Curtain Call: David Bradley

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Chalk up another one on the Game of Thrones Satisfying Deaths of Season Six ListThe man responsible for the heinous Red Wedding and potential winner of Westeros’ Most Creepy Character Award for several years running finally learned that revenge is a dish best served in the form of a pie. Frey Pie.

Walder Frey was one of those brilliant Thrones characters that everyone loved to hate, thanks to a stunningly creepy performance from veteran actor David Bradley.  While his onscreen death was certainly satisfying, it’s a shame to have to say goodbye to one of the show’s most enduring guest stars.

From his first appearance in season one he initially seemed more of a grumpy inconvenience than a Big Bad, forcing a series of marriage alliances on the Stark family as recompense for the loyalty of House Frey. It was of course one of these alliances that would come back and bite Robb on the bum however, when he chose to marry Talisa instead of one of Walder Frey’s offspring.

Walder is (rightfully) a little peeved by this, but instead of just accepting Edmure Tully into the family instead, he breaks one of Westeros’ most standing customs, that of Guest Right.

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It was Walder Frey that instigated what might be Thrones‘ most famous scene, the gory and brutal Red Wedding.  David Bradley is superb at playing the nasty card, and as Catelyn, Robb, Talisa and Unborn-Baby-Ned are slaughtered he sits there laughing. Truly heinous. Not only is Walder Frey prepared to risk the wrath of the Gods by slaughtering those he’s invited into his home, he doesn’t care who gets caught in the cross-fire, even if they’re members of his own family. One of my favourite moments from this episode is this dialogue between him and Catelyn, which definitely shows him at his most heartless:

Walder FreyYou already swore me one oath, right here in my castle. You swore by all the gods that your son would marry my daughter!

Catelyn Stark: Take me for your hostage! But let Robb go! Robb get up, get up and walk out! Please! PLEASE!

Walder Frey: And why would I let him do that?

Catelyn Stark: On my honor as a Tully, On my honor as a Stark! Let him go, or I will cut your wife’s throat!

Walder Frey: I’ll find another.

A not-so-evil real life David Bradley

A not-so-evil real life David Bradley

(Full disclosure though, I was hoping for Jinglebell Frey.  But a Geoffery can’t have everything)

Walder only makes a single Season Three appearance after this, gloating over his victory with Roose Bolton.  In fact, before I checked back I was convinced that Walder Frey had appeared in more than three episodes before Season Six, but nope.  Such is the strength of David Bradley’s hideous portrayal.  It would be another couple of seasons before the old Lord was to be seen again, and one of the re-appearances I was most excited about because frankly we were overdue a bit of Red Wedding closure.  Maybe even a little satisfying revenge.

In the season finale I had two of my show wishes come true: Red Wedding comeuppance and a slice of delicious Frey Pie. It’s always awesome to have something that’s still a theory in the books confirmed as canon onscreen.  So much so at the moment I saw the pie I made a kind of weird screaming noise and made my boyfriend pause the show for a second so I could do a victory dance round the room.  Fact. (Actually my victory dance was more for the House Manderly reference than anything else, but Frey Pie is still Frey Pie, regardless of who serves it).  Arya crossed another name off her list and I rejoiced as the Late Lord Tully finally lived up to his name.

That said, I will miss David Bradley onscreen, he’s a marvelous actor who really seemed to relish such a grotesque role.  As well as extensive theatre work, he is well known for his turn as the almost equally grotty Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film series, and a tear-jerking turn as William Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’ An Adventure in Space and Time.  Also one of his earliest roles was as a goalie in an ITV Play of the Day.  Now don’t tell me you don’t want to see a young Walder Frey (with 70’s mutton-chops) playing football.

He can currently be seen in the excellent The Strain as Abraham Setrakian and this year will appear in the films The Young Messiah and Await Further Instructions.

Walder Frey’s death might have been a satisfying one, but David Bradley’s vilifying presence on the show will certainly be missed!

68 responses

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    1. Truly one of my favorite Thrones supporting performances. He made villainy so much fun. And I’ll never get over his resemblance to Willie Nelson.

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    2. David Bradley did such a fantastic job in what could have been a pantomime role. Only 5 appearances, but he made them count.

      I’m so glad that David has had a few magnificent roles recently (and currently), because he is a marvellous actor, and deserves all the success he is now getting.

      We Stand Together!

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    3. Truly one of the elite in his craft Will be missing him on GoT, but at the same time such a satisfying end of an arc.

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    4. Some excellent actors in dreadful people’s shoes this year getting it good. It’s good to see High Sparrow, Walder Frey, and Roose and Ramsay Bolton all gone, but their actors and performances will be missed. Though I’d have liked for them to have had Doran and Areo kill Allaria Sand, rather than the other way around. I’d have liked a better arc for Siddig.

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    5. So it goes.

      He’s one of the actors who most totally embodied a role from the novels.

      I do hope to see Walder Frey again some day, in the Dunk and Egg prequel, but it won’t be the same great actor.

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    6. It is funny when you look back at how few times he was actually on the show because he is so incredibly memorable and dominant as a villain. An amazing actor, perfectly cast, just delightfully disgusting and nasty. David Bradley is the best.

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    7. Such a distinguished actor for this critical role – another case of excellent casting. Adios Walder (& David) – will miss your evilness.

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    8. David Bradley…..wow. From recent roles in The Strain to the heartbreaking character in Season 1 of Broadchurch, to that ol rotter Walder, I love the guy. Chaos without getting his own hands dirty.

      I really loved Walder’s exchange with the clearly uncomfortable Jaime in episode 10 (how many battles have YOU been in?). And Arya’s promise kept. Killed as Catelyn was killed.

      Thanks David Bradley! Your Lord-Always-Eating was perfect.

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    9. Such a great actor for a horrible character though … I was so pleased with his death. I never expected we would have Frey pies and it was perfect.

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    10. Perfect casting, one of the best performances along with Charles Dance and Diana Rigg. He was truly excellent. Wish him all the best.

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    11. Nobody could have possibly been a better Walder Frey. Phenomenal villain, and for a character who was only in 5 episodes in the whole series, he definitely made his mark on the show. I personally didn’t like the way he went out (Arya sneaking into the Twins and somehow baking his sons into the pie was utter nonsense to me), but aside from that, everything was perfect.

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    12. You guys have enough of these to keep you busy until next season. 😉

      I thought his death was a bit too fanservice-y, but Bradley was a perfect Walder Frey every time he showed up on screen, all the way back to griping at Catelyn in season 1. And of course he gave the Red Wedding its most memorable villain:

      “You already swore me one oath, right here in this castle. You swore by all the gods that your son would marry my DAUGHTER!!”

      Bravo!

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    13. Fantastic character and perfectly played by David Bradley. I will never forget that lecherous smile he has on his face at the Red Wedding or the “sword for a tighter sheath” dialogue about Talissa….So awesome. Glad to see the character die but bummed to see such a fantastic actor leave the show. Another one I wouldn’t mind Lady Mellisandre can resurrect next season (since she is heading that way)…A man can certainly hope…
      Thanks again David “Walder” Bradley.

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    14. Pigeon:
      David Bradley…..wow. From recent roles in The Strain to the heartbreaking character in Season 1 of Broadchurch, to that ol rotter Walder, I love the guy. Chaos without getting his own hands dirty.

      Yeah, his work in Broadchurch was really beautiful. And was both playing to and against type.

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    15. It simply amazes me that I could have enjoyed such a despicable character. He was horrible. He was ruthless. He wasn’t nice to anyone. But, I loved Walder Frey. That is all thanks to David Bradley. Well played, sir. One of my all-time favorite show moments was the see-what-you’re-missing look he gave Robb as his beautiful daughter, Roslin, walked in to marry Edmure. Death-by-Arya was a perfect ending for his role, but I will miss the late Walder Frey.

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    16. He’s one of the actors who most totally embodied a role from the novels

      So agree with this! He fit my image of him, this crusty dirty old man who hands out insults the way others hand out candy. Hated the character of course, but Bradley played it to a T. Also felt like he was having lots of fun doing it too! Thanks David for being so very entertaining and dispicable at the same time.

      ETA Just saw this

      He was awarded a Laurence Olivier Award in 1991 for his supporting role as the Fool in King Lear at the Royal National Theatre.

      I would have given a lot to see him in that!

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    17. Oh another role I would have given my eye teeth to have seen : He played Cohen the Barbarian in a Sky One adaptation of The Colour of Magic in 2008.

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    18. Watching Broadchurch with Harry Potter friends, they were like, “Why do you keep calling Filch ‘Lord Frey’?” While David has always been the perfect Jack and Argus, he’ll always be Walder to me. Thank you, David, for becoming one of the world’s best villains.

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    19. He will definitely be missed by me, as evil as Wilder was. David Bradley was fantastic! He even made me laugh a few times. I’m also glad we finally got to hear House Frey’s words: “We Stand Together”. George always said they had words, and we just hadn’t heard/read them yet. That was a fun surprise too, on top of Frey Pies and some awesome throat slitting 🙂

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    20. Dragon Tender: Yeah, his work in Broadchurch was really beautiful.And was both playing to and against type.

      It really was, I really felt for his character.

      Connor:
      Pigeon,

      Speaking of The Strain, it finally comes back in August!

      Yayyyyy!!!!! I really love Guillermo del Toro, he makes some of my favourite movies (and even Nicolaj was in one of them – ‘Mama’), and The Strain is a great show.

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    21. Now, this was absolutely PERFECT casting. I could not imagine a better Walder Frey than David Bradley. His voice and facial mannerisms really brought out Frey’s sadistic, lecherous, and just generally despicable personality.

      Of course, the Red Wedding itself was a memorable and heartbreaking event on its own, and was the event that really solidified Walder in our minds as a horrible villain, but without David’s brilliant performance, I doubt we would have loved to hate him quite as much as we all did.

      Before this, I knew David only as Argus Filch from Harry Potter. It’s a testament to his performance, and the strength of the character, that, with just a few scenes, I have now come to identify him more as Walder Frey than as Filch.

      David Bradley is a brilliant actor (and from what I’ve seen of his interviews, a very warm and genuine human being), and I thank him greatly for this performance.

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    22. I personally wouldn’t call The Strain excellent but he is the best part of the show. They need more of him and less of the whinny kid and crap father. But he was awesome as papa Frey. From his first appearance I knew he was perfect for the role.

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    23. Oh my. Its Robb Stark fault in the first place. Robb was idiot, and he broke the law. Walder could demand re-compensation, but what of it? He lost the chance to get married into Royal family (at least recognized by North)

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    24. I hated Walder Frey. The most loathsome, slimy, repulsive, evil man and David Bradley’s portrayal was faultless! One of the characters whose scenes I enjoyed the most which is testament to how talented David is. Perfect casting! Bravo 👏👏👏

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    25. Walder Frey is one of the few characters GRRM has created who is quite simply a villain with no redeeming features whatsoever, and his power derives purely in the strategic position of the Twins (plus his virility in producing heirs and bastards!). That said in his own eyes his actions are completely justified and David Bradley captured not only the outright unlikable nature of the character but his overweening self -confidence that he is untouchable and in the right.

      David Bradley does have a great knack of playing creepy old guys and has a long, distinguished career in acting. Another excellent casting and although Walder Frey will not be missed, David will!

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    26. “I’ll find another”

      He appeared in only 5 episodes but completely stole the show in those scenes. Utterly amazing performance by David Bradley. I expected lord Walder dying from old age after all his sons are dead but his actual death was pretty satisfying as well. Now his sons can tear themselves apart for his legacy.

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    27. Love that G0T has always featured mature actors in meaty roles. A testament to ones talent when fans mourn the demise of baddies. Well done Mr. Bradley!

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    28. Like other UK residents I’ve seen David Bradley playing supporting parts in several programmes over the years (“Touch of Frost”, “Wycliffe”, “The Moth” to name but three). I suppose he is best known for the Harry Potter franchise and as Walder Frey in GoT to people outside the UK, though those are not two bad series with which to be associated. He did play the evil old so and so convincingly so kudos to him for that!

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    29. Along with Dance and McElhatton, this casting was spot on. But whereas Roose and Tywin were cold, subtle and majestic, Walder was petty, pathetic and debauched. A villain like no other. I’ll miss him.

      Ser Not Appearing in this Series:
      Walder Frey is one of the few characters GRRM has created who is quite simply a villain with no redeeming features whatsoever, and his power derives purely in the strategic position of the Twins (plus his virility in producing heirs and bastards!).

      Frey is one of those characters who would actually be less interesting if they had any redeeming qualities. The lack of redeeming qualities is the entire point. 😈

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    30. I remember the first time he was going to make his appearance after we had heard a lot about the famously cranky Walder Frey and I thought, “Which aging British thespian are they getting for this one?” And when it turned out to be Argus Filch, I was like, “Yeah, that’s about right.” He was such a great part of the show despite only making five appearances, and really made that character feel lived in. Such a great job.

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    31. Tywin of the Hill,

      I think my favourite TV Walder Frey moment is when he is making Robb and Catelyn very uncomfortable with his lecherous talk and clearly enjoying every second of it.

      WALDER: Your king says he betrayed me for love. I say he betrayed me for firm tits and a tight fit.

      And that moment when he present the lovely Roslin to Edmure (after we have seen some ahem, rather plain girls) with that sly look at Robb. If you don’t know what’s coming, it’s the one brief moment where you just might think Walder is going to let it slide, having got it out of his system – and David Bradley nailed it.

      You are right I think that Walder is more interesting for not having a single good quality, and being a “soft” villain.

      But now he is the Late Lord Frey in more ways than one 😀

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    32. Five performances and every minute of his screen time is memorable. He played an utterly repulsive character perfectly and – from his interviews – seemed to enjoy every minute of it. I knew him as Filch before GOT and, since then, have watched his work in The Strain and Broadchurch. Brilliant actor!

      I will miss David Bradley but I will not miss Walder Frey.

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    33. What will the rest of the Freys think when they find Walder’s body? Or will they just find a faceless corpse? Or nothing? Consider that Arya killed him very cleanly, with no witnesses…

      If Arya has learned how to take faces herself, she could do some very sneaky things with Walder Frey’s face, such as killing the other Red Wedding participants, ruining House Frey for good, and getting close to Cersei and the Mountain. We would also see David Bradley again!

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    34. Excellent portrayal, great acting, but just as with Ramsay Bolton I cannot say I will miss Mr. Bradley in this show. I am glad Walder Frey is not around anymore.

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    35. One of this show’s biggest strengths has always been great, top-notch turns by veteran actors in the roles of minor villains (basically anyone outside of the big three of Cersei, Joffrey, and Ramsay). Vincent Price, David Bradley, Owen Teale, Michael McElhatton, Robert Pugh (Craster), Noah Taylor (Locke). These guys were all terrific, bringing so much to the table even in limited roles.

      For me at least, this was also the single most satisfying death. Not only the most nasty and least likable of all the minor villains we’ve seen, but Arya’s first whale, maybe also the turning point marking when the Stark kids start to truly realize the power of Ned’s advice about the pack versus the Lone Wolf. Robb stood no chance against Tywin Lannister by himself, but between Sansa’s pragmatism, Arya’s ruthlessness, and Jon’s ability to command loyalty, they might finally have the strength together to really be a major force in Westeros, even before adding in Bran’s ability to control animals and see the future.

      Anyway, that’s a digression. Good work, David. You made probably the single most-despicable person we’ve seen on screen nonetheless fun to watch.

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    36. I didn’t realize he was only in five episodes. I guess the adage “there are no small parts, only small actors” is true. David Bradley really made the most of the little time he had on the show and turned the role into a very big part.

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    37. Farewell to the “Late Walder Frey.”

      btw, wonder if he knew the fate of his daughter and grandson.

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    38. Adam,

      I think you mean Jonathan Pryce, not Vincent Price, but your point is well taken. The show runners have done a great job of matching veteran character actors to the appropriate roles. David Bradley owned this part.

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    39. He was great at playing a disgusting old man! I’ll miss Walder’s excessive honesty.

      Walder Frey…keeping it real, yo!

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    40. Arya couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy! Seriously, David Bradley brought Walder Frey, a fairly small role, to sparkling life with every leer, every cackle, every snivel and snicker and innuendo. The old letch merited the contempt that all of his peers (Roose, Robb, Jaime, Catelyn) felt for him, confident that everyone had to do business with him due to the Twins’ strategic importance and his too-numerous marriageable progeny. He even got a chance to be slightly lecherous with f-Arya (does anyone know who that serving-girl actress was?) before the face came off and he beheld a Real Stark. Bradley, a native of York, is well known and regarded in England, and it’s very satisfying that now, thanks GoT, Harry Potter, Dr Who, and Broadchurch, and The STrain, he’s become known in the States. He deserves it. It’s a good job (for us and Arya) that old Frey had his midnight snack humming “Let’s have another cup of coffee, and let’s have another piece of Pie”.

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    41. He was so good as Walder Frey!! He made that character as despicable as he possibly could. It was fantastic. Glad he’s gone though lol Arya put that old letch in place! Cheers to David Bradley! 🙂

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    42. Adam,

      For me at least, this was also the single most satisfying death. Not only the most nasty and least likable of all the minor villains we’ve seen, but Arya’s first whale, maybe also the turning point marking when the Stark kids start to truly realize the power of Ned’s advice about the pack versus the Lone Wolf. Robb stood no chance against Tywin Lannister by himself, but between Sansa’s pragmatism, Arya’s ruthlessness, and Jon’s ability to command loyalty, they might finally have the strength together to really be a major force in Westeros, even before adding in Bran’s ability to control animals and see the future.

      That is indeed why it was so very satisfying. Can’t wait till the Starks get together and work as a pack. They’ll be a force to reckon with (if it happens of course. This show has a way of bursting most similar bubbles…)

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    43. His lecherous tongue flick when he swatted the serving girl/Arya was pure gold! I’ll forever see his face when I re-read the books. Spectacular performance. Kudos!

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    44. It really is extraordinary that David Bradley only appeared in five Game of Thrones episodes, because he left such an indelible mark on every viewer of the show. I’d say that he is Walder Frey, but I wouldn’t want to tar anyone with that brush, especially an actor who is blessed with as much range and skill as Bradley so obviously is. Rather, I’ll say that it’s utterly impossible for me to imagine anyone else portraying the character, because what Bradley did with relatively little screentime was a masterclass. I will never forget the savage, childlike glee with he watched the blood-soaked chaos of the Red Wedding, and the coldness with which he delivers the line “I’ll find another”. His brilliance helped create one of the most memorable and despised villains in recent television history.

      As satisfying as the Frey Pies were, I also love that the writers provided Walder’s death with another layer of dramatic weight by linking it with the story of the Rat Cook. It was a powerful moment “Mhysa” when Bran told that tale and the show cut directly to Walder Frey feasting in the same hall where he had overseen the Red Wedding. For Walder to later be killed that high table by Arya Stark after unwittingly dining on a pie made from his own dead sons, is just pitch-perfect. It’s connections like this that make me love the show even more than I already do.

      While I usually try to focus on an actor’s performance in Game of Thrones during these Curtain Calls, I have to echo a sentiment that several other commenters have already voiced and take a moment to celebrate Bradley’s performance in Broadchurch. That show, and Bradley’s performance in particular, really rocked me to my core when I watched it. He has a supporting role in which he plays an innocent man who is accused of a heinous crime he didn’t commit. As the small seaside community in which he lives turns on him, the quiet and reclusive man is slowly broken under the weight of their rising anger and mistrust, and the results are devastating to witness. At the time, I had mostly seen Bradley excel at playing contemptible villains (including both Walder and Argus Filch in the Harry Potter series). This was something entirely different, and deepened my already considerable respect for Bradley’s immense talent.

      No one will shed any tears for Walder Frey, but as fiercely eager as I was to see that character get his just desserts, I am just a little bit saddened that David Bradley’s time on the show has reached its end. Fortunately, Bradley has enjoyed a long career and he’s still going strong, so there are no shortage of opportunities for us to appreciate his work (including my inevitable innumerable Game of Thrones rewatches). I wish him all the best!

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    45. I’ve never seen this actor in anything else but man did he pull off this character to perfection or what? I can’t say RIP to Walder Frey lol but kudos to actor David Bradley!

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    46. I too thought David was excellent in the role although I’m glad Walder got his comeuppance.

      Another of his performances I admire is his role as a Newcastle politician in the 90s drama series Our Friends in the North which also starred Christopher Eccleston and Daniel Craig. Great Geordie accent given his Yorkshire roots!

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