Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London TV Series: Casting Wishlist

Ben Aaronovitch
Ben Aaronovitch

After a lot of input from Rivers of London fans the TVClaw Casting Wishlist has been updated  again (31/10/14). Some choices stay the same, some have changed. Others are still undecided. What say you?

Fans of writer Ben Aaronovitch have been doing the happy dance since it was announced back in June that Rivers of London (published in the U.S. as Midnight Riot) has been optioned for television.

“I’m looking forward to this with the mixture of mad anticipation and stark fear that is the only rational response to developing your own work for television,” said Aaronovitch. “[We] will be looking to put something on TV that will blow the audiences’ socks off out through their ears.”

With television vet Aaronovitch (Doctor Who, Casualty) behind the wheel, all should be well provided they get the casting right. Who could, who should play Peter Grant et al.?

For a while Aaronovitch maintained a collaborative fantasy casting wishlist on his blog made up of suggestions from readers. “I keep getting asked who I think should play the characters in the Rivers books and mind always goes blank. So I did what I always do when faced with an empty brain. I went on Twitter and asked other people. The result got out of hand so I decided to turn it into a page.”

The page has been taken down, but recently Aaronovitch tweeted that his first choice to play Nightingale would be Paul McGann. He joked that, “You know if Paul isn’t available I believe I’d settle for Tom Hiddleston as Nightingale – you know – if I had too [sic]”.

Let’s join in the fun and add the TVClaw crowd’s choices to the Rivers of London fantasy cast.

As usual let’s speculate wildly, try not to cry when remembering that Patrick Malahide and Nigel Havers — both of whom would have been perfect 10 years ago —  are too old to play Nightingale, ignore actors’ pre-existing work commitments, and compile our own dream cast for Rivers of London. Add your picks in Comments.

The TVClaw Rivers of London Casting Wishlist (Updated, 31/10/14)

P.C. Peter Grant: after much back and forth we’re going for Ukweli Roach over previous pick Alex Lanipekun (he is a little bit long in the tooth to play Peter). Check out Ukweli’s Twitter profile: he describes himself as ‘wizard’. Oooooh. Errrrr. Stay tuned for updates!

D.C.I. Thomas Nightingale: Paul McGann does have the perfect combination of eccentricity and intensity (and would have been the best Doctor Who ever if he’d been given a proper crack at it), but was initially barred from the Casting Wishlist on grounds of height. However, with some Folly magic that could be overcome. And yes, Tom Hiddleston would also be great in the role, and there’s an outside chance the Wallander alum would return to television à la his Thor co-star Elba. However, don’t discount the power of the vastly underrated Darren Boyd. That said, the popular vote goes to Ioan Gruffud. With his latest foray, Forever, wobbling a bit in the US television ratings right now it’s possible he could be available in the near future.

P.C. Lesley May: we want Kimberley Nixon! After her memorable turns in Fresh Meat and the glorious Under Milk Wood she’s knocked previous favorites  Nichola Burley and Maisie Williams off the top spot.

Beverley Brook: Estella Daniels

Dr Walid: Tony Curran or fellow ginger scene-stealer Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Molly: Talulah Riley in a black wig would still make for an interesting Molly. Yes, of course Helena Bonham-Carter would be hilarious and terrifying and perfect as Molly, but could she be tempted to the small screen for more than a one-off? However, the TVClaw popular opinion is that either HBC or Shirley Henderson would be a far better fit for the part than Riley.

D.C.I. Alexander Seawoll: Greg Davies

Lady Celia Tyburn Thames: Zawe Ashton

D.S. Miriam Stephanopoulos: Julia Sawalha hereby replaces previous pick Catherine Tate

Mama Thames: Patti Boulaye

Father Thames: David Essex

Lord Grant: wouldn’t Cockney Rebel front man (and Deptford native) Steve Harley be amazeballs as Peter’s dad?

Ben Aaronovitch’s lastest novel, Broken Homes, is in bookshops now.

Check out his interview on BBC Breakfast in which he talks all things Folly, explains why old-school Daleks don’t talk much and reiterates his support for Idris Elba as the next Doctor.



54 thoughts on “Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London TV Series: Casting Wishlist

  1. I’m liking John Boyega for Peter, though he is very young – but then so is Peter.
    Paul McGann while good for Thomas is going to have a hard time de-aging. I was thinking Ioan Gruffudd? David Tennant? James Frain?
    Shirley Henderson would be so perfect for Molly.
    Maisie Williams is just how I see Lesley.
    Never saw Whalid as a red head, more Gary Lewis.
    What about Judith Shekoni for Lady Ty
    Seawoll I always saw as Warren Clarke-ish, not sure who that would be now.
    Peter’s father – Fintan McKeown
    Peter’s mother – Marianne Jean-Baptiste or Adjoa Andoh

    1. Brilliant suggestions. I hadn’t thought of John Boyega before. He could be very good.
      I know what you mean about Paul McGann. I’m starting to think a de-buffed Richard Armitage could be an awesome Nightingale.
      Bring back Fintan McKeown! (But not Fair Haven.) I haven’t seen him in anything recently apart from a v small part in Game of Thrones. He’d be great as Lord Grant.

  2. Having just listened to the first 4 books back to back read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (a great choice) the image immediately conjured up of Nightingale for me is Rik Mayall (think Gideon Pryke in the Jonathan Creek episodes). He might be a bit old but then Nightingale is conservatively in his 90’s (although time might not count in his case). I’m sure the make up department could brush over a few cracks and Rik would be brilliant.

  3. It’s no good, for me Thomas ‘sorry was that your Tiger tank’ Nightingale will for ever look like Ioan Gruffudd, he hasn’t acquired a Welsh accent yet, but give it time!

  4. Ukweli Roach or Elliot Knight for Peter Grant (he has to be YOUNG, people).

    Paul McGann is a brilliant suggestion for Nightingale, although Richard Armitage or Greg Wise would also be good (a few months ago I thought either David Tennant or (snerk) Peter Capaldi would be great choices).

    Walid is not a white man (as much as I love Tony Curran, read the books for God’s sake), so it should be someone such as Alexander Siddig, Naveen Andrews, etc.

    No clue about Lesley or Molly (don’t really care actually).

    1. Interesting ideas but you’re wrong about Dr Walid. See this from Ben Aaronovitch: “Dr Walid is a white Scot from Oban, his family are observant members of the Church of Scotland, and he converted to Islam when studying medicine at Edinburgh.” He also descibes Dr Walid as “a spry, gingery man in his fifties,” which is why Tony Curran seems like a good choice.

      1. Thanks. That’s what I get for speed reading. 😉 I adore Tony Curran, but in this case, I also think my erstwhile British boyfriends Julian Rhind-Tutt or Stephen Mackintosh might suit Dr. Wallid, too (although Mackintosh isn’t all that gingery).

    1. Is that the guy from the Sherlock wedding episode? Because I thought immediately that he’d suit as Grant (not as well as Ukweli Roach, but good enough). I’m also really liking Jacob Anderson from Game of Thrones [Grey Worm] for the role (but not as much as Ukweli Roach, who is perfect for it).

      I adore Ayoade, but even if he were the right age (as when he was in Garth Marenghi), he’s much too offbeat for Grant. The thing about Peter is that despite all the wizard stuff he’s pretty normal. Well, all things considered.

      I also wish people would stop suggesting actors who aren’t half white. That’s one of Grant’s defining characteristics.

      1. Alfie Enoch from ‘Sherlock’ (a.k.a. Dean Thomas from the ‘Harry Potter’ films) could be excellent as Peter. And he might bring in a ton of HP fans as viewers. I also really like the idea of Ukweli Roach.

  5. I had Bill Nighy in my head for Nightingale; a brunette Rosamund Pike for Molly; James Floyd for Peter; Gemma Atkinson perhaps for Lesley; Marsha Thomason for Beverly Brook. I don’t know other actors whose faces match the ones in my head when I read for the other characters other than a twiggy-alike for sky!

    1. Far too old, as much as I adore him. Nightingale is ancient, but he’s supposed to look as if he’s in his early forties. Nighy is clearly in his 60s.

  6. Leslie- I’m sorry but Maisie Williams is far too young-she’s a 17 year-old child! I think Natalie Dormer would nail it.

    Beverly Brooks- definitely Lenora Crichlow.

    Molly- Jessica Henwick or Katie Leung.

    Completely random but I think C4’s Goggle Box’s Sandy and Sandra (the two black women from Brixton in season 3) should have the odd cameo appearances as two of the Rivers-purely for comic value! I love those two and giggle as soon as they come on they would be a perfect double act!

    Mama Thames- Alfree Woodard.

    Peter – I honestly don’t know-I’m not sure I see him as any of the above mentioned actors. I definitely think he needs to be a mixed race actor given Peter’s heritage. I think it would be nice to have a relatively unknown actor- it would be a good breakout role.

    Nightingale… Probably a bit outside the box but I’ve always pictured him as John Hurt-possibly a slightly younger version but I think he could still do a fantastic job. But if he must be younger- Ralph Fiennes.

    Father Thames- Anthony Hopkins!!

    Seawoll- agree with Greg Davies.

    1. After Sherlock I prefer Alfie Enoch, but given Benedict Cumberbatch’s record, there would appear to be no reason John Boyega can’t do both.
      My choice for Nightingale will never change.

      1. Yes, I still think Enoch would do a good job, though he doesn’t scream “London” how I imagine Peter to. Noel Clarke would have been great 10 years ago. Ioan Gruffud would probably be *amazing* as Nightingale (though I still have a hard time accepting that Hornblower’s over 40) but he’s got a pretty full dance card these days: he’s just signed on for The Rock’s new disaster flick (playing an evil love rival, natch). Still, if Cumberbatch can multi-task so can he!

  7. Tom Hiddleston for Nightingale. He has a first class degree in the Classics so can really speak latin and greek. He pretty much matches the physical description (if a tad young but given the character’s history, not an obstacle). He also has that voice, enough said. And of course he drives a Jag! Brilliant actor and probably now too expensive and booked up but he would nail it.

  8. Christopher Fairbank is the face I imagine as Lord Grant, Phil Daniels would be great as a Larry the Lark cameo and Richard Armitage would have to ham it up as Nightingale for us.

  9. I’ve changed my mind about THE actor to play Peter Grant (even though I still love Ukweli Roach, who was great on Grantchester): now he MUST be played by Doctor Who’s [recently deceased] Danny Pink, aka Samuel Anderson. He’s a tiny bit too old but is such an incredible actor that it wouldn’t matter. Fantastic voice, too.

    Been watching Gracepoint, the sad US remake of Broadchurch, and I still think David Tennant would be a superlative Nightingale. Still stumped about Lesley casting, though, as I don’t know of any even slightly known actress who would consent to appearing in most of the series in a prosthetic mask.

  10. Jacob Anderson for Peter, Hugh Bonneville for Nightingale. He’s exactly the right age and he does upper class very well. Freema Agyeman would make a good Bev, and Karen Gillan would make a very good Leslie.

    As for Molly, it would have to be someone who stands out a bit, pretty but also odd looking. Maybe Lily Cole?

    1. Please leave the heinous Karen Gillan well out of this. She’s already effectively ruined one of my favorite shows, but the thought of her getting her claws into Peter – yecch. The only upside of her casting would be that mask – we’d never have took at her.

    2. Yes, Jacob Anderson (age 25) over UKwell Roach (age 30). I would like Micheal Caine or Bill Nighy or Who played the Newspaper magnate in Downton Abbey? That kind of RP ‘right posh’ accent is hard to find nowadays, even the Right Posh don’t speak it nowadays. I keep hearing douglas powell. (No man of her own, 1939??)

  11. If Kobna Holdbrook-Smith can’t be Peter (and he will ALWAYS be Peter in my mind) then definitely Ukweli Roach. Tom Hiddleston as Nightingale certainly. Natalie Dormer as Molly. That’s as far as my reach goes right now. This will take quite a while to come to fruition.

    1. WAIT. What were we thinking? Kobna Holdbrook-Smith can play all the roles. Just like Alec Guiness in kind hearts and coronets (I think). There. Solved.

    1. YES. I just flashed on it right now, recalling his recent roles in Agent Carter and Broadchurch II. ACK. He’s perfect: the right age, toff accent (or at least can do one), commanding presence with the ability to seem a bit tortured, really intelligent, can wear period-ish clothes well. My other new choice for Nightingale might be Matthew Goode, but he might be too…self-aware for the role.

  12. What about Alfred Enoch? (Him what played Dean Thomas in Harry Potter). He’s the right age and has could fit a description of Peter Grant. He played a one-off character named Bainbridge in season 3 Sherlock and I think it shows that he could really make the character work. I’m rubbish with words but if you watch it you’ll see what I mean. It’s the wedding episode, I’m just re-watching it and it struck me.

  13. All I see for Nightingale is Guy Henry from Holby City! Have you guys seen the Rivers of London music video because, after seeing him elsewhere, I think Doc Brown (rapper not BTTF) would be a cracking Peter! I’m definitely feeling Helena Bonham Carter as Molly. Daniela Denby-Ashe as Lesley thinking back to her Torchwood character. Jason Statham as Seawoll and that’s about it for my suggestions!

  14. Daniel Kaluuya as Peter Grant
    Sophie Wu as Molly
    Robert Sheehan as Ash
    Lady Ty as Zawe Ashton
    Nightingale either Tom Hiddleston or benedict cumberbatch or David tenant

    But honestly don’t mind, would just love to see the characters brought to life in TV or film! Loved the books and hate it when I come to the end of the books… I hope Peter Grant and Nightingale have many more mysteries to come.

  15. Alfie Enoch or Ashley Walter – peter grant
    Rupert Penry-Jones – Nightingale
    Freema Agyemen – bev brook
    lily cole – molly
    Tony Curran – abdul Walid (now that defiance has been cancelled

    thats all i got

  16. Jacob Anderson (G.O.T) – Peter Grant
    Nathaniel Parker (Inspector Lynley) – Nightingale
    Estella Daniels – Beverley Brook
    Lacey Turner – Lesley
    Taryn Manning or Gemma Chan – Molly
    David Essex – Oxley

  17. Peter – Jacob Anderson, grey worm from GoT

    The Nightingale – Robert Bathurst from Cold Feet

    It’s funny, both actors voices are in my head when I read

    And now will be in yours 🙂

  18. I’d be happy with any of the very good choices that you’ve presented. So relieved that how I perceived the characters to be and look are in your safe hands. I’m especially happy that the D.C.I. Thomas Nightingale actors you picked as your favourites, all have that lean, ever so slightly wirey look about them. Looking impeccably handsome in a three piece suit with slightly sunken cheekbones; devilishly handsome with that “I’m too intelligent to stop and eat properly’ look. Gosh … Please give me D.C.I. Thomas Nightingale on the small screen soon?!

  19. How about Jacob Anderson for Peter Grant? He’s still in his twenties, and he was memorable as Grey Worm in Game of Thrones.

  20. Has there been any progress on this project?

    As to actors for Peter Grant, for me there can only be one: Noel Clarke. If he isn’t available then I could see Ray Fearon or O T Fagbenle in the role.

    1. As far as I know, the project’s still in development at Feel Films, the team that brought Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell to the screen. No cast or director attached yet.

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