Bill Paterson (actor)

William Tulloch Paterson (born 3 June 1945)[1] is a Scottish actor and commentator. He has appeared in many film and television projects including Comfort and Joy (1984), Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), Wives and Daughters (1999), Sea of Souls (2004–2007), Amazing Grace (2006), Miss Potter (2006), and PBS's Little Dorrit (2008). He most recently appeared in Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag as the title character's father (2016–2019).

Bill Paterson
Paterson in 2006
William Tulloch Paterson

(1945-06-03) 3 June 1945
Glasgow, Scotland
Years active1967–present
WebsiteBill Paterson

Early life

Born in Glasgow, Paterson spent three years as a quantity surveyor's apprentice[2] before attending the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.[3]


Paterson made his professional acting debut in 1967, appearing alongside Leonard Rossiter in Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre. In 1970, Paterson joined the Citizens' Theatre for Youth. He remained there as an actor and assistant director until 1972, when he left to appear with Billy Connolly in The Great Northern Welly Boot Show at the Edinburgh Festival. Paterson would work with Connolly again, some years later, when he performed in Connolly's play An Me Wi' a Bad Leg Tae.

Paterson spent much of the 1970s in John McGrath's theatre company, 7:84, touring the United Kingdom and Europe with plays such as The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black Black Oil. He was a founding member of 7:84, and made his London debut in 1976 with the company. He appeared in the Edinburgh Festival and London with John Byrne's first play, Writer's Cramp, and he first appeared in the West End when he took over the lead role in Whose Life Is It Anyway? at the Savoy Theatre in 1979.

Paterson's career began to centre more on television than the theatre. His first appearances included the 1978 BAFTA award winning drama Licking Hitler, and playing King James in the UK television serial Will Shakespeare the same year. He played Lopakhin in the BBC production of The Cherry Orchard in 1981. Paterson did not, however, entirely neglect the theatre, and in 1982, he was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance as Schweyk in another Brecht play, Schweik in the Second World War at the National Theatre. He was in the original National Theatre production of Guys and Dolls (1982), Death and the Maiden at the Royal Court and Duke of York's (1991–92) and Ivanov at the Almeida, London and Maly Theatre, Moscow (1997). His most recent theatre is Earthquakes in London at the National Theatre in the summer of 2010.

The early 1980s also saw Paterson beginning to appear in films, including The Killing Fields, Comfort and Joy and A Private Function (all 1984). Other film credits include Dutch Girls (1985), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1987), The Witches (1990), Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), Chaplin (1992), Sir Ian McKellen's Richard III (1995), Bright Young Things (2003), Miss Potter (2006), How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008) and Creation (2009). In 1997, he appeared as Brian, a cafe owner who knows the Spice Girls, in Spice World.[4]

His extensive and award-winning TV career includes a memorable portrayal of villain Ally Fraser in series 2 of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1986), Smiley's People (1982), The Singing Detective (1986), Traffik (1988), The Crow Road (1996) and Doctor Zhivago (2002).

Much of his later work has been for the BBC, starring as Dr Douglas Monaghan in three seasons of the supernatural drama series Sea of Souls. He also played the role of Dr Gibson in the 1999 production of Wives and Daughters, and appeared in the 2008 BBC production of the Charles Dickens novel Little Dorrit as Mr Meagles, as DS Box in the first series of Criminal Justice (2008), and as Dr James Niven in Spanish Flu: The Forgotten Fallen; from 2009–10 he appeared as George Castle, the head of the CPS in Law & Order: UK.

Throughout his career he has appeared regularly in radio drama and provided the narration for a large number of documentaries. He provided the voice of the Assistant Arcturan Pilot in Episode 7 of the original BBC Radio 4 version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 1978. In 2005, he would take a similar role as Rob McKenna, a lorry driver and unknowing Rain God, in Fits the 19th, 20th, and 22nd of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Quandary Phase. He also played the key role of SIS Chief Percy Alleline in the 2009 BBC Radio 4 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.[5]

In 2010, Paterson starred in Doctor Who as Professor Edwin Bracewell, in the episode "Victory of the Daleks", with his character making a second appearance in the opening half of the season finale, "The Pandorica Opens". Later in the year, Paterson narrated the BBC Four wildlife documentary Birds Britannia. In 2011, Paterson starred in Fast Freddie, The Widow and Me.

Paterson played lawyer Ned Gowan in the 2014 Starz period TV series, Outlander.[6] In 2014 Patterson lands a part as Douglas Henshall's father in TV series Shetland.[7]

Paterson has also narrated for various television and radio programmes. In 2003, Paterson began broadcasting radio stories about his childhood in Glasgow, Tales From the Back Green on BBC Scotland, which led to them being published by Hodder in 2008 and appearances at many book festivals throughout the UK. He narrated the 2009 BBC TV programme 1929 – The Great Crash which recalled the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and compared it to the recent financial turmoil of 2008. He also narrates the BBC's annual coverage of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and in 2013 appeared as Adam Smith in The Low Road at the Royal Court. In 2016 he narrated The Farmers' Country Showdown, a series for the BBC following the agricultural show season and broadcast early in 2017.[8]

Personal life

In 1984, Paterson married stage designer Hildegard Bechtler, with whom he has a son and a daughter. They live in London, England.[9]


Play for Today7:48/Luke
Archie MacLean/Actor
Tony/Ron Brackett
1976The Flight of the HeronSergeantTV
1977Backs to the LandForbesTV
1978ITV PlayhouseGaryTV
Life of ShakespeareKing James ITV
The Odd JobSergeant Mull
1979One Fine DaySecond Man in LiftTV film
Telford's ChangeKevinTV
Scottish PlaybillTV
1979 - 1981Crown CourtDr RutherfordTV
1980The Lost TribeMoshe KaydanTV Mini-Series
1981The Cherry OrchardLopakhinTV film
1982Smiley's PeopleLauder StricklandTV Mini-Series
1983The Ploughman's LunchLecturer
One of OurselvesMr DalyTV film
1984Comfort and JoyAlan
The Killing FieldsDr MacEntire
Scotland's StoryDavid Kirkwood/Thomas MuirTV
A Private FunctionMorris Wormold the Meat Inspector
1985Dutch GirlsMoleTV film
1986Auf Wiedersehen, PetAlly FraserTV series
Defence of the RealmJack MacLeod
God's Chosen Car ParkVictor RosenTV film
The Singing DetectiveDr GibbonTV
Friendship's DeathSullivan
Coming Up RosesMr Valentine
1988The Modern World: Ten Great WritersTitorelliTV
Hidden CityAnthony
The Adventures of Baron MunchausenHenry Salt
1989The Return of the MusketeersCharles I
The Rachel PapersGordon Highway
TraffikJack LithgowTV
BoonPeter MortanTV
1990God on the RocksMr MarshTV film
The WitchesMr Herbert Jenkins
The Play on OneAlex McPhersonTV
Bearskin: An Urban FairytaleJordan
Truly, Madly, DeeplySandy
Just Ask for DiamondChief Inspector Snape
1991ShrinksMatt HennesseyTV
The Object of BeautyVictor Swayle
Murder Most HorridChief InspectorTV
1992Tell Tale HeartsAnthony SteadmanTV Mini-Series
ChaplinStage Manager
In DreamsDr GoldTV film
1993Screen OnePC Howard MullenTV
1994Hard TimesStephen BlackpoolTV
The TurnaroundJames Webb
Oliver's TravelsBaxterTV Mini-Series
Richard IIISir Richard Ratcliff
Ghostbusters of East FinchleyJoe SmallTV
1996The Writing on the WallBullTV film
The Crow RoadKenneth McHoanTV
SharmanTV series episode 1
VictoryCaptain Davidson
1997MelissaDCI CameronTV Mini-Series
Spice WorldBrian
Mr. White Goes to WestministerBen WhiteTV film
1998Hilary and JackieCello Teacher
Out of SightMarcus MildewTV
Oi! Get Off Our TrainWalrus (Voice)Television Short
1999Chrono-PerambulatorProfessor Teddy KnoxShort Film
HeartMr Kreitman
The MatchTommy
SunshineMinister of Justice
Wives and DaughtersMr GibsonTV Mini-Series
2000ComplicityWallace Byatt
The Secret Adventures of Jules VerneSir Nicol McLeanTV
2004Foyle's WarPatrick JamiesonTV series
2004–2005Shoebox ZooNarratorTV series
2004-2006Sea of SoulsDr Douglas MonaghanTV series
2005Rag TaleLucky Lloyd
2006Amazing GraceHenry Dundas
2006 Miss Potter Rupert Potter Film
2008Little DorritMr MeaglesTV series
2009CreationDr Gully
2009Into the StormClement Attlee
20092011Law & Order: UKGeorge CastleTV series
2010An GruffaloThe Gruffalo (voice)Short film, Gaelic version
Doctor WhoProfessor Edwin Bracewell"Victory of the Daleks"
"The Pandorica Opens"
2011The Man Who Crossed HitlerKurt OhnesorgeTV
Fast Freddie, The Widow and MeJudgeTV
2012Dirk GentlyProfessor JerichoTV series - 1.2
FalcónIgnacio OrtegaEpisode "The Silent and the Damned"
201437 DaysLord MorleyTV series
OutlanderNed GowanTV series
ShetlandJames PerezEpisode "Blue Lightning" (Parts 1 & 2)
2015The Vote Simon Weatherstone(live TV broadcast from the Donmar Warehouse)
2016Dad's ArmyPrivate FrazerFilm adaptation of original BBC sitcom
2016The RebelCharlesTV
2018Inside No. 9Mr GreenTV
2019Good OmensR.P. TylerTV
2019Guilt (BBC Scotland TV series)Roy LynchTV


  1. "Paterson, William Tulloch". Who's Who. London: A. & C. Black. 2008.
  2. "Portrait of the artist: Bill Paterson, actor". The Guardian. 7 February 2012.
  3. "Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - Alumni". Archived from the original on 16 October 2012.
  4. Spice World (1997), retrieved 14 February 2019
  5. "The Complete Smiley: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Episode 2". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  6. Ferguson, Brian (10 June 2014). "Bill Paterson lands key part in Outlander TV show". The Scotsman. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  7. "BBC One - Shetland - Bill Paterson". BBC. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  8. "BBC One - The Farmers' Country Showdown, Series 1 30-Minute Versions, Pigs". BBC. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  9. "How We Met: Hildegard Bechtler and Billy Paterson". The Independent. 27 February 1994. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
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