When you start to watch a lot of British TV, you’ll notice that there are a lot of key actors and actresses who show up in EVERYTHING. Not only that, they make every show they pop up in better. And yet? These types of acting workhorses don’t tend to get enough press or love unless they are mindblowingly beautiful (I’m looking at you, Idris Elba), the hot flavor of the moment (I’m looking at you, Tom Hiddleston), or just showing up everywhere doing everything (yup, Emma Watson, that’s you).
So in this series of Criminally Underappreciated Brit Actors we’ll take a closer look at some of the best non-household names around. Today? We’ll consider Rupert Graves. For a while there it seemed like everything I watched included Rupert Graves, and he was usually playing a right bastard. But he doesn’t always. Let’s explore some of his body of work!
For one of his most recent and popular appearances, you don’t have to look further than Sherlock. Have you seen Graves as Inspector Lestrade in Stephen Moffat’s and Mark Gatiss’s massively popular reboot? I know, I know, everyone’s gaga over Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in that, but my heart in that series belongs firmly to Rupert Graves’s frustrated, hilarious, knows-his-limitations-but-isn’t-above-giving-Sherlock-shit-even-if-he-needs-him Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade. Please watch this clip, although it does include storyline spoilers. You really just have to watch the first few minutes of Graves and the two main characters in the police station drunk tank:
“Not really!” Love that.
Another big role for Graves was a bit earlier in his career, as the free-spirited (well, as free-spirited as a Forsyte could be) Jolyon Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga. He played the prodigal son who left his wife and daughter and the family ancestral home in order to run off with (and eventually marry) his child’s governess. Yeah, that was kind of a crappy thing to do, in a “the heart wants what it wants” bullshit kind of way, but full props to my boy Jolyon/Rupert for, later in the saga, when he stands up to Irene’s ex-husband and tormentor Soames Forsyte.
In another more recent role, Graves has also shown up as a complete, and I do mean complete, shithead in the police drama Scott & Bailey. There he’s an unscrupulous defense attorney who’s not above using information told to him in private by Rachel Bailey, his girlfriend and a cop who hasn’t quite learned the value of not talking about her cases with her attorney boyfriend. When I first saw him pop up there, I laughed, because it seems like quite often when Rupert does show up, he does so as a complete shit.When he very early on proves himself to be a complete bounder in that program, I laughed, because I had just seen him being a slippery suspect in an Inspector Lewis episode (Falling Darkness). He’s also not very nice in Garrow’s Law, and he’s a total prick (albeit a professionally successful one) in the British film Death at a Funeral.
A month or so ago when I was considering period dramas featuring royalty to watch instead of Victoria, I also looked over The Last King, starring Rufus Sewell as Charles II. And who should show up but a long-haired, not very loyal courtier? Why yes, that’s Rupert Graves, of course, playing another lover of Charles II’s (not very loyal, clearly) mistress Helen McCrory.
When I do a cursory look around the Interwebs for other roles in which Graves shone, I see a lot about him in the film A Room with a View, also starring Helena Bonham Carter (oh, my God, go look at that trailer; HBC looks all of ten years old there). I’ve seen that movie, and yet I don’t remember him at all! Oh joy, a reason to re-watch a British literary adaptation film. Well, if I have to, I HAVE to.
As a final note, evidently Graves’s under-the-radar status is by his choice, which just makes me love him even more. Go watch something he’s been in, will you?