Stephen Walters is an English actor, born 22 May 1975 in Merseyside, England. A regular in British television and film, he has played a wide range and variety of character roles in both drama and comedy. Stephen is most commonly associated with unpredictable, complex figures from various backgrounds. As such, he is proficient in a wide range of dialect accents to include American (general and Southern), RP, Scottish, Irish, and Mancunian.
In 1989, whilst at Saint Wilfrids secondary school, Stephen got his first break in television through a now defunct agency run by fellow Liverpudlian actor Ricky Tomlinson. He was cast on ITV’s British Children’s anthology series Dramarama, portraying Corporal Tomkins, in the series seven episode entitled Ghost Story. 1990 brought Stephen’s second professional role in the BBC’s drama anthology series Screenplay. He was featured in Jimmy McGovern’s series five episode Needle, based upon the Government’s needle exchange programme and heroin epidemic in 1980’s Liverpool.
After completion of a BTEC in Performing arts at Southport College (1990-1992), Stephen went on to gain a place at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (1994-1996). In 1994 he played the lead role of Joey Jackson, a poetic soul searching for the meaning of life, in Jim Morris’ Blood on the Dole as part of the Alan Bleasdale Presents series for Channel 4. This performance garnered critical acclaim for Stephen, and with the personal advice of Bleasdale he applied to train at drama school. Stephen has spoken about this period in his career by saying, “I owe everything to Alan Bleasdale in that, after seeing Blood on the Dole, he made me realize and see for the first time that I was an actor…Bleasdale opened the door for me…literally and metaphorically speaking”.
In 1996, after completing of his drama school, Stephen appeared as Ian Glover in Jimmy McGovern’s highly acclaimed drama Hillsborough, based upon the Hillsborough disaster at the 1989 FA Cup Semi-Finals. Hillsborough went on to win a BAFTA for best drama. His next performance was the role of Jamie Spencer on ITV’s ill-fated drama series Springhill. Though a second series was commissioned, Stephen did not return due to artistic differences. In 1997 Stephen would once again work with Ghost Story director Julian Jarrold in the ITV drama Touching Evil. He would portray lead guest character Jack McCaffrey, a slippery cockney, in the two-part series one finale written by Paul Abbott.
Between 1998 and 2000, Walters appeared in several episodic performances such as BBC’s Pie In the Sky, opposite the late Richard Griffiths, Mikey Sullivan in Jimmy McGovern’s crime drama Liverpool 1, Technician Fifth Grade John McGrath in HBO’s WWII miniseries Band of Brothers (based upon historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1992 book of the same name), and Scott in the BBC’s drama Nice Guy Eddie. During this time Stephen completed his first feature film where he played the role of Dennis, opposite Robert Carlyle, in Jake Scott’s anachronistic comedy Plunkett and Maclean. Stephen credits Carlyle as being a guide and inspiration in his own career.
In 2001, with back-to-back roles, Stephen’s work was presented to a much larger audience. First, he starred as Knockoff in the BBC’s production of writer Jim Cartwright’s Strumpet opposite Christopher Eccleston. The film, directed by Danny Boyle, was a contrast to the dramatic work Stephen had done to date as it was the first to highlight his comedic abilities. He has said of his experience, “It took someone like Danny to take a chance on me…previously I had done more intense, perhaps disturbed kind of characters…then along came this script that I read for and Danny thought I could play it…working with Danny Boyle, Christopher Eccleston and Jim Cartwright was a real learning curve for me”. This comedic work led to the role of Kick Box Stevie in the dark comedy Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) from writer/director Stuart Suggs.
Stephen went on to feature in producer Matthew Vaughn’s football (soccer) film Mean Machine, a remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds classic, opposite Vinnie Jones as bomb expert Nitro. He then played the role of Nazi skinhead Blowfish in Ronny Yu’s film The 51st State (AKA-Formula 51) opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle. Both of these dramatic films showcased the more unpredictable, dangerous type of characters that Walters relishes.
These consecutive roles were significant in landing Stephen the lead role of prison Psychiatrist Nick Vaughn, alongside Lennie James, in Channel 4’s eight-part drama series Buried (2002). The series, from producer Tony Garner, was awarded the BAFTA for Best Drama and Stephen was the recipient of critical acclaim for his performance.
In 2003, Stephen played lead guest star as Dylan Forbes in the premier episode of the ITV drama Murder City, directed by Sam Miller. The following year (2004) Stephen was directed by Matthew Vaughn in the explosive supporting role of Shanks, opposite Daniel Craig, in the feature film Layer Cake. Vaughn, who had been introduced to Stephen through his role as producer on Barry Scholnick’s Mean Machine, offered him the role. His next project was Guy Richie’s crime thriller feature film Revolver (2005) where, opposite Jason Statham, he portrayed Irish Joe. That same year saw a cameo appearance, as the Arkham Lunatic, in Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed feature Batman Begins and a turn as Lord Gilbert Gifford in the BBC’s dramatic mini-series The Virgin Queen.
In 2007, after a self-imposed year hiatus, Stephen undertook three new projects. First was the feature film Hannibal Rising, the final installment of the Hannibal series, which explored the origins of Hannibal Lecter. He portrayed Zigmas Milko, a man of Eastern European origin and one of Hannibal’s main victims. Director Peter Webber described Milko’s death as one of his favorite scenes in the movie. Immediately following his role in Hannibal, Stephen was featured in the BBC 3’s six part comedy series entitled The Visit, which was set in a prison waiting room. He played Splodge Costello, a Manchunian rogue and a troublesome yet likeable loser. Later that same year, Stephen played Maddison Twatter (AKA-Mad Twatter) in a three episodes stint for E4’s cult smash Skins.
In 2008 Walters appeared in Franklyn, a film from visionary director Gerald McMorrow, which premiered at the London Film Festival. His dual role as Bill Wasnik/Wormsnakes was played opposite Bernard Hill and Ryan Philippe respectively. In another two-part drama entitled Wire In The Blood, Stephen played serial killer on the loose James Williams. Robson Green, also featured in the series, had previously collaborated with Stephen in ITV’s 1997 drama Touching Evil. These episodes were directed by Philip John, who would later direct Stephen in Outlander (2014-2016).
In Splintered, a horror movie released to cinemas in 2010, Stephen once again managed dual roles as brothers Vincent and Gavin. These roles were particularly demanding as scenes with both characters were shot and edited without the use of digital effects. Powder (2011), based on Kevin Sampson’s novel of the same name, featured Stephen in the role of Johnny Winegums, the manager of an aspiring POP music group. The film was partially shot on location at the V festival in Suffolk, a process that Stephen thoroughly enjoyed. Later that year he featured heavily in Age of Heroes along side Sean Bean. The WWII drama, directed by Adrian Vitoria, highlighted the story of Ian Fleming’s Commandos who were assigned to infiltrate behind enemy lines in the Nazi controlled snowy mountains of Norway. Stephen has described the role of Syd Brightling as a physical and mental test of endurance.
In 2012 Stephen played the role of gangster Callum Rose, opposite his friend actor Stephen Graham, in the BBC’s production Good Cop. The series, written by Stephen Butchard and directed by Sam Miller, won the RTS award for Best Drama in 2013 despite only running for one season. That same year Stephen played the role of Gaz in the drama Kelly + Victor, based upon Niall Griffith’s 2002 novel of the same name.
In the spring of 2013, Stephen played the lead role of Ricky Tomlinson in Ragged, a one-off drama for the Sky Arts Presents series, directed by comedian Johnny Vegas. The role dealt with Tomlinson’s incarceration during the 1970s builders strike. Stephen was nominated for an RTS Award as Best Actor in a single drama, and garnered praise from Tomlinson, for his performance.
2013 also brought lead roles in two television series. First was the comedy Great Night Out, from Jimmy Mulville’s Hat Trick Productions, where Stephen played Daz Taylor. Second was The Village, where he played Crispin Ingham, a sadistic teacher from Derbyshire. Director Antonia Bird cast Stephen in the latter and he was devastated to hear of her sudden death not long after filming. Though a second series of The Village was commissioned, Stephen was unable to reprise his role due to a scheduling conflict with filming Outlander (2014-2016). He also reunited with previous co-star Sean Bean in “Tracy’s Story”, a critically acclaimed episode of 2013’s The Accused, penned by Jimmy McGovern.
Stephen worked extensively with director Brian Kelly in 2014. He filmed three episodes for NBC’s dramatic series Dracula, opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers, as Hungarian detective Hackett. In a departure from the novel, the series was set in Victorian England, though it was filmed in Budapest, Hungary. Kelly then cast Stephen as Simon the Sorcerer in NBC’s series AD the Bible Continues a sequel to Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s miniseries The Bible (2015). The series was filmed in Morocco to preserve authenticity.
From 2014-2016, opposite Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, and Graham McTavish, Stephen portrayed the featured role of Angus Mhor in the television adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s best selling Scottish time travel novel Outlander. The expansion of Angus and Grant O’Rourke’s Rupert MacKenzie is a favorite of Gabaldon’s, who has described the television characters as “the 1800’s version of Laurel and Hardy”.
Between seasons one and two of Outlander, Stephen was featured in two stylistically different shows for the BBC. The first was an appearance in two episodes of Dickensian (2015), a drama based upon the concept that author Charles Dickens’ notable characters lived in the same neighborhood. He as featured opposite Stephen Rea’s Inspector Bucket as accused murderer Manning. Second, Stephen guest starred as Borel in an episode of The Musketeers (2015), a retelling of Alexanre Dumas’ classic French novel The Three Musketeers. Though set in seventeenth century Paris, the series was filmed in Prague.
In early 2017, Stephen appeared in two episodes of AMC’s post-apocalyptic original series Into the Badlands as The Engineer, an American warlord, opposite Daniel Wu and Nick Frost. He also appeared as DCI Mark Guinness in Little Boy Blue, a four-part factual drama that was based on the real-life murder of Rhys Jones and written for ITV by Jeff Pope.
Summer 2017 saw Stephen portray the featured role of failed rock star Johnny in Rowan Joffe’s Tin Star, a new series from Sky Atlantic. The production, filmed in Canada and starring Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks, has been described as a contemporary western. Unlike his previous roles, Johnny allowed Stephen to showcase his musical talents as a guitarist and a vocalist. Stephen also recently completed filming on series four of the acclaimed BBC crime drama Shetland.
In addition to his acting credits, Stephen has written and directed several short films. The first, a drama entitled Danny Boy, follows a man who must come to terms with his mother’s Alzheimer’s. Second, the recently completed film entitled I’m not Here, is an exploration of the enigmatic Charles Manson wherein Stephen plays the lead role. He is currently working on his first documentary, an in-depth look at Merseybeat musician Tommy Quickly, with friend and fellow actor Andrew Gower. The project was funded through Kickstarter, a widely used crowdfunding platform, reaching its funding goal within forty-eight hours.