This week sees the debut of ITV’s latest true crime drama The Pembrokeshire Murders, which airs across three nights from Monday to Wednesday.
The miniseries tells of the race to convict John Cooper, a serial killer who came to be known by the nickname ‘The Bullseye Killer’ after footage from an appearance on darts-based game show Bullseye played a crucial role in the trial against him.
Adapted from a book written by police detective Steve Wilkins and ITV journalist Jonathan Hill, the series boasts a starry cast – with Hollywood star Luke Evans playing the lead role of Wilkins and a number of recognisable faces in supporting roles.
The cast is predominately Welsh, with executive producer Simon Heath having explained to RadioTimes.com that this was vital in ensuring the authenticity of the series.
“I like actors to be from the area they’re portraying,” he explained. “I like people in their own accents if at all possible and I think we had a brilliant casting director who found a fantastic Welsh cast for us.”
Meanwhile, although most of the characters are directly based on real people, others are amalgamations of various different people, and some names have been changed for the programme.
Read on for everything you need to know about the cast, including which real-life figures they are playing and where you might have seen them before.
Luke Evans plays SIO Steve Wilkins
Who is Steve Wilkins? An experienced police detective, Steve Wilkins returned to his home in Wales in 2006 following a stint at Scotland Yard, to take up a new job as Deputy Head of Dyfed Powys CID. Soon after his arrival, he put a team together to reinvestigate two double murders from the ’80s, which he hoped to solve with help from new developments in forensic science.
Wilkins quickly set his sights on John Cooper, and along with his team – and with help from ITV journalist Jonathan Hill – he set about trying to convict him before he was released from his current jail sentence for robbery and burglary.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press at a Q&A event to promote the miniseries, Evans said of Wilkins: “One thing about Steve is he’s a charming human being, and once you meet him you understand how his team worked all those hours through the nights and spent months away from their families and friends because he’s such a good human being and he treated them with respect.
“And that’s why he’s a great team leader and kept their spirits alive when they were all losing faith and losing hope that they were ever going to find this killer. So he’s a great man. I’ve played some great people and I’ve played some terrible people in my time but it’s always quite nice to play a good one – and Steve Wilkins is definitely one of those.”
What else has Luke Evans been in? Evans has a storied career in film and television, having appeared in several Hollywood blockbusters including Clash of the Titans, Fast & Furious 6 and The Hobbit. More recent film roles have including playing Gaston in the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and the lead role in 2017 film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.
On the small screen, he’s starred in the 2013 BBC One miniseries The Great Train Robbery and has the lead role in Netflix drama The Alienist, while away from acting he also has a successful music career, having released his debut album in 2019.
Keith Allen plays John William Cooper
Who is John Cooper? Cooper is a serial murderer who, in 2011, was convicted for two double murders on the Pembrokeshire coast, occurring in 1985 and 1989 respectively. Prior to his murder conviction, he had previously spent time in prison for burglary and robbery but was released in January 2009, just four months before his re-arrest.
Cooper was nicknamed ‘The Bullseye Killer’ by the press because of an appearance he made on the popular ’80s darts programme, footage from which was used as evidence against him in order to prove his similarity to a sketch of a suspect, after he had removed all photographs of himself from the period.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press about playing the character, Allen said: “I think what he hated was happiness, people being happy.
“With the couple walking on the coastal path, he must have seen a couple who were just in love, and had everything that he hadn’t got. The first scene that I did was the burial scene of my wife, and I met people who knew him who were from that village and saying ‘oh you would never have guessed’. Was he the life and soul of the party? No, but he was very polite, he didn’t like swearing.”
What else has Keith Allen been in? Allen has appeared in a wealth of TV and film projects since the ’80s, with some of his most notable credits including films such as Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and The Others.
He’s also a prolific small screen actor, having starred in the likes of Bodies, Robin Hood, The Runaway and The Body Farm.
Alexandria Riley plays DI Ella Richards
Who is DI Ella Richards? Wilkins’ sidekick, Ella Richards is not based on any one real person, but is a composite of various different people on Steve Wilkins’ team, with Riley describing her as an amalgamation of a few different real-life people and their roles.
What else has Alexandria Riley been in? Riley has a number of other TV credits to her name, notably including recurring roles in the second series of The End of the F***ing World and the BBC Three comedy In My Skin.
David Fynn plays Jonathan Hill
Who is Jonathan Hill? An ITV Wales journalist, Jonathan Hill had been planning a documentary about the murders before Steve Wilkins invited him to collaborate with him on bringing the killer to justice. Hill went on to play a crucial role in the case, including tracking down the Bullseye footage which served as crucial evidence and delivering bulletins about the case that he knew Cooper would watch while in prison. After Cooper was convicted, Hill co-wrote The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching the Bullseye Killer – the book on which the series is based – with Wilkins.
What else has David Fynn been in? Fynn is probably best known for his role as Brett in the US sitcom Undateable, while on stage he had the starring role of Dewey Finn in the West End musical adaptation of School of Rock – earning an Oliver nomination for his performance.
He’s also had minor roles in a number of hugely popular TV shows such as Game of Thrones, Sherlock, Doctor Who, The Inbetweeners, Black Mirror, Peep Show and Spooks.
Caroline Berry plays Pat Cooper
Who is Pat Cooper? John Cooper’s wife, Pat was a seamstress who was often intimidated by her husband. Unbeknownst to her, she was crucial in convicting John after she had accidentally sealed in blood evidence to a pair of John’s shorts she was altering. She passed away before her husband’s conviction.
What else has Caroline Berry been in? Previous roles for Berry include a recurring role on Coronation Street in 2014, and small roles on Doctors and Welsh drama Requiem. We’ll be seeing a lot of her on our screens in 2021 – she’s also got a role in Russell T Davies’ It’s a Sin.
Oliver Ryan plays Andrew Cooper
Who is Andrew Cooper? Andrew is John’s son, who had irredeemably fallen out with his father long before his conviction, having been bullied by him for much of his childhood. John frequently tried to implicate Andrew in the murders despite him having no involvement – a strategy which seemed to disgust Wilkins.
Discussing the character, Luke Evans said: “the portrayal of Andrew was done extremely well by the actor, and he brought out this tragic, desperate, fragile man who is left with nothing but pain – physical and emotional.
What else has Oliver Ryan been in? Previous TV credits for Ryan include roles on The Accident and Welsh drama Hinterland, while on the big screen he had a small role in Ridley Scott’s 2017 film All The Money In The World, and will appear in the upcoming sci-fi epic Dune.
Steffan Cennydd plays Jack Wilkins
Who is Jack Wilkins? Steve Wilkins’ son and a keen football player, Jack at times bemoans the fact that his Dad’s job takes over his life to the extent that they are often unable to spend much time together, but is also inspired by his father’s work.
What else has Steffan Cennydd been in? Cennydd had a key role in the second series of Welsh BBC crime drama Hidden, and has also appeared in Welsh language drama Enid a Lucy.
Mabli Jên Eustace plays Amy Wilkins
Who is Amy Wilkins? Amy is Steve’s ex-wife and the mother of Jack.
What else has Mabli Jên Eustace been in? Eustace has appeared in a string of Welsh drama series including Hinterland, Living a Lie and Enid a Lucy.
Owen Teale as Gerard Elias
Who is Gerald Elias? Gerard Elias is the barrister who is handed the responsibility of prosecuting John Cooper and try to get him convicted for the double murders.
What else has Owen Teale been in? Teale is undoubtedly best known to a wide audience for his role as Ser Alliser Thorne in Game of Thrones, while other small-screen credits include series one of Line of Duty, A Discovery of Witches and the 2015 BBC One drama River.
The cast also includes Kyle Lima as DC Nigel Rowe, Steven Meo as DI Lynne Harries, Charles Dale as DS Gareth Rees, Richard Corgan as DS Glyn Johnson, Rhodri Evan as DCS Coles, Roger Evans as DCI Jim Morris and William Thomas as DCI George Jones.
The Pembrokeshire Murders begins on Monday 11th January at 9pm on ITV. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.