Danny Boy: Meet the cast and characters of the BBC’s thought-provoking war drama

Anthony Boyle and Toby Jones lead the cast of this BBC moral drama, which explores the expectations we place on those who are sent into war.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 12 May 2021 - 12.57pm
Drama

Toby Jones

Danny Boy

Based on the true story of young soldier Brian Wood, BBC Two’s Danny Boy is a compelling and challenging 90-minute film about the questions we place on the people who are sent into war.

Brian Wood was a young soldier, who went from medal-winning hero to alleged killer as he was accused of war crimes by human rights lawyer Phil Shiner.

Written by Robert Jones (Murder, Party Animals) and directed by Sam Miller (I May Destroy You, Luther), the drama tackles some tough questions about the balance between what soldiers face on the frontline and human rights.

Danny Boy - The true story behind the BBC drama

The film tackles the legal and moral conflict between Boyle and Shiner, which ended up in the courtroom in the Al-Sweady Inquiry. Memory, evidence and trauma collide, as Brian finds himself caught on the fine line between war and unlawful killing.

The drama is named after the Battle of Danny Boy, which took place at the Danny Boy Checkpoint between the British army and Iraqi insurgents.

Meet the cast and characters who tell the true story of Danny Boy

Brian Wood – Played by Anthony Boyle

Anthony Boyle as Brian Wood in Danny Boy BBC

“When I read Robert’s script I was immediately attracted to how he explored the grey areas in the story,” said Boyle.

“I then met with director Sam Miller and he explained his vision for the piece and it made me really want to be a part of it.

“Danny Boy is an exploration of truth. Justice. Trauma. And Toby Jones is in it, so I’d urge anyone to watch.”

Where have you seen him before?

Ordeal By Innocence, Tolkien, The Plot Against America, Derry Girls

Phil Shiner – Played by Toby Jones

Toby Jones as Phil Shiner in Danny Boy BBC

“It’s an entertaining, but emotional story,” said Jones.

“We spend a lot of our lives surrounded by unavoidable news. The perpetual nature of rolling news means there often isn’t the time to reflect upon news stories after they’ve moved into the past. We live in an ongoing present, and films like Danny Boy explore key moments and retrieve moments of our history and look at their significance in a way that ongoing, flashing news 24 hours a day does not.

“There’s a danger that we lose the moment of these things and a story like this retrieves a moment in our history and - like all the best drama - asks some unanswerable questions about what we ask of our soldiers and the armed forces, and where victory ultimately lies.

Where have you seen him before?

Captain America, Harry Potter, The Detectorists, Sherlock, Marvellous

Lucy Wood – Played by Leah McNamara

Leah McNamara as Lucy Wood in Danny Boy BBC

“I play Lucy Wood, Brian’s wife. She is a very loyal, dedicated wife and mother of two,” said McNamara.

“She is fully committed to Brian and the often difficult life that comes with being an army wife. I think she puts on a brave face in the most testing and challenging times for her family, and is the glue that holds it all together, which we see during the events of the Al Sweady Inquiry.

I had never heard of Brian’s story before I read the script, and it is such an interesting piece of recent history. The topic of army life is something I had no knowledge or experience of and I always really enjoy learning about something new.

“It’s really different to anything I’ve ever done which is always a huge plus. I am also a fan of Sam Miller’s work, so it was really exciting to see he was on board.”

Where have you seen her before?

Normal People, Metal Heart, Dublin Murders, Vikings

Patrick O’Connor – Played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Patrick O'Connor QC in Danny Boy BBC

Patrick O’Connor QC was the legal representative for Iraqi survivors and bereaved relatives of people who died on the battlefield in the Al-Sweady Inquiry.

Where have you seen him before?

Love/Hate, Frank of Ireland

Deena Aayari – Played by Kiran Sonia Sawar

Kiran Sonia Sawar as Deena Aayari in Danny Boy BBC

Sawar plays a lawyer working with Shiner at Public Interest Lawyers

Where have you seen her before?

Black Mirror, Murdered By My Father, The Nevers, Pure

Gavin Wood – Played by Alex Ferns

Alex Ferns as Gavin Wood in Danny Boy BBC
Alex Ferns (Far right)

The actor, best known for playing wife-beater Trevor in EastEnders, plays Brian’s father.

Gavin Wood was an ex-soldier.

Where have you seen him before?

Chernobyl, EastEnders, The Irregulars

How to watch Danny Boy

Danny Boy premieres on Wednesday, May 11th at 9pm on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.

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