In Spotlight: John Simm’s best movies and TV shows – from Life On Mars to Grace

John Simm is one of the UK’s best-known actors, with a career spanning nearly 30 years. As he brings Peter James' detective Roy Grace to the small screen, we highlight his best roles to date.

By Becky Gamester-Newton Published: 11 March 2021 - 10.54am
Getty/ITV John Simm

John Simm is a familiar face to fans of TV dramas.

He has twice been nominated for a Bafta – for his roles in Life on Mars and Exile – and has regularly been in work since his first TV appearance on Rumpole of the Bailey back in 1992.

As he prepares to bring Peter James' Brighton-based detective Roy Grace to life on the small screen, we take a look at his best TV roles to date.

The Lakes

John Simm Getty

John had his first leading role in Jimmy McGovern's 1997 drama The Lakes. He played Danny Kavanagh, a hotel porter who escaped the dole queues in Liverpool to live in the Lake District.

The series was critically acclaimed, although its sex scenes and the questionable morals depicted caused some controversy.

The Lakes is currently unavailable on streaming platforms.

State of Play

This BBC drama was so well received in 2003 that it spawned a film of the same name, starring Russell Crowe.

The series tells the story of a newspaper investigating a political researcher’s death, with John playing the leading journalist, Cal McCaffrey.

State of Play is available to buy on Amazon Prime Video.

24 Hour Party People

This iconic film, released in 2002, explores the music scene in Manchester between the mid 70s and early 90s, with John playing Bernard Sumner, the bassist in New Order and Joy Division.

Steve Coogan, John Thomson, Shirley Henderson, Paddy Considine, Lennie James, Andy Serkis and Ralf Little are just some names from an astonishing cast list.

24 Hour Party People is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Life On Mars

Perhaps John’s best-known work, Life on Mars, sees him star as Sam Tyler – a police officer who is propelled from 2006 back to 1973 after being hit by a car.

With a killer soundtrack and stellar performances, the show twice won the International Emmy Award for Best Drama Series and spawned a sequel, Ashes to Ashes, starring Keeley Hawes. A third series of Life On Mars is currently being planned.

Series 1 and 2 of Life on Mars are available on Netflix and BBC iPlayer.

Doctor Who

John was picked by Russell T Davis to play The Doctor’s nemesis The Master in this iconic BBC series.

His original casting announcement was seemingly underplayed – he was said to be playing Mr Saxon, who was later revealed to be an alias of The Master.

The first 26 series of Doctor Who – from 1963 to 1996 – are available on BritBox.

The latest 12 series of Doctor Who are available on BBC iPlayer.

Grace

John stars as DS Roy Grace in this TV adaptation of Peter James’s bestselling novels.

The films were made in 2020 – despite the cast and crew having to work within strict Covid restrictions.

Grace: Cast, plot and filming locations

Watch the first Grace film at 8pm on ITV on Sunday, March 14.

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