John Simm

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John Simm
John Simm cropped.jpg
Simm at the European premiere of The Dark Knight in 2008
Born(1970-07-10) 10 July 1970 (age 44)
Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
Years active1992–present
Spouse(s)Kate Magowan
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For the professional footballer of the 1950s, see Johnny Simm.
John Simm
John Simm cropped.jpg
Simm at the European premiere of The Dark Knight in 2008
Born(1970-07-10) 10 July 1970 (age 44)
Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
Years active1992–present
Spouse(s)Kate Magowan

John Ronald Simm[1] (born 10 July 1970) is an English actor. He is best known for his roles as Sam Tyler in Life on Mars and the Master in Doctor Who. He has starred in television dramas such as Cracker, The Lakes, Sex Traffic, State of Play, Crime and Punishment, and Exile. He has been nominated twice for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor and is a Laurence Olivier Award nominee. He has appeared in films such as Wonderland, Human Traffic, and 24 Hour Party People. In 2010, he played Hamlet at the Crucible Theatre.

Early life[edit]

The eldest of three children, Simm was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire; but the family moved to Lancashire when he was two years old. He grew up in a series of places around the northwest, including Blackpool, Burnley, Colne, and Manchester and attended school at Edge End High School in Nelson. His father, Ronald, 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.

In 1986, Simm enrolled at the 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 didn't 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 and graduated in 1992.


Independently of his acting, throughout the 1990s, 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, a lovestruck schoolboy 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 for 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 2001, he played Oz in a Caleb Lindsay film, Understanding Jane.

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 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] He left after the second series, feeling that he had taken the role as far as he could.

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". He reprised the role in the 2009 two-part special The End of Time.[7][8] 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 director Michael Winterbottom called Everyday, to be filmed in real time over five years. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2012, and is 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] The production was a sellout and broke box office records for the theatre.[citation needed]

In 2011, Simm starred in Mad Dogs on Sky1. Simm plays Baxter in a 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. Mad Dogs 2 was shot in Mallorca and Ibiza in late 2011, and appeared on Sky 1 in January 2012, the same time as Mad Dogs 3 was being shot in South Africa. On BBC One in May 2011, Simm starred as Tom Rondstadt in Exile. 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 plays John Middleton in The Village, a 6-part BBC drama which portrays life in a Derbyshire village during World War I.[12] From May to August 2013, he returned to Trafalgar Studios in London's West End to star in a new production of Harold Pinter's The Hothouse. The final instalment of Mad Dogs aired in January 2014, and Simm 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.

In February 2014, Simm began filming the BBC America eight-parter Intruders in Vancouver. He plays ex-LAPD officer Jack Whelan. The series is due to air in August 2014. In addition to this, he is shooting the second season of The Village in Derbyshire.

Personal life[edit]

In April 2004, Simm married actress Kate Magowan in the Forest of Dean; they have a son and a daughter.[13] He is a supporter of Manchester United.[14]



1995Boston KickoutPhil
1999Human TrafficJip
2001Understanding JaneOz
200224 Hour Party PeopleBernard
2002Crime & PunishmentRaskolnikovTelevision film
2005Blue/OrangeDr. Bruce Flaherty
2009SkelligDaveTelevision film
2012EverydayIanFilmed in real-time over five years


1992Rumpole of the BaileyJoby JonsonEpisode: "Rumpole and the Reform of Joby Jonson"
1993OasisPosh Robert7 episodes
1993HeartbeatRichard FrancisEpisode: "Wall of Silence"
1993The BillPaul JeffriesEpisode: "Blind Spot"
1993Men of the WorldKendle BainsSeries 1–2
1994A Pinch of SnuffClint Heppelwhite
1995ChillerGary KingstonEpisode: "Here Comes the Mirror Man"
1995CrackerBill NashEpisode: "Best Boys"
1997The LocksmithPaul
1997–1999The LakesDanny KavanaghSeries 1–2
2000Forgive and ForgetTheo
2000Clocking OffStuart LeachEpisode: "The Leaches' Story"
2000Meet Ricky GervaisHimselfEpisode 6
2000Never NeverJohn Parlour
2001SpacedStephen EdwardsEpisode: "Back"
2002Magic HourAlex
2002White TeethMr. HeroCameo
2003State of PlayCal McCaffrey6 episodes
2003The Canterbury TalesAceThe Knight's Tale
2004The All Star Comedy ShowVarious characters
2004LondonFriedrich Engels
2004Sex TrafficDaniel Appleton
2006–2007Life on MarsSam TylerNominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor
2007The Yellow HouseVincent van Gogh
2007–2010Doctor WhoHarold Saxon / The Master5 episodes
2008The Devil's WhoreEdward Sexby
2010Moving OnMoose / MikeEpisode: "Malaise"
2011ExileTom RonstadtNominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor
2011–2013Mad DogsBaxter14 episodes
2012Wartime FarmNarrator4 episodes
2013–presentThe VillageJohn Middleton12 episodes
2014PreyDS Marcus Farrow3 episodes
2014IntrudersJack Whelan8 episodes


1996Goldhawk RoadColinBush Theatre
2007EllingEllingBush Theatre
Trafalgar Studios 1
2009Speaking in TonguesLeon[15]Duke of York's Theatre
2010HamletHamlet[16]Crucible Theatre
2012BetrayalJerry[10]Crucible Theatre
2013The HothouseGibbsTrafalgar Studios


  1. ^ "Search general register office (GRO)birth records 1761-2006 | Fully indexed birth records". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  2. ^ "John Simm: Clocks and robbers". Total SciFi. 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  3. ^ "Best Boys" at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ "Victoria Wood scoops Bafta double". BBC News Online. 2007-05-20. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  5. ^ "Talkback Thames news release". Talkback Thames. 2006-11-15. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  6. ^ "John Simm: The time of his life". London: Independent on Sunday. 11 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  7. ^ Lewinski, John Scott (4 April 2009). "Simm Returns as The Master in Doctor Who". Wired News. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  8. ^ Colville, Robert (11 April 2009). "Russell T Davies Doctor Who interview: full transcript". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  9. ^ John Simm on playing Hamlet Daily Telegraph , 14th Sept 2010
  10. ^ a b Made Media Ltd (2012-06-09). "Betrayal at Sheffield Theatres". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  11. ^ "London Theatre News, Reviews, Interviews and more". WhatsOnStage. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  12. ^ "The Village Press Pack", BBC Press Office, 19 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  13. ^ Life On Mars star John Simm takes the stage to be near his children
  14. ^ The Mad Dogs star sits down to reveal his Red credentials, recall bygone eras and cast his vote for United's Player of the Year award...
  15. ^ "Speaking in Tongues, Duke of York's Theatre, London", The Independent
  16. ^ [1], The Independent 23 September 2010. Retrieved on 27 September 2010.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Derek Jacobi
The Master actor
from Doctor Who

2007 - 2010
Succeeded by
Michelle Gomez
as The Mistress