10 Things You Never Knew About 'The North Water' Actor Stephen Graham
Since launching his career a little over 30 years ago, Stephen Graham has become a familiar face on our screens – in 2019 alone he appeared in Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, the U.K.'s biggest crime drama series Line of Duty, and hit Elton John biopic Rocketman. Next up for the Liverpool-born actor is The North Water, AMC+'s super-dark five-parter about an ill-fated whaling expedition to the Arctic. Ahead of its premiere Thursday, here are some things you might not know about this prolific and super-likable actor.
1. Though he won considerable acclaim for his performance as a racist vigilante in the 2006 film This Is England, at the time he thought it had ended his career.
"After This Is England I could not get a job. For about eight months I couldn't get an audition," Graham told the Press Association in 2019. "I almost packed it all in. I was going to be a youth worker."
2. He's appeared in quite a few music videos over the years.
Among them: "Turn" by Travis, "I Remember" by Deadmau5 and Kaskade, and both "Fluorescent Adolescent" and "When the Sun Goes Down" by Arctic Monkeys. You can check out the latter below.
3. He introduced Killing Eve's Jodie Comer to his agent, Jane Epstein, who is now Comer's agent too.
"Stephen called me from the set of a series he was doing back in 2012 called Good Cop and passionately described a scene he had just shot with a young actress who he thought was one of the most exciting talents he had worked with to date," Epstein told The Guardian. "He was so impressed by her and asked if I would meet her. I did, and he was right."
Comer is clearly incredibly grateful for the connection. When she won a BAFTA TV Award in 2019, she mentioned Graham in her acceptance speech, saying: "Stephen, if I didn't owe you a pint before then, I do now. Thank you for the generosity you showed me all those years ago and for introducing me to Jane."
4. Because he's dyslexic, his actress wife Hannah Walters, whom he met at drama school, reads his scripts for him.
Graham told The Times in 2018: "She says, 'We're doing this,' and I say, 'OK.' If I can find socially aware, political things that are saying something — well, that's where I'm from. It's what I know. So it's where I've tried to keep my base."
5. Walters plays his on-screen wife in the BBC miniseries Time, which aired in the U.K. last month.
"I had one of those moments [where] I thought how blessed I am," Graham told The Telegraph recently. "That kid who wanted to be an actor, and all of a sudden, he is in his position with his wife, who's built this life with him. There was a sense of pride, but also an amazing sense of gratitude."
6. He suffered from "really bad depression" in his early twenties.
During an interview on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, Graham said that his depression was triggered by several family tragedies including his grandmother's death and his mother losing a baby. "I'd been through these few traumatic things and never really grieved," he recalled. "I had a breakdown, with all of these things that had happened – traumatic – from my late teens that I hadn’t really dealt with or I hadn’t come to terms with."
At his lowest ebb, Graham even tried to take his own life. Thankfully, he said that support from his friends and family helped him to "slowly come round to the understanding that it was okay [and that] life was worth living."
7. He now has a fairy cake (cupcake) tattooed on his left arm in tribute to his grandmother.
"I used to be at my nana’s all the time, because my school was round the corner," Graham recalled on Desert Island Discs, noting that she was a "fantastic cook" who sold home-made snacks from her food truck. Apparently Graham's nana used to make "a boss pan of scouse," which is a form of meat and potato stew popular in Graham's native Liverpool.
8. He credits his stepfather with helping him to understand his heritage.
Graham is mixed race: his biological father is part-Jamaican and part-Swedish. "There were times there, growing up, I was slightly unsure where I fitted in," the actor said on Desert Island Discs. "[My stepfather] taught me the history and the cultural aspect of where I came from, which was beautiful."
9. Leonardo DiCaprio gave him the nickname "animal" when they were shooting Gangs of New York in 2002.
It stemmed from a scary-sounding incident involving a golf cart, which Graham recounted during an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show. "Two days before we're due to start work he's driving around in this golf cart and I've asked him if I can have a go," the Brit recalled. "I'm driving this golf cart straight down the hill and we've come to a corner, and I've looked at DiCaprio and we're bombing down this hill and as I've turned the corner, I've hit a brick and the golf cart started to tip. It's gone like in slow motion and, as it's gone, his leg's underneath."
Graham continued: "It looks like it's going to land on his foot. And then he just pulled it in and it's hit the floor." Thankfully, the two actors were then flung from the cart and managed to escape unscathed, at which point DiCaprio told Graham: "You could have broken my leg!"
10. And finally, he tried to teach Tom Hanks a Liverpool accent when they worked together on the 2020 movie Greyhound.
As you'll see from their appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Hanks' impersonation of Graham is actually pretty good.
Do you have a favorite Stephen Graham performance to date?