Paul Ritter: Friday Night Dinner star dies at 54

Image source, Getty Images

Actor Paul Ritter, who played dad Martin Goodman in the popular Channel 4 comedy Friday Night Dinner, has died after a brain tumour at the age of 54.

He also starred in Sky drama Chernobyl, played Eldred Worple in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and was in James Bond film Quantum of Solace.

His other TV credits included Vera, Belgravia, Cold Feet and No Offence.

Friday Night Dinner creator Robert Popper said he was "a deeply clever, funny, intelligent, kind man".

"But he also had that rare thing, he had the common touch, so people could just relate to him," Popper told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Media caption,
Paul Ritter's Friday Night Dinner co-star Tom Rosenthal paid tribute to him

Recalling watching Ritter on set, Popper said: "He was so quiet and focused before he went on, and then as soon as he went on, all that energy just popped out of him. It was amazing.

"I don't think he ever did anything wrong… he was very professional and he was a lovely guy."

Channel 4
Martin Goodman's best phrases

(...the ones we can include without asterisks)

  • 👋"Hello bambinos"

  • 🐿️"Lovely bit of squirrel"

  • 👀"Are you trying to be a moron?"

The sitcom also starred Tamsin Grieg, Simon Bird, Tom Rosenthal and Mark Heap. Ritter played Martin, who was loosely based on Popper's father, who apparently often walked around the house with his shirt off.

Rosenthal tweeted that it was "incredibly sad" news.

Stephen Mangan, who had known Ritter since they were students, co-starred with him in Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests in the West End and on Broadway. Mangan said he had "so much talent and it shone from him even as a teenager".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Ritter's agent said he was "an exceptionally talented actor playing an enormous variety of roles on stage and screen with extraordinary skill", describing him as "fiercely intelligent, kind and very funny".

In a statement, Big Talk, the producers of Friday Night Dinner, said: "He was a brilliant, kind and talented man much loved by everyone who was lucky enough to know and work with him, and Paul will forever be part of both the Big Talk and Friday Night Dinner families.

"Our thoughts are with his own family at this time and following their wishes we will be making a donation to the Old Vic Impact Fund."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ritter (centre) at the 2009 Tony Awards with his co-stars of The Norman Conquests

Other actors paying tribute included Derry Girls' Nicola Coughlan, who tweeted that Ritter "was absolutely magic", while Eddie Marsan said he was "one of our greatest actors".

Catastrophe's Rob Delaney said Ritter had an "unreal talent" that spanned comedy and drama, and fellow actor Sanjeev Kohli described him as "one of the most versatile & brilliant actors that has ever drawn breath".

Radio Times executive editor Morgan Jeffrey remembered him as "a fantastic, magnetic actor" and said Martin was "one of the most brilliant and memorable comedy characters of the past several decades".

Years and Years and Being Human star Russell Tovey said he still remembered learning a lesson on stage from Ritter.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Friday Night Dinner started in 2011 and was nominated for the best sitcom award at the Baftas the following year.

The show focused on the British Jewish Goodman family, whose sons returned home each Friday night for a meal, which usually involved eating "crimble crumble" for dessert, and ended in some kind of disarray after the appearance of their unusual neighbour Jim, played by Heap.

Martin would regularly joke about the meal's main course being "a lovely bit of squirrel".

Image source, Sky UK Ltd/HBO
Image caption,
Ritter played Anatoly Dyatlov in TV drama Chernobyl

Ritter, from Kent, told the New Zealand Herald in 2014 he based some aspects of Martin on his own father, saying: "Lots of the mannerisms come from my own dear old departed dad. He was a very funny guy as well."

The series became such a hit that Ritter said he was stopped in the street by teenagers and parents alike, who all wanted to talk to him about Martin. There have been three attempts at a US remake, including one with Tony Shalhoub as the father figure.

In the 2019 drama Chernobyl, which was produced by HBO and Sky UK, Ritter played Anatoly Dyatlov, the deputy chief engineer at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

The show, which also starred Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson, won awards including two Golden Globes and 10 Emmy Awards.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
He played former Prime Minister John Major on stage opposite Dame Helen Mirren as the Queen in 2013

Ritter was a familiar face elsewhere on stage and screen. He was nominated for an Olivier Award in the West End in 2006, and was up for a Tony Award on Broadway for The Norman Conquests.

In 2013, he played John Major in The Audience, which was The Crown creator Peter Morgan's play about the meetings between prime ministers and the Queen, played by Dame Helen Mirren.

His agent said on Tuesday: "It is with great sadness we can confirm that Paul Ritter passed away last night."

They said he died peacefully at home with his wife Polly and sons Frank and Noah by his side. "We will miss him greatly," they added.