Better cast: Leila Farzad, Andrew Buchan and all the stars in the new BBC One thriller

Meet the cast of Better, BBC One’s new thriller set in West Yorkshire’s criminal underworld.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 14 February 2023 - 5.27pm

From the creators of This Is Going To Hurt and Chernobyl, new five-part crime thriller Better is here to fill a Happy Valley void in your life on Monday nights,

The series stars Leila Farzad (I Hate Suzie) and Andrew Buchan (Broadchurch) as the two leads in a complex and powerful story about loyalty, morality, and the human conscience.

Written by Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent (Humans, Spooks), the series is set in Leeds and follows a police officer and dangerous criminal boss, whose lives have been intertwined for 19 years.

Where is Better filmed? The locations guide

What is the Better release date?

Leila Farzad as Lou in Better BBC

Better is released on BBC One and iPlayer on Monday 13 February.

How many episodes of Better are there?

There are 5 episodes of Better on BBC One.

All 5 will be available to stream on iPlayer from launch.

What is Better about?

Leila Farzad and Andrew Buchan BBC

Better is the story of DI Lou Slack's (Leila Farzad) battle towards redemption, by bringing down Col McHugh (Andrew Buchan).

The pair have been connected for 19 years since Lou helped place Col at the top of the pile, making him rich and powerful and helping Lou shift her faltering career.

When Lou's family are brought to the brink of tragedy, she is forced to reckon with her slide into corruption and has an opportunity for a second chance at making a better life.

"It is about good and bad. It is the exploration of a bad person trying to become good and how difficult that is," said co-creator Sam Vincent.

"And if that's even possible, really, and what good and bad means, how people feel about themselves in different ways. We've come at the theme of morality from every way we possibly can in this world"

The writer and producer added: "Better is absolutely not a police procedural, certainly not a whodunit, because the person who 'done it' is the hero.

"They are in one person and that's very clear from the first moment. It really is about exploring who she is, why she did these things and how she's going to turn back if she can."

Better cast list

  • Leila Farzad – Plays DI Lou Slac
  • Andrew Buchan – Plays Col McHugh
  • Samuel Edward-Cook – Plays Ceri
  • Zak Ford-Williams – Plays Owen
  • Olivia Nakintu – Plays Esther
  • Anton Lesser – Plays Vernon
  • Lucy Black – Plays Sandy
  • Ceallach Spellman – Plays Donal
  • Garry Cooper – Plays Bulgey
  • Mark Monero – Plays Lord Roy
  • Kaya Moore – Plays Noel
  • Carolin Stoltz – Plays Alma
  • Gavin Spokes – Plays Phil
  • Julie Edwards – Plays Lynne
  • Juande Khan – Plays DS Khan
  • Anthony Lewis – Plays DC Ibbotson
  • Souad Faress – Plays Zaara Slack
  • Mor Bar-El – Plays Artem
  • Charley Webb – Plays Elise
  • Kate Rutter – Plays Juliet
  • Joseph Steyn – Plays Joelon
  • Tillie Amartey – Plays Jade
  • Diyar Bozkurt – Plays Mahmet

Leila Farzad plays DI Lou Slack

Leila Farzad as Lou in Better BBC

Where have you seen her before?

I Hate Suzie, The Fear Index.

Leila on Lou

"I found the character of Lou to be a brilliant, well-rounded woman, written with humour, wit, and humanity, which isn't always the case.

"Lou is incredibly complex because she has a completely ruthless, callous side to her. But she's also a loving mother, a loving wife, and a loving friend, and is incredibly bright and good at her job. But she's also a deceitful, manipulative, morally corrupt woman. So, she's multi-layered, I would say."

Andrew Buchan plays Col McHugh

Andrew Buchan as Col in Better BBC

Where have you seen him before?

Broadchurch, This England, The Honourable Woman.

Andrew Buchan on Col

"Col McHugh is a very complex, flawed individual, who has had a childhood littered with deprivation and humiliation. He's been raised by an alcoholic father which has thrown fuel on his fire and given him a drive in life, because he doesn't want to become his dad.

"So that's what propels him forward; this reluctance to emulate or become part of the circle of his family.

"I found him brilliantly challenging to play, and complex and difficult.

"At the beginning of our story, we find him running on empty because of certain family trauma. But he'd never really confessed that to anyone, and he's never faced up to that."

Samuel Edward-Cook plays Ceri 

Samuel Edward-Cook plays Ceri BBC

Where have you seen him before?

Peaky Blinders, Emmerdale, Pure

Samuel Edward-Cook on Ceri

"Ceri is Lou’s husband. They are childhood sweethearts and have been married for a long time and they have a son called Owen, who is 17 now. Ceri has his own business, he works construction, and he is very much privy to Lou’s other life and the work she does outside of her working hours, and we watch Ceri try to manoeuvre the family through the effects of Lou’s other career.

"Ceri goes on a real journey and emotional rollercoaster throughout this series. He is very happily married when we meet him, with a beautiful son and a lovely home and he owns a business. On the outside everything looks great, however, certain events throughout the series take Ceri to quite dark places and he really goes through some serious highs and lows.

"You see him trying to hold his family together and going through very vulnerable moments at times, and as an actor that’s exactly what you want."

Zak Ford-Williams plays Owen

Zak Ford-Williams as Owen in Better BBC

Where have you seen him before?


Zak Ford-Williams on Owen

"Better is a modern-day morality tale that centres around my character's mother, played by Leila Farzad, who has been a corrupt police detective for about 20 years, and there is a tragic event early on that propels Lou to suddenly decides to become a better person, leaving her old ways behind.

"Owen's journey is one of self-acceptance. Owen is at a time of his life that a lot of us are familiar with, a time where you're still finding yourself and exploring who you are and how other people view you and you've got all this anxiety. Then something happens, which changes Owen’s physical self quite dramatically and this is at a time in his life where he's already worried about how he's perceived and what he looks like and what people think of him.

"It can be very difficult, and I feel like it's a journey of finding yourself, of self-acceptance and dealing with a new version of yourself."

Anton Lesser plays Vernon

Anton Lesser as Vernon BBC

Where have you seen him before?

Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall, The Crown, Star Wars: Andor

Anton Lesser on Vernon

"Vernon is a bent ex-detective. Throughout his whole career, he was up for sale for anybody, for anything and he avoided going to prison by doing a deal. His life has been, in his own estimation, a complete waste.

"He's lost his career. He's lost his wife. He's lost his house. He's lost friends. And the arrival of Lou Slack (Leila Farzad), in a way, gives Vernon the opportunity to do one redeeming act and make sense of an otherwise very senseless life.

"When he served as a detective, Vernon was in the same unit as Lou’s father, who was somewhat of a hero to her. However, through Lou’s interaction with Vernon, we get a different picture of this man. Vernon's perspective of him was of a vain cop whose greatest talent was to take credit for other people's hard work.

"Vernon had no time for this man, and so it's an ironic coincidence that his daughter now comes to Vernon for help."

Ceallach Spellman plays Donal McHugh

Ceallach Spellman plays Donal McHugh in Better BBC

Where have you seen him before?

Cold Feet, Cucumber, White Lines, Waterloo Road

Ceallach Spellman on Donal

"When we meet Donal, he's this lad that's trying to find his way in the world. You meet him at quite an interesting point where he's still in a state of grief because he's lost someone close to him and that is coupled with existing and being brought up in his dad's world. Not many people get brought up with their dad running an illegal empire, which adds to the pressure of him trying to live up to his dad's expectations.

"He knows, and the audience will see it too, that he's probably not like his dad deep down, but he doesn't know anything else. Interestingly, it’s his relationship with Owen (Zak Ford Williams), Lou's son, that brings up all these parts of him.

"I don't think he's had many friends because he's only ever existed in the world that his dad built, and his dad's got to where he is by being very private, very secretive and as a result Donal has been very isolated. Owen allows him to just exist in the real world for the first time."

How to watch Better

Better is released on BBC One and iPlayer on Monday 13 February.

New episodes will air weekly on BBC One and the full boxset will be available to stream from launch on iPlayer.