Who is Tom Riley, and where have I seen him before?
The Kent-born 37-year-old has under his belt at least two lead roles in big budget TV series: American network Starz’s Da Vinci’s Demons and Amazon Prime’s postwar, Paris-set fashion melodrama The Collection.
He’s also put in Brit actor due diligence with parts in Casualty, Lewis and James Nesbitt medical drama Monroe.
Despite his previous leading roles, Riley is far from a household name here. “I am in a strange place,” agrees Riley. “It never occurred to me that this is my first time as a network terrestrial lead.
“I’ve been number one on the call-sheet on shows for five years before this – but I guess they didn’t really broadcast in the UK,” he concedes jovially. “And if I had thought about that [while filming Dark Heart], there might have been sheer panic!”
Now, though, his family can say of Dark Heart: “Our Tom’s in that, and it’s going to be on ITV after Corrie.” “Yes!” he nods with a laugh. “That hadn’t occurred to me. It’s a change from saying to people: ‘Do you have Fox? Do you have Amazon Prime on your telly?’”
Who does he play in ITV’s Dark Heart?
Riley plays the show’s hero, the troubled DI Will “Staffe” Wagstaffe .
“I’d been very used to characters that were, I suppose, flashy and show-off. This guy is more contained… until he’s not,” the actor says, teasing a complexity to the Metropolitan Police officer haunted by the murder of his parents.
How did he get into acting?
Riley grew up in Maidstone, and none of his family have anything to do with acting. So, despite an early enthusiasm for performing, it always seemed like a pipe dream.
Moving house recently, he found an old book entitled Thirteen, bought for him by his parents as he became a teenager. Young Tom had to fill in the blanks: name, age, “Who’s your crush at school, that kind of thing. And one was: ‘Where do you see yourself in 20 years?’ ” Riley grins and shakes his head.
“I’d written: ‘I’d love to be a successful actor, but more than likely I’ll still be in this town, maybe working in a shoe shop.’ This incredibly pessimistic answer!”
Leaving school, he went to university in Birmingham to study English literature, “but then when I was there, I put everything into writing and producing a radio show, and joining the theatre company.”
Inspired, approaching graduation Riley applied to various drama schools. He was accepted by a few, but then reality bit.
“My mum had to call round them and say, ‘We can’t afford these fees – is there anything we can do?’ And it was only Lamda who told her about a scholarship from the Genesis Foundation. I auditioned, they chose me, and they paid for me to get through. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Who is Tom Riley married to?
Riley is married to American actress Lizzy Caplan, who has starred in True Blood, and Masters of Sex alongside Michael Sheen. They spend the rest of the year in north London, where they met in 2015 while she was filming Now You See Me 2. They were engaged the following year and married on Italy’s Amalfi Coast in September 2017.
According to press reports, the Riley-Caplan nuptials were a star-studded affair, attended by the likes of Woody Harrelson, Dianna Agron, Dave Franco and a bevy of their A-list actor pals. Except it wasn’t.
“Maybe one of those was right – but no Chris Hemsworth, no Tom Hiddleston, no Octavia Spencer,” rebuts Riley, amused rather than narked. “It was either wilful fabrication, or an excited Italian maid mistook my friend from childhood for Lily Collins. Although there were people there they might have got excited by,” he adds coquettishly, “but they didn’t spot any of them.”
Dark Heart begins at 9pm on Wednesday 31st October on ITV