Ridley Road cast: who is in BBC drama with Rita Tushingham, how many episodes are there, and when’s it on TV?

 The period drama is based on Jo Bloom’s book, which was adapted for screen by Sarah Solemani

BBC’s period drama Ridley Road, inspired by the anti-fascist movement of 1960s Britain, has become a favourite Sunday night programme.

Based on Jo Bloom’s novel, and adapted for screen by Sarah Solemani, the drama follows the story of a young woman as she attempts to infiltrate the National Socialist Movement (NSM) in order to find and protect her boyfriend, a loyal member of anti-fascist movement, 62 Group.

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So, who stars in Ridley Road, where have seen them before - and what have they said about their characters? This is everything you need to know.

Who is in the Ridley Road cast?

Agnes O’Casey as Vivien Epstein

Vivien Epstein is played by Agnes O’Casey (Picture: BBC)

Vivien Epstein is played by Agnes O’Casey, who makes her TV debut in the leading role for Ridley Road.

She previously starred in a string of stage productions, going by her nickname ‘Aggi’, and is the granddaughter of Irish dramatist Seán O’Casey.

In Ridley Road, she plays 23-year-old Vivien from Manchester, who escapes her overbearing but loving parents by moving to London to pursue her relationship with Jack, a devoted anti-fascist campaigner.

When he goes missing, she goes on a wild, dangerous adventure which see’s her undercover and befriending fascists.

On why she took on the role of Vivien, O’Casey said: “When it first came up, I thought it was perfect. It’s so relevant for now, and it’s so much more than a ‘topical’ show - it’s so full of heart and humanity, what Sarah’s (Solemani) done is beautiful.

“This is my first job and the idea that my first job would be so perfectly in line with everything I believe in is a dream come true.”

Tom Varey as Jack Morris

Tom Varey researched 43 Group and 62 Group to take on his role (Picture:BBC)

Jack Morris, is played by Tom Varey, who viewers might recognise from his previous roles in Ackley Bridge and Game of Thrones.

Varey told the BBC he researched the period in depth to understand the period and what it would have been like to be in London as a Jewish man at the time.

Asked why people should watch the series, he said: “People should watch Ridley Road because it’s so many different things in one. It’s not your average period drama.

“There’s romance and it feels very contemporary, it doesn’t feel like a period drama. It’s about spies, it’s thrilling, it’s romantic, it’s really exciting. Underpinning it all is this really strong message that is relevant today, so I think it’s incredibly important and exciting.”

Rory Kinnear as Colin Jordan

Rory Kinnear plays the leader of the NSM, Colin Jordan (Picture: BBC)

Olivier Award winning screenwriter and actor Rory Kinnear stars as Colin Jordan, leader of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM).

Kinnear previously worked on hit drama Years and Years and The Second Coming with award-winning screenwriter and director Russell T Davies.

His character in Ridley Road leads the violent, riotous neo-Nazi movement and does not suffer fools gladly.

On whether the series is relevant today, Kinnear told the BBC: “It’s obviously being made because there is something to be said about contemporary British society.

“And also, it is saying that whilst it may not be a majority opinion, these repugnant arguments still exist, even in being repeated or given publicity to infect the discourse and politics in general, and we must continue to resist that.”

Danny Hatchard as Lee

Hatchard has previously worked for the BBC on military drama Our Girl, as Private Rhett Charlton and in EastEnders as Lee Carter.

His latest role as Lee sees Hatchard play a leading member of the NSM, close to Colin Jordan. The NSM is family to him, and he is loyal to Colin even though the feeling might not be mutual.

Eddie Marsan and Tracy-Ann Oberman as Soly and Nancy Malinovsky

Soly, played by Eddie Marsan, founds anti-fascism movement, 62 Group (Picture: BBC)

Cab driver and leader of 62 Group is Soly Malinovsky, played by Eddie Marsan. Marsan won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film Happy-Go-Lucky.

Code 404 actress Tracy-Ann Oberman plays Soly’s glamorous, no nonsense wife Nancy.

Soly’s wife Nancy is played by former EastEnders actress Tracy-Ann

“She worked in a fabric emporium, and she marries a man like Soly; she’s his right-hand woman and I love their relationship, the equality. He’s the brawns and she’s his hands in the back and the brains,” Oberman said of Nancy.

Another actor who has been labelled as one to watch is Danny Sykes. He plays the role of Ronnie Malinovsky, Soly and Nancy’s son who is politically active and following in his father’s footsteps. 

Samantha Spiro and Will Keen as Liza and David Epstein 

Me Before You and Sex Education actress Sam Spiro plays the worried mother of Vivien, Liza Epstein. She also played Barbara Windsor in Babs.

Sam Spiro as Liza Epstein (Picture: BBC)

On the importance of female-led shows, especially Ridley Road, she told the BBC: “It’s great to see strong women. What’s great about this is, there’s a young woman leading it but there’s some lovely parts for us more mature ladies as well.

“There are really strong women all the way through it. It’s an important story to tell and it feels very resonant for now.”

Will Keen plays Vivien’s father - a protective Jewish businessman who is involved in some dodgy dealings (BBC)

Will Keen (His Dark Materials) plays David, Liza’s husband and Vivien’s father, who is involved in some questionable dealings which he goes to great lengths to hide from his family.

Julia Krynke as Roza 

Polish actress Julia Krynke plays Vivien’s cousin, Roza (Picture: BBC)

Polish actress Krynke is multilingual and has featured in several British TV series, such as DCI Banks for ITV and BBC’s The Street.

In Ridley Road, she plays Vivien’s cousin who lives with Liza and David. Roza has survived the holocaust and is passionate about engaging in activism to protect her community.

Tamzin Outhwaite as Barbara and Gabriel Akuwudike as Stevie

Outhwaite is best known for her role as Mel Owen in Eastenders, though she has since starred in a number of theatre and television productions, including army series Red Cap and crime drama New Tricks. 

Tamzin Outhwaite plays London hairdresser and Vivien’s boss, Barbara (Picture: BBC)

For Ridley Road, she takes on the role as London salon owner and boss of Vivien, Barbara. She is also the mother of Stevie, who is mixed-race and faces prejudice and racism, reflective of the true discrimination felt in London in the sixties.

“I grew up around many Jewish people, in a very Jewish area. We were the only non-Jewish people on our street, so all my friends were Jewish. I always knew that there was a lot of prejudice, but I didn’t realise how bad it was in the 60s,” Outhwaite recalled of her own childhood. 

She added: “When I spoke to my dad about it, he was telling me that a lot of his friends were market traders in those days. He remembers fascists arriving at Ridley Road, so I found out an awful lot from my Dad.”

Gabriel Akuwudike plays Stevie, viewers may recognise him from Game of Thrones and World War I film, 1917.

Rita Tushingham as Nettie Jones

79-year-old actress Rita Tushingham plays landlady Nettie Jones (Picture: BBC)

Rita Tushingham is best known for her starring roles in films including A Taste of Honey, The Leather Boys, The Knack …and How to Get It, Doctor Zhivago, and Smashing Time.

In Ridley Road, she plays the landlady of Vivien, Nettie Jones. Jones has lost her three sons in the war and is a self-sufficient but vulnerable elderly lady with a room to let.

“She’s got strength and she’s got quite a backstory about what’s happened in her life... there’s no good doing something if you just like that character, you need to like the whole thing, and I did. It’s a story that not many people know about, and it needed to be told,” Tushingham said of her character and storyline.

On what people should take away from the show, the 79-year-old said: “I think that they should do a lot of soul searching. Especially people who are bigoted about things. Now, because of social media and the internet, people are far more aware of happenings.

“I think we need to be aware of our history, even if it’s unpleasant.This is what’s happening more now, people are rebelling against bigotry and other things, and are able to have a say.”

Also in the cast is Hannah Traylen as Chrissy, a fashionable young woman who works in Oscar’s salon with Vivien and Hannah Onslow as Elise, Lee’s pregnant girlfriend who befriends Vivien, who is as committed to the fascism as Lee and Colin. .

When is Ridley Road on TV? 

The four-part series began on Sunday 3 October at 9pm on BBC One.

Episodes two to four will air across consecutive Sundays at 9pm on BBC One, with the final airing on 24 October.

All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer shortly after being shown on TV.