Bill Paterson (actor)

William Tulloch Paterson (born 3 June 1945)[1] is a Scottish actor and commentator. He has appeared in many film and television projects including Comfort and Joy (1984), Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), Wives and Daughters (1999), Sea of Souls (2004–2007), Amazing Grace (2006), Miss Potter (2006), and PBS's Little Dorrit (2008). He most recently appeared in series 2 of sky one comedy series Brassic (2020) as Tom Tillerton.

Bill Paterson
Bill Paterson.jpg
Paterson in 2006
William Tulloch Paterson

(1945-06-03) 3 June 1945 (age 75)
Glasgow, Scotland
Years active1967–present
(m. 1984)

Early lifeEdit

Born in Glasgow, Paterson spent three years as a quantity surveyor's apprentice[2] before attending the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.[3]


Paterson made his professional acting debut in 1967, appearing alongside Leonard Rossiter in Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre. 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 Great Northern Welly Boot Show at the Edinburgh Festival. Paterson would work with Connolly again, some years later, when he performed in Connolly's play An Me Wi' a Bad Leg Tae.

Paterson spent much of the 1970s in John McGrath's theatre company, 7:84, touring the United Kingdom and Europe with plays such as The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black Black Oil. 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, and 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 more on television than the theatre. His first appearances included the 1978 BAFTA award winning drama Licking Hitler, and playing King James in the UK television serial Will Shakespeare the same year. 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), Death and the Maiden at the Royal Court and Duke of York's (1991–92) and Ivanov at the Almeida, London and Maly Theatre, Moscow (1997). His most recent theatre is Earthquakes in London at the National Theatre in the summer of 2010.

The early 1980s also saw Paterson beginning to appear in films, including The Killing Fields, Comfort and Joy and A Private Function (all 1984). Other film credits include Dutch Girls (1985), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1987), The Witches (1990), Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), Chaplin (1992), Sir Ian McKellen's Richard III (1995), Bright Young Things (2003), Miss Potter (2006), How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008) and Creation (2009). In 1997, he appeared as Brian, a cafe owner who knows the Spice Girls, in Spice World.[4]

His extensive and award-winning TV career includes a memorable portrayal of villain Ally Fraser in series 2 of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1986), Smiley's People (1982), The Singing Detective (1986), Traffik (1988), The Crow Road (1996) and Doctor Zhivago (2002).

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. 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; from 2009–10 he appeared as George Castle, the head of the CPS in Law & Order: UK.

Throughout his career he has appeared regularly in radio drama and provided the narration for a large number of documentaries. 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. In 2005, he would take a similar 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. He also played the key role of SIS Chief Percy Alleline in the 2009 BBC Radio 4 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.[5]

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". Later in the year, Paterson narrated the BBC Four wildlife documentary Birds Britannia. In 2011, Paterson starred in Fast Freddie, The Widow and Me.

Paterson played lawyer Ned Gowan in the 2014 Starz period TV series, Outlander.[6] In 2014 Patterson lands a part as Douglas Henshall's father in TV series Shetland.[7]

Paterson has also narrated for various television and radio programmes. 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. He also narrates 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. In 2016 he narrated The Farmers' Country Showdown, a series for the BBC following the agricultural show season and broadcast early in 2017.[8]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1984, Paterson married stage designer Hildegard Bechtler, with whom he has a son and a daughter. They live in London, England.[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 Mini-Series
1981 The Cherry Orchard Lopakhin TV film
1982 Smiley's People Lauder Strickland TV Mini-Series
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 series
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 Mini-Series
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 Mini-Series
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 series episode 1
Victory Captain Davidson
1997 Melissa DCI Cameron TV Mini-Series
Spice World Brian
Mr. White Goes to Westminister 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 Mini-Series
2000 Complicity Wallace Byatt
The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne Sir Nicol McLean TV
2004 Foyle's War Patrick Jamieson TV series
2004–2005 Shoebox Zoo Narrator TV series
2004–2006 Sea of Souls Dr Douglas Monaghan TV series
2005 Rag Tale Lucky Lloyd
2006 Amazing Grace Henry Dundas
2006 Miss Potter Rupert Potter Film
2008 Little Dorrit Mr Meagles TV series
2009 Creation Dr Gully
2009 Into the Storm Clement Attlee
2009–2011 Law & Order: UK George Castle TV series
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 Season 5 Episode 1, "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 series - 1.2
Falcón Ignacio Ortega Episode "The Silent and the Damned"
2014 37 Days Lord Morley TV series
Outlander Ned Gowan TV series
Shetland James Perez Episode "Blue Lightning" (Parts 1 & 2)
2015 The Vote Simon Weatherstone (live TV broadcast from the Donmar Warehouse)
2016 Dad's Army Private Frazer Film adaptation of original BBC sitcom
2016 The Rebel Charles TV
2016–2019 Fleabag Dad TV
2018 Inside No. 9 Mr Green TV
2019 Good Omens R.P. Tyler TV
2019 Guilt (BBC Scotland TV series) Roy Lynch TV
2020 Brassic (Sky one TV series) Tom Tillerton TV


  1. ^ "Paterson, William Tulloch". Who's Who. London: A. & C. Black. 2008.
  2. ^ "Portrait of the artist: Bill Paterson, actor". The Guardian. 7 February 2012.
  3. ^ "Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - Alumni". Archived from the original on 16 October 2012.
  4. ^ Spice World (1997), retrieved 14 February 2019
  5. ^ "The Complete Smiley: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Episode 2". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  6. ^ Ferguson, Brian (10 June 2014). "Bill Paterson lands key part in Outlander TV show". The Scotsman. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  7. ^ "BBC One - Shetland - Bill Paterson". BBC. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  8. ^ "BBC One - The Farmers' Country Showdown, Series 1 30-Minute Versions, Pigs". BBC. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  9. ^ "How We Met: Hildegard Bechtler and Billy Paterson". The Independent. 27 February 1994. Retrieved 2 August 2019.

External linksEdit