In Spotlight: Jason Watkins’ 7 best movie and TV roles – from The Crown to W1A

He's played everyone from Harold Wilson to Shakespeare - that's Nativity's Mr Shakespeare. Find out where else you’ve seen the McDonald & Dodds star before in his acclaimed career.

By Becky Gamester-Newton Updated: 20 June 2022 - 10.40am
ITV/Netflix Jason Watkins in Des, McDonald & Dodds and The Crown

Jason Watkins has a diverse range of acting roles in his TV and film career, and has a Bafta to show for it.

While his lead role in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies won critical acclaim, he’s also a much-loved comedy actor who has appeared in the likes of Trollied and W1A.

As he returns to McDonald & Dodds season 3, we take a look at the actor’s best TV and movie roles.

1. Nativity! - Mr Shakespeare 

Parents and children may know Jason from his role in the much-loved Christmas comedy Nativity!, and the two films that followed.

He plays Gordon Shakespeare, head of music at private school Oakmoor – a rival to St Bernadette’s, which is the school at the centre of each movie.

Nativity! is available to stream on Netflix.

Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger! And Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?! are all available to buy on Prime Video and BT Store.

2. Trollied - Gavin Strong

Jason showcased his natural talent for comedy as supermarket manager Gavin Strong in each of the seven series of this Sky One sitcom.

Gavin, a widower, has no idea that his deputy manager Julie Cook (Jane Horrocks) is in love with him and this is often the basis for some hilarious scenes.

Stream Trollied Seasons 1 to 7 box sets on NOW.

3. W1A - Simon Harwood

W1A, a follow-up to Olympics PR spoof Twenty Twelve, sees Jason play the BBC’s director of strategic governance, Simon Harwood.

The comedy is a satire of media workplaces, and Jason expertly pokes fun at overly-positive people in meetings. As Simon would say, it’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

W1A seasons 1 to 3 are available to buy on Prime Video.

4. The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies - Christopher Jefferies

Jason stepped away from his comedy roles with this portrayal of Christopher Jefferies – and it paid off.

His performance as Jefferies, who was wrongfully arrested for the murder of Joanna Yeates and hounded by the press, won him a Bafta for Best Leading Actor. In his acceptance speech, he broke viewers’ hearts by dedicating the award to his daughter Maude, who died of sepsis when she was just two years old.

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies is available on BritBox.

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From original shows like The Dry and Hotel Portofino to the best of British comedy and drama, there's something for everyone at BritBox.

5. The Crown season 3 - Harold Wilson

Jason had the task of playing Harold Wilson in series 3 of the Netflix historical drama, which investigated rumours of the time that the Labour Prime Minister was a spy for the Soviet Union.

After a shaky start, Wilson is shown to get on well with the Queen (Olivia Colman) despite his left-wing politics.

Jason also features heavily in an episode focusing on the Aberfan coal-tip disaster, which killed 144 people including 116 children. He has since said he found the episode “very difficult” to film because of his young daughter’s death.

The Crown seasons 1 to 4 is available on Netflix.

6. Des - Brian Masters

Des is a deeply unsettling drama about serial killer Dennis Nilsen (David Tennant), in which Jason plays Nilsen's biographer Brian Masters. Masters has the unenviable task of getting under the skin of Nilsen, and was interested in the murderer’s psychology than in his heinous acts.

Brian’s love of the limelight affects his position, and he finds he has become obstructive to the police work.

Des is available on BritBox.

7. McDonald & Dodds - DS Dodds

Jason mixes his experience of crime drama and comedy in the laid-back detective series McDonald & Dodds.

As DS Dodds (we don’t know his first name), he and DCI Lauren McDonald form an unlikely duo as they solve murder cases in middle England.

McDonald is initially exasperated by her partner’s old-fashioned ways, but they prove to be more useful than first thought.

Jason brings subtle comedy to the role, while we happily sit back as he inevitably finds the clues that pick apart each case – usually in the local library.

Watch Series 3 of McDonald & Dodds on Sundays on ITV and ITV Hub. 

Watch the previous four episodes of McDonald & Dodds on ITV Hub and BritBox.