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Simm in 2008
John Ronald Simm
10 July 1970
Kate Magowan (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.
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.
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 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. His acting teacher was Reuven Adiv who Simm credits as a major influence on his life. He graduated in 1992.
Independently of his acting, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Simm was a founding member, songwriter, and guitarist with the rock band Magic Alex (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. 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.
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). 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 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. He reprised the role in the 2009 two-part special "The End of Time". 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 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.
In 2011, Simm starred in Mad Dogs on Sky 1. 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 in a revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal at the Crucible Theatre. He plays John Middleton in The Village, a six-part BBC drama which portrays life in a Derbyshire village during World War I.
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. 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, British Columbia. He plays ex-LAPD officer Jack Whelan. The series aired on BBC America in August 2014. In addition to this, he completed the second season of The Village in Derbyshire.
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, he 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.
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.
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.
Next came 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 he 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.
On 13 December 2019, Simm was announced to be reprising his role as the Master again in Masterful, an audio drama series from Big Finish Productions. The series is due to be released in January 2021.
|1997||Diana & Me||Neil|
|2002||24 Hour Party People||Bernard Sumner|
|2005||Blue/Orange||Dr. Bruce Flaherty|
|2005||Brothers of the Head||Boatman|
|2012||Everyday||Ian||Filmed in real-time over five years|
|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||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||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||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||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 Spencer 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||Upcoming|
|1996||Goldhawk Road||Colin||Bush Theatre|
Trafalgar Studios 1
|2009||Speaking in Tongues||Leon||Duke of York's 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||Chichester Festival Theatre (September/October 2019)|
|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|
|2006||Dated and Sexist||Magic Alex||Guitar and backing vocals|
|2015||Older / Outside||Magic Alex||Guitar and backing vocals|