Seven Roles That Made Us Love Russell Tovey: From 'Doctor Who' to 'The Night Manager'

Since his breakthrough role in The History Boys, Russell Tovey has become of the U.K.'s most prolific and likeable actors. This week, he returns to TV in Years and Years, HBO's ambitious new drama series from former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies which takes place in a near-future where British and world politics are beginning to get very questionable indeed.

Years and Years, which also stars Dame Emma Thompson and Rory Kinnear, marks a mini-reunion for the two Russells, who previously worked together on Doctor Who. Here's a reminder of that and some of our other favorite Tovey shows and movies.

Doctor Who

Tovey guest-starred opposite David Tennant and Kylie Minogue in the show's 2007 Christmas Special, 'Voyage of the Damned.' He plays Alonso Frame, a midshipman aboard the spaceship Titanic who makes up for what he lacks in voyaging experience with lashings of courage. Tovey's character pops up again in Tennant's farewell two-parter, 2010's 'The End of Time,' enjoying a frisson of flirtation with John Barrowman's Captain Jack Harkness. Now, there's a spin-off we'd like to see!

The History Boys

Tovey was an OG cast member when Alan Bennett's stage play The History Boys debuted at London's National Theatre in 2004, playing Peter Rudge, a sporty student who doesn't have much interest in history. "It's just one sodding thing after another," is how he memorably describes the subject! Along with fellow originals including James Corden, Dominic Cooper, and Richard Griffiths, Tovey reprised his role on Broadway and in an acclaimed 2006 movie.

The Night Manager

Tovey generally plays pretty sympathetic characters, so it's refreshing to see him tackle a darker role in AMC's award-winning adaptation of John le Carré's 1993 spy novel. He makes a suitably grisly impression in the first episode as Simon Ogilvey, a calculating British Consulate employee who has a pretty vicious misogynistic streak.


Tovey joined HBO's comedy-drama about a group of gay men living in San Francisco as a recurring cast member in season one, playing Kevin, a successful British video-game entrepreneur who becomes a love interest for Jonathan Groff's Patrick. He was upgraded to a series regular for season two, and he and Groff's screen chemistry also shines brightly in 2017's concluding chapter, Looking: The Movie, in which things get pretty emotional. No, you have something in your eye!

Being Human

Tovey co-starred with Aidan Turner in the first three seasons of BBC America's hit supernatural drama, playing George, a seemingly ordinary guy who just happens to be a werewolf. George has a tendency to be awkward and inadvertently funny, which made him a bit of a fan favorite, so let's hope he could be tempted back if there's ever a Being Human revival series.

Gavin and Stacey

Tovey guest stars in four episodes of the acclaimed British sitcom co-created by James Corden. Fittingly, his character Budgie is a friend of Corden's character Smithy, and tends to join him on nights out, so the two actors get to revisit their slightly boisterous History Boys camaraderie. Fingers crossed Tovey signs up to appear in the show's one-off comeback special because we'd definitely like to see another Tovey-Corden reunion.

The Pass

In this BAFTA-nominated British film, Tovey plays a fictional soccer star struggling to keep a lid on his sexuality in a world where coming out as gay could be considered career suicide. Writer John Donnelly adapted The Pass from his stage play of the same name, which Tovey starred in at London's Royal Court Theatre, and the results are compelling and claustrophobic–in fact, most of the action takes place in a single room. It's not one of Tovey's best-known roles, but he's on top form playing a conflicted character who's both cruel and flirtatious with a former teammate (Fantastic Beasts' Arinzé Kene) that he clearly has romantic feelings for.

What are your favorite Russell Tovey roles?