Bill Paterson (actor)

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Bill Paterson
Miss Potter Premiere (313229621).jpg
Paterson in December 2006
William Tulloch Paterson

(1945-06-03) 3 June 1945 (age 77)
Glasgow, Scotland
Years active1967–present
(m. 1984)

William Tulloch Paterson (born 3 June 1945) is a Scottish actor with a career in theatre, film, television and radio. Throughout his career he has appeared regularly in radio drama and provided the narration for a large number of documentaries. He has appeared in films and TV series including Comfort and Joy (1984), Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1986), Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), Wives and Daughters (1999), Sea of Souls (2004–2007), Amazing Grace (2006), Miss Potter (2006), Little Dorrit (2008), Doctor Who (2010), Outlander (2014), Fleabag (2016–2019), Inside No. 9 (2018), Good Omens (2019), and Brassic (2020). He is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Scottish BAFTAs.

Early life

William Tulloch Paterson was born in Glasgow on 3 June 1945.[1] Paterson was raised in Dennistoun by his father, a plumber, and his mother, a hairdresser.[2] He states that his interest in acting began with a school trip to the Citizens Theatre in the Gorbals in 1961.[2] However, after school he chose to initially pursue a career based on an interest in architecture and spent three years as a quantity surveyor's apprentice before deciding to attend the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.[3][2][2][4][5]


1967–1977: Theatre debut and early roles

Paterson made his professional acting debut in 1967,[4] appearing alongside Leonard Rossiter in Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre.[2] In 1970, Paterson joined the Citizens' Theatre for Youth. He remained there as an actor and assistant director until 1972, when he left to appear with Billy Connolly in the musical comedy The Great Northern Welly Boot Show at the Edinburgh Festival in 1972.[6][2] Paterson would work with Connolly again, some years later, when he performed in Connolly's play An Me Wi' a Bad Leg Tae. After having seen Paterson perform at the Festival, John McGrath invited him to join his theatre company, 7:84, touring the United Kingdom and Europe with plays such as The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black Black Oil.[2][4] He was a founding member of 7:84, and made his London debut in 1976 with the company. He appeared in the Edinburgh Festival and London with John Byrne's first play, Writer's Cramp.

1978–1989: TV and film debuts

He first appeared in the West End when he took over the lead role in Whose Life Is It Anyway? at the Savoy Theatre in 1979. Paterson's career began to centre as much on television than the theatre. His first appearances in 1978 were as a police Sergeant of Scotland Yard in The Odd Job[7] and then in BAFTA award winning drama Licking Hitler. He then played King James in the UK television serial Will Shakespeare the same year. Paterson would later recall that the biggest regret of his career was during this period, when in 1978 he failed to attend an addition for a role in the film Alien.[5] He provided the voice of the Assistant Arcturan Pilot in Episode 7 of the original BBC Radio 4 version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 1978.[8] He played Lopakhin in the BBC production of The Cherry Orchard in 1981. Paterson did not, however, entirely neglect the theatre, and in 1982, he was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance as Schweyk in another Brecht play, Schweik in the Second World War at the National Theatre. He was in the original National Theatre production of Guys and Dolls (1982).[4]

The early 1980s also saw Paterson beginning to appear in films, including The Killing Fields, Comfort and Joy and A Private Function (all 1984).[4] Other film credits include Dutch Girls (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1987).

In television, his extensive and award-winning TV career includes a memorable portrayal of property villain Ally Fraser in series 2 of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1986). He also appeared in Smiley's People (1982), The Singing Detective (1986), Traffik (1988).

1990–2009: Career actor

Paterson performed in Death and the Maiden at the Royal Court and Duke of York's (1991–92). Other theatre roles in this period include Ivanov at the Almeida, London and Maly Theatre, Moscow (1997).

In 1990, he performed the role of Mr Jenkins, father to a child who his attached in The Witches (1990). He went on to act in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), Chaplin (1992), Sir Ian McKellen's Richard III (1995).[9] In 1997, he appeared as Brian, a cafe owner who knows the Spice Girls, in Spice World.[10] He also performed in The Crow Road (1996), a miniseries from the novel by Iain Banks[2] and Doctor Zhivago (2002).[11]

He later performed in the films Bright Young Things (2003), Miss Potter (2006), How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008) and Creation (2009).[12] In television, much of his later work has been for the BBC, starring as Dr Douglas Monaghan in three seasons of the supernatural drama series Sea of Souls (2004-2007).[2] He also played the role of Dr Gibson in the 1999 production of Wives and Daughters, and appeared in the 2008 BBC production of the Charles Dickens novel Little Dorrit as Mr Meagles, as DS Box in the first series of Criminal Justice (2008), and as Dr James Niven in Spanish Flu: The Forgotten Fallen.

Paterson has also narrated for various television and radio programmes. In 2005, he would take a role as Rob McKenna, a lorry driver and unknowing Rain God, in Fits the 19th, 20th, and 22nd of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Quandary Phase. In 2003, Paterson began broadcasting radio stories about his childhood in Glasgow, Tales From the Back Green on BBC Scotland, which led to them being published by Hodder in 2008 and appearances at many book festivals throughout the UK. He narrated the 2009 BBC TV programme 1929 – The Great Crash which recalled the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and compared it to the recent financial turmoil of 2008. From 2009 to 2010, he appeared as George Castle, the head of the CPS in Law & Order: UK.[13] He also played the key role of SIS Chief Percy Alleline in the 2009 BBC Radio 4 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.[14]

In 2010, Paterson starred in Doctor Who as Professor Edwin Bracewell, in the episode "Victory of the Daleks", with his character making a second appearance in the opening half of the season finale, "The Pandorica Opens".[15][16] Later in the year, Paterson narrated the BBC Four wildlife documentary Birds Britannia.

2011–2022: TV, Film and Radio

In 2011, Paterson starred in Fast Freddie, The Widow and Me.[17] His most recent theatre is Earthquakes in London at the National Theatre in the summer of 2010. He also narrated the BBC's annual coverage of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and in 2013 appeared as Adam Smith in The Low Road at the Royal Court.

Paterson played lawyer Ned Gowan in the 2014 Starz period TV series, Outlander.[18] In 2014, Paterson landed a part as Douglas Henshall's father in TV series Shetland.[19]

In 2015, he starred alongside in Brian Cox in a performance ofWaiting for Godot at the Royal Lyceum Theatre.[2] In 2015, Paterson was presented with the lifetime achievement of the Scottish BAFTAs.[6][20]

In 2016, he narrated The Farmers' Country Showdown, a series for the BBC following the agricultural show season and broadcast early in 2017.[21] In 2016, Paterson performed with his friend Simon Callow in the The Rebel.[22] He also appeared as the Scottish character Private Frazer in the remake film Dad's Army.[23][24]

Beginning with the first season in 2016 and ending with the second season in 2019, Paterson played the father of the main character and her sister in the British TV show Fleabag.[2][4] In 2019, Paterson also performed in the four-part BBC drama Guilt.[4]

In 2022, Paterson performed in the fantasy drama House of the Dragon as the character Lord Lyman Beesbury.[25] He is the narrator of the British TV show The Repair Shop.[26]

Personal life

In 1980, while filming The Lost Tribe, Paterson purchased a holiday home in Fordyce with fellow actor Miriam Margolyes.[a][27]

In 1984, Paterson married German stage designer Hildegard Bechtler. They have a son and daughter.[28][2] After leaving Glasgow he has spent much of his life living in London and currently resides in North London near Tufnell Park.[2][28][9]

Paterson has published a series of book stories based on his childhood in Glasgow entitled Tales From The Back Green.[9]


Year Title Role Notes
Play for Today 7:48/Luke
Archie MacLean/Actor
Tony/Ron Brackett
1976 The Flight of the Heron Sergeant TV
1977 Backs to the Land Forbes TV
1978 ITV Playhouse Gary TV
Life of Shakespeare King James I TV
The Odd Job Sergeant Mull
1979 One Fine Day Second Man in Lift TV film
Telford's Change Kevin TV
Scottish Playbill TV
1979 – 1981 Crown Court Dr. Rutherford TV
1980 The Lost Tribe Moshe Kaydan TV Miniseries
1981 The Cherry Orchard Lopakhin TV film
1982 Smiley's People Lauder Strickland TV Miniseries
1983 The Ploughman's Lunch Lecturer
One of Ourselves Mr. Daly TV film
1984 Comfort and Joy Alan
The Killing Fields Dr. MacEntire
Scotland's Story David Kirkwood/Thomas Muir TV
A Private Function Morris Wormold the Meat Inspector
1985 Dutch Girls Mole TV film
1986 Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Ally Fraser TV
Defence of the Realm Jack MacLeod
God's Chosen Car Park Victor Rosen TV film
The Singing Detective Dr. Gibbon TV
1987 Screenplay TV
Friendship's Death Sullivan
Coming Up Roses Mr. Valentine
1988 The Modern World: Ten Great Writers Titorelli TV
Hidden City Anthony
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Henry Salt
1989 The Return of the Musketeers Charles I
The Rachel Papers Gordon Highway
Traffik Jack Lithgow TV
Boon Peter Mortan TV
1990 God on the Rocks Mr. Marsh TV film
The Witches Mr. Herbert Jenkins
The Play on One Alex McPherson TV
Bearskin: An Urban Fairytale Jordan
Truly, Madly, Deeply Sandy
Just Ask for Diamond Chief Inspector Snape
1991 Shrinks Matt Hennessey TV
The Object of Beauty Victor Swayle
Murder Most Horrid Chief Inspector TV
1992 Tell Tale Hearts Anthony Steadman TV Miniseries
Chaplin Stage Manager
In Dreams Dr. Gold TV film
1993 Screen One PC Howard Mullen TV
1994 Hard Times Stephen Blackpool TV
1995 Jackanory Storyteller TV
The Turnaround James Webb
Oliver's Travels Baxter TV Miniseries
Richard III Sir Richard Ratcliff
Ghostbusters of East Finchley Joe Small TV
1996 The Writing on the Wall Bull TV film
The Crow Road Kenneth McHoan TV
Sharman TV
Victory Captain Davidson
1997 Melissa DCI Cameron TV Miniseries
Spice World Brian
Mr. White Goes to Westminster Ben White TV film
1998 Hilary and Jackie Cello Teacher
Out of Sight Marcus Mildew TV
Oi! Get Off Our Train Walrus (Voice) Television Short
1999 Chrono-Perambulator Professor Teddy Knox Short Film
Heart Mr. Kreitman
The Match Tommy
Sunshine Minister of Justice
Wives and Daughters Mr. Gibson TV Miniseries
2000 Complicity Wallace Byatt
The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne Sir Nicol McLean TV
2004 Foyle's War Patrick Jamieson TV
2004–2005 Shoebox Zoo Narrator TV
2004–2006 Sea of Souls Dr. Douglas Monaghan TV
2005 Rag Tale Lucky Lloyd
2006 Amazing Grace Henry Dundas
Miss Potter Rupert Potter
2008 Little Dorrit Mr. Meagles TV
2009 Creation Dr. Gully
Into the Storm Clement Attlee
2009-2011 Law & Order: UK George Castle TV
2010 An Gruffalo The Gruffalo (voice) Short film, Gaelic version
Doctor Who Professor Edwin Bracewell "Victory of the Daleks"
"The Pandorica Opens"
Agatha Christie's Marple Mr. Bradley "The Pale Horse"
2011 The Man Who Crossed Hitler Kurt Ohnesorge TV
Fast Freddie, The Widow and Me Judge TV
2012 Dirk Gently Professor Jericho TV
Falcón Ignacio Ortega Episode "The Silent and the Damned"
2014 37 Days Lord Morley TV series
Outlander Ned Gowan TV
Shetland James Perez Episode "Blue Lightning" (Parts 1 & 2)
2015 The Vote Simon Weatherstone
2016 Dad's Army Private Frazer Film adaptation of original BBC sitcom
The Rebel Charles TV
2016–2019 Fleabag Dad TV
2018 Inside No. 9 Mr. Green TV
2019 Good Omens R.P. Tyler TV
Guilt Roy Lynch TV
2020 Brassic Tom Tillerton TV
Rebecca Dr. Baker Film
2021 Ted Lasso Richard Cole (voice) (uncredited) Episode "Do the Right-est Thing"[29]
2022 The Sandman (TV series) Dr. John Hathaway Netflix TV Show
2022 House of the Dragon Lyman Beesbury TV


  1. ^ The purchase of the house was revealed in Miriam & Alan: Lost in Scotland and Beyond, when Margolyes and Alan Cumming visit Fordyce and are joined by Paterson.


  1. ^ "Paterson, William Tulloch". Who's Who. London: A. & C. Black. 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Bill Paterson interview - back as Dad in the new series of Fleabag". The Scotsman. 2 March 2019. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  3. ^ "Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - Alumni". Archived from the original on 16 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Fleabag star Bill Paterson on his new TV role". The Herald. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Portrait of the artist: Bill Paterson, actor". The Guardian. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Bafta winner Bill Paterson on acting with Billy Connolly". The Telegraph. 16 November 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  7. ^ "The Odd Job". TimeOut. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  8. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Secondary Phase, Fit The Seventh". BBC.
  9. ^ a b c "The Scotsman Sessions #255: Bill Paterson". The Scotsman. 17 June 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  10. ^ Spice World (1997), retrieved 14 February 2019
  11. ^ "Bill Paterson".
  12. ^ "Bill Paterson". BFI.
  13. ^ "Law & Order: UK".
  14. ^ "The Complete Smiley: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Episode 2". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  15. ^ "BBC One - Doctor Who, Series 5, Victory of the Daleks". BBC.
  16. ^ "Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang ★★★★". Radio Times.
  17. ^ "Fast Freddie, the Widow and Me (2011)". BFI.
  18. ^ Ferguson, Brian (10 June 2014). "Bill Paterson lands key part in Outlander TV show". The Scotsman. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  19. ^ "BBC One - Shetland - Bill Paterson". BBC. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  20. ^ "Actor Bill Paterson: I love Scot Squad, I think it's just fantastic". Glasgow Times. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  21. ^ "BBC One - The Farmers' Country Showdown, Series 1 30-Minute Versions, Pigs". BBC. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  22. ^ "THE REBEL SERIES 2 INTERVIEW: BILL PATERSON". UKTV. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  23. ^ "Dad's Army review: who don't you think you are kidding?". Guardian. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  24. ^ "DAD'S ARMY CAST THEN AND NOW: SEE WHICH ACTORS PLAYED THE ICONIC ROLES IN THE FILM ADAPTATION". Hello Magazine. 6 June 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  25. ^ "House Of The Dragon Cast: Where Have You Seen The Stars Before?". Huffington Post. 25 August 2022. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  26. ^ "Who narrates The Repair Shop?". Metro. 12 January 2022. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  27. ^ "Miriam and Alan: Lost in Scotland review – a large pile of anticlimaxes". The Guardian. 16 November 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  28. ^ a b "How We Met: Hildegard Bechtler and Billy Paterson". The Independent. 27 February 1994. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  29. ^ Lawrence, Bill (9 August 2021). "Tweet from Ted Lasso show creator Bill Lawrence". Twitter. Retrieved 18 December 2021. ['if the voice of Richard Cole was the wonderful Bill Paterson'] Yes. We messed up and he wasn’t in the credits.

External links