Doctor Foster’s Mike Bartlett has penned a brand new three-part psychological drama, focussing on the competitive, occasionally cruel world of middle management and the lengths that one employee, Thomas (played by Ken Nwosu) will go to redeem himself after freezing during a crucial team pitch.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Sticks and Stones cast, featuring interviews with stars Nwosu, Ben Miller (The Armstrong and Miller Show) and Susannah Fielding (This Time with Alan Partridge).
Who is Thomas Benson? Thomas is a hard-working father and businessman, who works in a Reading business park and is reliant on bonuses and commissions. When he freezes during an important pitch, the fall-out is swift and he soon finds himself in “the grip” — a spiral of desperately trying to win back lost clientele while becoming increasingly paranoid.
His young daughter, who is deaf, is struggling with bullying at school, and Thomas attempts to help teach her to handle her tormentors — all the while dealing with his own at work.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com about Thomas, Ken Nwosu revealed: “This is a character that is very diligent in his work, right, he kind of — he’s very detailed in what he does, he’s a team leader, so he thinks of all sorts of contingencies, he tries to stay in tip top shape to do his job, and so when things perhaps don’t go to plan, it is brand new territory for him, and I guess that culminates in a physical reaction that he wasn’t ready for and nobody else was. Gives him the biggest fright, because it’s like he’s lost a bit of the control that he values so much.”
Where have I seen Ken Nwosu before? Nwosu played Paul Hastings in the movie Christopher Robin and Max Sanford in series one of the BBC’s hit drama Killing Eve. His additional credits include Upstart Crow (as Puck), while offscreen the experienced stage actor has starred with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in An Octoroon at the National Theatre.
Ben Miller plays Carter
Who is Carter? Carter is Thomas’ (mainly) jovial boss, overseeing him and his team, but he remains largely oblivious to the sly bullying Thomas endures. He’s looking to restructure and let some employees go, which means that every member of the team is watching their steps — and their backs.
“I’m very sympathetic with [Carter], I totally get where he’s coming from, that’s what I really liked about the piece, you get both sides of the argument pretty well put really,” Ben Miller told RadioTimes.com.
“Carter’s never been bullied, he doesn’t understand why if they’re just saying stuff to him and putting some post-its [up] why he can’t sort it out himself, just stand up to them, give as good as he gets. He genuinely can’t see the problem. He’s not irresponsible, he’s doing what’s always worked in the past, he’s perfectly empathetic and sympathetic person but equally, he’s… just more focussed on getting the job done.”
Continuing, he adds: “He’s slightly out of his depth, I suppose, by the time he realises what’s going on, it’s too late… Yeah, the third episode is really him trying to — this is his problem.”
Where have I seen Ben Miller before? The well-known actor and comedian is probably best known as being one half of The Armstrong and Miller Show, but he’s also starred in Johnny English, Tracey Ullman’s Show, Paddington 2 (as Colonel Lancaster) and Death in Paradise (as DI Richard Poole).
Who is Isobel? Isobel is Thomas’ hard-working colleague, a seemingly consummate professional who initially reveals to Thomas that she much prefers her life of expensive cars and plush apartments to the mundane cycle of bills and school runs.
“I was involved with the play [Bartlett’s play Bull, which helped inspire his TV series Sticks and Stones],” Susannah Fielding told RadioTimes.com. “When I first read her [Isobel] on the page, she’s a really interesting character because she’s in one sense his [Thomas’] only friend, and — she was slightly different in the play to be fair, she was more part of the kind of the gang, whereas in the television version Mike’s kind of made her his confidante, really.
Comparing the play and the TV versions of her character, she continued: “She’s much warmer [onscreen], she’s much more empathetic really, much friendlier, much kind of understanding of his situation, and she’s only of the only people who kind of acknowledges that some of the things he might be imagining are actually happening, and she appears to be giving him tips and helping him out, really.”
“She’s probably more ambitious than all of them put together, so… she wants the team to do well, and at the moment he’s flagging and letting the team down so she’s gonna try lift him up and keep them going, but I think that if at any point he were to be jeopardising her job or something, then it might be a slightly different story…. There’s a sense of fear that if you lose your job, and you’re not at the top of your game you might not be able to walk straight into another one.”
Where have I seen Susannah Fielding before? You’ll probably recognise the actress as presenter Jennie Gresham on This Time with Alan Partridge, and her previous credits also include Doc Martin, Silent Witness, I Want My Wife Back (as Emma), and Black Mirror (as Carol) in the episode “Nosedive”.
She’s also set to star in Mike Bartlett’s other upcoming series, Life, in which she’ll play Ruth Stone.
Sean Sagar plays Andy
Who is Andy? Andy is a junior member of Thomas’ team, but with the threat of severances looming over him, he’s quick to turn on Thomas following the disastrous pitch.
Where have I seen Sean Sagar before? Sean Sagar is perhaps bets known to viewers as Monk from Our Girl, but he’s also appeared in Top Boy, Casualty and Just a Couple.
Alexandra Roach plays Jess
Who is Jess? Jess is a nurse, wife to Thomas and mother to their young daughter, who is deaf. She has a difficult relationship with her father, and tries to enlist Thomas to help handle him when he visits.
Where have I seen Alexandra Roach before? Viewers recently saw her play hypochondriac Diana Parker in ITV’s period drama Sanditon. She’s also starred in Hold the Sunset, No Offence, Black Mirror episode ‘Black Museum’, and as Doreena in the Chris Hemsworth film The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
Ritu Arya plays Becky
Who is Becky? Becky is another junior member of Thomas’ team, and has already booked her holiday in anticipation of a commission bonus when Thomas freezes during the all-important final pitch.
Where have I seen Ritu Arya before? The TV and film actress previously played Flash in Channel 4’s sci-fi drama Humans, and as Barsha Nambeesan in The Good Karma Hospital. She also plays Jenna in the upcoming festive film Last Christmas, starring Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke.
Gwilym Lee plays Mark Baxter
Who is Mark Baxter? Max is a successful entrepreneur and old schoolmate of Thomas, who may be able to offer a business opportunity to his friend (thus helping Thomas avoid severance…).
Where have I seen Gwilym Lee before? The actor has a number of film and TV credits to his name, including Bohemian Rhapsody (as Brian May), Jamestown, Fresh Meat, The Hollow Crown and Land Girls.
The three-part series Sticks and Stones will begin on Monday 16th December at 9pm on ITV and will air daily over three nights.