edward the Seventh (1975), he and his brother Joseph played young sons of the title character, who was played by their father.[35] In 2002, all three family members performed in Stravinsky's The Soldiers Tale at the St Magnus Festival on Orkney,[36] and in 2006 they gave a rehearsed reading of the Harold Pinter play Family Voices as part of the Sheffield Theatres Pinter season.[37]

West became the patron of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus in February 2008, having been the narrator for a concert of theirs in February 2002.[38] He is also a patron of London children's charity Scene & Heard,[39] Eastside Educational Trust and Mousetrap Theatre Projects.

While at university, West was a member of the Socialist Workers Party,[7] and later briefly the Socialist Alliance.[4] West was an outspoken critic of the New Labour government of Tony Blair and their involvement in the Iraq War.[40] On 26 March 2011, he spoke at the TUC March for the Alternative.[41]

West has written essays on Richard II for the Cambridge University Press series Players of Shakespeare,[42] on Hamlet for Michael Dobson's CUP study Performing Shakespeare's Tragedies Today[43] and on Shakespeare and Love[44] and Voice and Radio[45] for BBC Radio 3.

He has also published articles on Harold Pinter,[46][47] Caryl Churchill[48] and the Shipping Forecast.[49] He frequently writes and speaks in public about arts funding.[50] West has collected stamps since childhood and owns more than 200 Two Shilling Blues.[7]

In 2013, he was one of the judges for the Forward Prizes for Poetry. In December 2014, he appeared on two programmes for Christmas University Challenge,[51] as part of a team of alumni from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

West is an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company[52] and a trustee and previous Chair of the Campaign for the Arts.[7] He was a member of the council of the British Actors' Union Equity from 1996 to 2000 and 2008–2014.[53] He is a keen birdwatcher.[54]

In 2007, West began living with playwright Laura Wade,[1] but in 2011 the couple temporarily split up.[6][55] In 2013, West was cast in a minor role in The Riot Club, the film version of Wade's successful play, Posh, and in 2014 the couple had a daughter.[56][7] In August 2017, the couple had a second daughter.[57]

West is a supporter of AFC Wimbledon.[58]



Year Film Role Notes
1989 Reunion Count Konradin von Lohenburg
1992 Howards End Leonard Bast Nominated for BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
1993 Archipel Alan Stewart In French
1994 Open Fire Steven Waldorf
1995 A Feast at Midnight Chef
The Vacillations of Poppy Carew Victor TV movie
Carrington Gerald Brenan
Persuasion Mr. Elliot
Zoya Nicolai TV movie, as Sam West
Heavy Weather 'Monty' Bodkin TV movie
1996 Jane Eyre St. John Rivers
1997 The Ripper Prince Albert Victor Edward TV movie
1998 Stiff Upper Lips Edward
Rupert's Land Rupert McKay Nominated for Genie Award for Best Actor
The Dance of Shiva Lt. Davis Short film
1999 Notting Hill Anna's Co-Star As Sam West
Runt Pork Short film
2000 Bread and Roses as himself (cameo)
Complicity Neil
Bring Me Your Love Doctor Jensen Short film
Pandaemonium Robert Southey
2001 Iris Young Maurice As Sam West
2002 Shrink George Short film
2003 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure Pongo Voice only
2004 Van Helsing Dr. Victor Frankenstein
Curse of the Ring King Gunther TV movie
2006 Random Quest Colin Trafford TV movie
2008 The Long Walk to Finchley Ted Heath TV movie
2009 Albert Schweitzer [de] Phil Figgis
2010 Dark Relic Friar George TV movie
2012 Hyde Park on Hudson King George VI
2014 The Riot Club Tutor
2015 Suffragette Benedict
The Eichmann Show Narrator TV movie
2017 On Chesil Beach Geoffrey Ponting
2017 Darkest Hour Sir Anthony Eden
2019 The Gentlemen Lord Pressfield


Year Title Role Notes
1975 Edward the Seventh Albert Victor 'Eddy' – Aged 5 Episode 6: "The Invisible Queen"
1981 Nanny James Lamerton Series 1, Episode 6: "Goats and Tigers"
1985 Screen Two Johnnie Mallett Series 2, Episode 4: "Frankie and Johnnie"
1989 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader King Caspian
1991 Stanley and the Women Stephen Duke
1993 Screen Two Mark Series 9, Episode 8: "Voices in the Garden"
The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries Donald Potter Series 1, Episode 5: "Death in a White Tie"
Performance Jack Maitland Series 3, Episode 2: "The Maitlands"
Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time Cyrian As Sam West
1994 As Time Goes By Terry Series 3, Episode 1: "We'll Always Have Paris", as Sam West
Screen One Lt. Charles Thoroughgood Series 6, Episode 2: "A Breed of Heroes"
1996 Strangers Simon Series 1, Episode 10: "Costumes"
Over Here Archie Bunting
1997 The Nazis: A Warning from History Narrator
1999 Hornblower Major Edrington Series 1, Episode 4: "The Frogs and the Lobsters"
The Planets Narrator
Living Britain Narrator
War of the Century: When Hitler Fought Stalin Narrator
2000 Longitude Nevil Maskelyne
2001 Horror in the East Narrator
2001–2002 Timewatch Narrator
2002 Waking the Dead Thomas Rice Series 1, Episodes 1–2: "Life Sentence"
2002–2006 The Private Life of a Masterpiece Narrator
2003 Cambridge Spies Anthony Blunt
Imagine Wightwick Series 2, Episode 3: "Entertaining Mr. Soane"
2004 Foyle's War Lt. Col. James Wintringham Series 3, Episode 1: "The French Drop"
2005 Nova Humphry Davy Series 33, Episode 3: "E=mc²: Einstein's Big Idea"
Auschwitz: The Nazis and 'The Final Solution' Narrator
2006 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Tony Wainwright Series 5, Episode 3: "Chinese Walls"
2007 Midsomer Murders Jeremy Thacker Series 10, Episode 2: "The Animal Within"
2008 World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West Narrator
2009 New Tricks David Fleeting Series 6, Episode 3: "Fresh Starts"
Desperate Romantics Lord Rosterley Series 1, Episode 4
2010 Garrow's Law Thomas Erskine Series 2, Episode 4
Any Human Heart Peter Scabius Series 1, Episodes 1–4
Agatha Christie's Poirot Dr Constantine Series 12, Episode 3: "Murder on the Orient Express"
2011 Law & Order: UK Lucas Boyd Series 5, Episode 5: "Intent"
2012 Eternal Law Zak Gist
2012–15 Mr Selfridge Frank Edwards Character based on journalist and publisher Frank Harris
2014 Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond Admiral John Godfrey Character was Ian Fleming's model for "M"
The Crimson Field Elliot Vincent Series 1, Episode 4
2015 W1A Richard Cartwright Series 2, Episode 1
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Sir Walter Pole
2016 The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses Bishop of Winchester Henry VI Part 1
2017 Midsomer Murders James Oswood Episode: "Death by Persuasion"
2019 The Crown Anthony Blunt Season 3, episode 1 "Olding"
2020 Death in Paradise Donald McCormack Series 9, Episode 1
2020– All Creatures Great and Small Siegfried Farnon
2022 Slow Horses Peter Judd Recurring cast
2022 The Midwich Cuckoos Bernard Westcott Series 1, Episodes 2, 4-7

West narrated the Yorkshire Television documentary The SS in Britain for director Julian Hendy in 1999,[59] and considering his role in the ITV drama series Mr Selfridge, he was the voiceover for Secrets of Selfridges (PBS) in 2014.






Audiobooks, reciting and work with musicians[edit]

West has recorded over one hundred audiobooks, among which are the Shakespeare plays All's Well That Ends Well, Coriolanus, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II and Macbeth (directed by Steven Berkoff), the complete Inspector Morse novels by Colin Dexter, the Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson (The Wind Singer, Slaves of the Mastery and Firesong), the Arthur trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland (The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing Places and King of the Middle March), five books by Sebastian Faulks (Charlotte Gray, Birdsong, The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Human Traces and A Possible Life), four by Michael Ridpath (Trading Reality, Final Venture, Free to Trade, and The Marketmaker), two by George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four and Homage to Catalonia), two by Mary Wesley (An Imaginative Experience and Part of the Furniture), two by Robert Goddard (Closed Circle and In Pale Battalions) and several compilations of poetry (Realms of Gold: Letters and Poems of John Keats, Bright Star, The Collected Works of Shelley, Seven Ages, Great Narrative Poems of the Romantic Age and A Shropshire Lad). Also Faust, Bomber, Doctor Who: The Vengeance of Morbius, Empire of the Sun, Brighton Rock, Fair Stood the Wind for France, Fluke, Great Speeches in History, How Proust Can Change Your Life, Lady Windermere's Fan, Peter Pan, The Alchemist, The Day of the Triffids, The Hairy Hands, The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, The Queen's Man, The Solitaire Mystery, The Swimming Pool Library, The Two Destinies, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Way I Found Her, The Way to Dusty Death, The Woodlanders, Under the Net, Wuthering Heights and Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales for Young and Old.

In June 2012, West recorded an English narration of The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My by Tove Jansson for an interactive audiobook developed by Spinfy and published by Sort of Books.

In May 2015, West's reading of Brighton Rock was chosen as one of "The 20 best audiobooks of all time" by Carole Mansur of the Daily Telegraph.[63]

As a reciter West has worked with all the major British orchestras, as well as the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Works include Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and The Soldier's Tale, Prokofiev's Eugene Onegin, Beethoven's Egmont, Schoenburg's Ode To Napoleon, Strauss' Enoch Arden, Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals, Bernstein's Kaddish, Walton's Façade and Henry V, Night Mail and The Way to the Sea by Britten and Auden, the world premieres of Concrete by Judith Weir at the Barbican and Howard Goodall's Jason and the Argonauts at the Royal Albert Hall and the UK premiere of Jonathan Harvey's final piece Weltethos at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham.[64] In 2007 West made his New York recital debut in the first performance of Little Red Violin by Anne Dudley and Steven Isserlis. In November 2010, West performed a new English translation of Grieg's complete incidental music to Ibsen's play Peer Gynt with the Southampton Philharmonic Choir at Southampton Guildhall.[65] He has performed at the Proms six times,[66] including the suite version of Henry V at the 2002 Last Night of the Proms.

He has also appeared with the Nash Ensemble, the Raphael Ensemble, The Hebrides Ensemble, Ensemble 360 and the Lindsay, Dante and Endellion Quartets at the Wigmore Hall, London. Recordings include Prokofief's Eugene Onegin with Sinfonia 21 and Edward Downes,[67] Salad Days and Walton's Henry V with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin.[68]

As a choral singer, West has participated in three Choir of London tours to Palestine: in May 2006, when he also gave poetry readings as part of the concert programme; in April 2007 when he directed The Magic Flute.[69] and in September 2013 (see below).

In 2013, the centenary year of Benjamin Britten, West narrated the Britten/Auden film score Night Mail with the Nash Ensemble at the Wigmore Hall and later added Coal Face, God's Chillun, The Peace of Britain, The Way to the Sea and The King's Stamp with the Aurora Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth and Fairfield Halls.[70] In June he played God in Britten's Noye's Fludde in Harrogate.[71] In July he appeared in a Proms Plus broadcast discussing Britten's setting of poetry. In September he toured Palestine with the Choir of London as staff director of a new opera based on Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia and sang in Britten's St Nicolas.[72] In October, he narrated the concert world premiere of Britten in America for the Hallé orchestra, which was released on CD[73] together with West's recordings of speeches to Britten's incidental music for Auden and Isherwood's play The Ascent of F6 (the disc, Britten to America, was later nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Classical Compendium).[74] He also toured a program of Britten cabaret songs and Auden poems across the UK with Ruthie Culver and the UtterJazz Quartet.[75]

In June 2013 he appeared in the video for Handyman Blues by Billy Bragg, directed by Johnny Vegas.[76]

On 14 July 2017, one month after the Grenfell Tower fire, BBC's Newshour programme invited West to read out an excerpt from a letter written by an anonymous firefighter giving a personal account of the fire scene and his inner thoughts on duty that night.

In 2020, West appeared on the album From The Ground Up: an ensemble led by Hugo Ticciati improvised over Henry Purcell chaconne bass lines while West read Shakespeare and rapper Baba Israel improvised. The album won the 2020 Gramophone Award for Best Concept Album.

Awards and nominations[edit]

As actor

As reader

Samuel West has received nine AudioFile Earphones Awards for his narration: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1996), Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie (1997), Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks (1999), The Way I Found Her by Rose Tremain (2000), The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst (2007), Faust by Goethe (2011), A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman (2011), A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks (2012) and Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales for Young and Old (2013)[77]

As director


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External links[edit]