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Who is Sam Riley? The SS-GB star’s TV CV

From Control and Brighton Rock to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – via a few weird German roles…

Published: Friday, 9th June 2017 at 2:00 pm

Sam Riley plays the starring role in new BBC1 alternate history drama SS-GB, where his character Douglas Archer solves crimes in a Nazi-controlled London that might be about to explode into full-blown revolt.


And if you’re wondering exactly where you recognise him from, the 37-year-old has a fairly eclectic acting CV across TV, film and music.

Early roles

After small parts in TV movies like Tough Love, Lenny Blue and Sound, Riley shot to fame in the lead role of Ian Curtis biopic Control, where he starred alongside Samantha Morton and met his future wife in German actress Alexandra Maria Lara. The film was critically-acclaimed, with much of the praise centred on Riley’s performance.

Moving to the movies

After a handful of small film roles Riley’s next big break came in Graham Greene adaptation Brighton Rock, where he played the lead character of Pinkie Brown, followed by a role opposite Angelina Jolie in Disney’s Maleficient.

Around this time he also starred as narrator/protagonist Sal Paradise in Jack Kerouac adaptation On The Road, Darvell in Neil Jordan’s Byzantium and Benoit Labarie in World War Two drama Suite Française.

Recent work

In 2016 Riley starred as a gun-toting interpretation of Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy for genre mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and will be similarly tooled up for Ben Wheatley’s shoot-out action-comedy Free Fire.

Riley also voices a headless chicken for children’s television series Tinkershrimp and Dutch, with his character Michael the Fowl serving as the primary antagonist.

German roles

Riley lives in Berlin with his wife and speaks German fluently, so has occasionally cropped up in German-language media as well. He had a cameo in 2011 German comedy Rubbeldiekatz, where Lara played the lead role, and starred as an unusual policeman for 2016 children’s movie Robbi, Tobbi und das Fliewatüüt.


Riley was the lead singer of Leeds-based band 10,000 Things for a few years, gaining moderate success on indie and major record labels until they disbanded in 2005. Reportedly, he originally got into acting to help boost his music career, only for it to take off in a way he never expected.


SS-GB airs on BBC1 on Sundays at 9.00pm


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