The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe cast: Meet the characters of the new four-part series

Find out who is in the cast of the new ITV true crime drama and where you’ve seen them before.

By Alex Fletcher Updated: 14 April 2022 - 3.50pm
ITV Eddie Marsan as John Darwin

The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe is ITV’s must-watch Easter drama series, stripped across four consecutive nights, and featuring a cast of Britain's finest acting talent.

The John and Anne Darwin fake canoe death scandal from 2002 remains a compelling and extraordinary true crime story and screenwriter Chris Lang (Unforgotten) brings fresh dark humour and a modern perspective to the events 20 years on.

With Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan in the lead roles, the series tells the story from the perspective of Anne Darwin, zooming in on two very ordinary people who took an incredible and awful decision in an attempt turn their lives around.

Bringing the series to life is a phenomenal cast, many of whom you will recognise from award-winning films and TV shows.

The full cast list:

  • Anne Darwin – Monica Dolan
  • John Darwin – Eddie Marsan
  • Mark Darwin – Mark Stanley
  • Anthony Darwin – Dominic Applewhite
  • Dave Leigh – David Fynn
  • Louise – Alice Arding
  • Flick – Francesca Knight
  • Michael – Colin R Campbell
  • Nicola Finnerty – Karina Fernandez
  • DC Phil Bayley – Karl Pilkington
  • DS Paul Sapson – Andrew Lancel
  • DC June Ayoade – Lois Chimimba

The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe: What was the true story?

Monica Dolan plays Anne Darwin

Monica Dolan as Anne Darwin, the narrator and lead in ITV's The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe ITV

“I hope the series provokes debate. It’s a story about forgiveness, and that is something which very much divides people,” said Dolan.

“Look at The Winter’s Tale – people either love it or hate it because it’s about forgiveness. How do you know if someone is really sorry or not? There may very well be strong reactions to The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe – I really hope that there are.”

Talking about the Darwin’s relationship, Dolan said: “It’s an astonishingly interesting relationship between John and Anne. It’s also a series of events that is incredibly bizarre, and yet if you follow what they were trying to do, every individual event makes sense.

“The drama says something wider as well. No one is denying they were criminals, but at the same time banks were selling mortgages they shouldn’t have been selling to that couple. They were bound to get into trouble.”

She added: “One of the things I found very, very clever is that Anne is narrating the story, so there’s this whole issue of her mendacity. How true will her narration be? How much of what she is saying is genuine? It’s always very interesting to play a character who is untruthful. There is so much to play with – how much is she lying and how much are other people projecting things onto her? Every scene has been illuminating about how people from all these different bodies – the police, the family liaison unit and her legal representatives - viewed her.

“There’s so much to be played in terms of ‘how good a liar is she?’ If you’re lying badly, it makes other people look stupid, and they can’t all have been stupid in this story.

“The audience know she’s lying, and there’s no mileage in making it too obvious. Also, I don’t think John could have achieved what he did without her, and yet she inspires sympathy in people. It’s a terrific tale about an unreliable narrator.”

Where have you seen Monica Dolan before?

The Dig, Appropriate Adult, Black Mirror, W1A, Days of the Bagnold Summer

Eddie Marsan plays John Darwin

Eddie Marsan as John Darwin, disguised with a bushy beard ITV

“John tried to build a buy-to-let empire and retire early. He had delusions of grandeur. In a narcissistic way, he thought he was smarter than everyone else,” said Marsan.

“That’s why he had the cohones to try this. He thought he could outsmart everyone else. He saw other people as merely two-dimensional and thought he was the only three-dimensional person in the world. But he underestimated people’s ability to see through him.”

Talking about what he believes viewers will take away from the series, Marsan said: “I think people may come away with a bit of empathy for Anne, but less so for John.

“Especially during lockdown, lots of us have faced financial difficulty in circumstances we can’t control. What this story does is take that to an extreme. Lots of us face financial difficulties, but we don’t come up with such extraordinary solutions.”

And what would Marsan said to John if he ever met him?

“I’d say, ‘What were you thinking? That was crazy!’ But I don’t know if I’d like to meet him. He’s probably hacked off that it’s not Brad Pitt playing him. When he heard it was me, he probably thought, ‘great. Thanks a lot!’”

Where have you seen Eddie Marsan before?

Ray Donovan, Sherlock Holmes, Happy Go Lucky, The Pact, Ridley Road, Tyrannosaur, Hancock

Mark Stanley plays Mark Darwin

Mark Stanley on set as Mark Darwin in The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe ITV

Mark Stanley, who has already appeared in ITV’s smash hit thriller Trigger Point, plays one of the Darwin’s sons.

Talking about the crucial role they play in the story, executive producer David Nath said: “This is a story about what made Anne go along with this plan. It also explores how you recover from it.

“The profound and terrible nature of her betrayal of her children was very hard to repair, and yet incredibly her sons have rebuilt their relationship with their mother. It’s an extraordinary act of forgiveness.”

Where have you seen Mark Stanley before?

Trigger Point, The Bay, Sanditon, Game of Thrones, White House Farm

Dominic Applewhite plays Anthony Darwin

Dominic Applewhite as Anthony Darwin in a courtroom scene ITV

Dominic Applewhite plays the Darwin’s other son, Anthony in the series.

Discussing the significance of Anne’s relationship with Anthony and Mark, writer Chris Lang said: “When a mother does what she did to her two boys, people will have strong feelings about it and they should do. It hits a particular nerve.

“I always try to understand characters. I have a desire to empathise. It’s a story about the potency of forgiveness. The most important part of this story for me was that her sons forgave her.

“I think we see enough deeply bleakly true crime. Seeing her rebuild a relationship with her sons in a way that John Darwin didn’t, that is the most powerful part of this story. The power of forgiveness. The compassion.

“You have to try understand… good people do bad things. That’s something I look at in Unforgotten. If her sons can forgive her, then maybe we can too.”

Where have you seen Dominic Applewhite before?

The Inbetweeners, Sex Education, Overlord, Sightseers

Karl Pilkington plays DC Phil Bayley

First look at Karl Pilkington as DC Phil Bayley in ITV's The Thief, The Wife and The Canoe ITV

Comedian Karl Pilkington makes a surprise appearance in the ITV drama as one of the detectives who look into the case when John Darwin returns to the UK, claiming to be suffering from amnesia.

Best known for his comedy and podcast work with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Pilkington has moved into acting in recent years with roles in Channel 4 comedy Derek and his own Sky comedy Sick of It.

Where have you seen Karl Pilkington before?

An Idiot Abroad, Derek, The Moaning of Life, Sick of It.

The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe's begins on ITV at 9pm on Easter Sunday, 17 April.

The other three episodes will air across the following three nights 18 to 20 April.

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