Bertie Carvel plays Adam Dalgliesh

Dalgliesh’s Bertie Carvel on death of mother after routine operation went ‘catastrophically wrong’, and if Doctor Foster will return

He played Tony Blair in The Crown...

Bertie Carvel plays a grieving detective in Channel 5’s Dalgliesh, and he drew on his own experiences of loss for the role.

The actor, probably best known for portraying cheating Simon in Doctor Foster, endured the “catastrophic” death of his own mother before landing the role of Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh.

He has previously described how his beloved mum was left “severely brain damaged” after a routine operation went wrong.

Here’s everything you need to know about Bertie Carvel‘s tragic loss, his wife, children, and what he’s said about a possible Doctor Foster return…

Dalgliesh on Channel 5: Who plays Adam Dalgliesh?
Bertie Carvel was grieving while playing Dalgliesh (Credit: Channel 5)

Who plays Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh?

Actor Bertie Carvel portrays the enigmatic Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh in the Channel 5 series of the same name.

In the crime drama based on PD James’ best-selling novels,

So far, there have been two series of Dalgliesh, with a third series on the way. Filming took place in 2023, and the series is expected on Channel 5 any day now (which is probably why they are repeating series 1 and 2 right now).

Catherine Mackin, Managing Director, Acorn Media Enterprises said: “Bertie Carvel’s expert portrayal of Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh delivers a lasting charm and sophistication that is unmatched and, clearly, a must-watch.

“We are absolutely elated to return for not one, but two, mysterious and compelling seasons.”

Series 1 began with Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh in mourning for his wife and child. His wife tragically died in childbirth while giving birth to their first baby, who did not survive. The series is about the first year of grief. And actor Bertie Carvel was also  grieving too.

Bertie Carvel ‘grieving’ while filming Dalgliesh

Talking about filming, Bertie said: “The story I was making in Dalgliesh was about a year of grief, and it intersected with my own experience in a way that was challenging.”

He added: “My mother died in November 2019, and it’s that and the birth of my son which followed closely that are the hinges in my life.

“I won’t be the same again in my work, so that was challenging, but it was healing and therapeutic too.”

Bertie’s mother Patricia, a psychologist, died aged 80 after a stroke and complications from surgery.

Bertie Carvel as Tony Blair in The Crown
Bertie Carvel played Nick Clegg in drama The Coalition, but he also portrayed Tony Blair in The Crown (Credit: Channel 4)

What happened to Bertie Carvel’s mum?

In 2019, Bertie was doing Ink on Broadway in New York. His mum had been slowly losing her sight over the preceding 10 years and was increasingly vulnerable and reliant on him, so it had been hard to leave her.

Then one night she called him and didn’t sound quite right, so he insisted she call an ambulance, but she refused.

Bertie explained to The Guardian: “By the next morning, she wasn’t picking up the phone, so I called my wife and asked her to go round. Mum was taken to hospital. They got her into the hyper‑acute stroke unit where things stabilised.

“The next day they planned to do a routine, apparently low-risk operation to prevent an embolism, but it went catastrophically wrong and caused one instead.

“Tragically, it took the surgeons several hours to realise the mistake and she was left severely brain damaged. She spent the final eight months of her life unable to move or communicate, except occasionally to squeeze my hand.”

Tragically, Bertie described those months as “the hardest of my life”. He added: “Looking back, I realise I was grieving in slow motion.”

Bertie now lives in the flat in London that he grew up in, where Mum spent half of her life. His son sleeps in his old bedroom.

Who did Bertie Carvel play in Doctor Foster?

Doctor Foster fans will recognise Bertie from Doctor Foster. He played Simon, the traitorous husband of Suranne Jones‘ character Gemma. However, although he cheated on her, he ultimately became a character viewers felt pity for.

In dramatic and moving scenes at the end of Doctor Foster series two, Gemma was at a hotel with Simon and gave him the medical supplies needed to kill himself. He had decided to completely remove himself from their son’s life.

However, he was saved when Gemma came back to his hotel room and spoke to him. Later, at the very end of the series two finale, the pair were united in fear for their son after he ran away.

It was also the TV show that launched the career of Jodie Comer, who played Simon’s new love Kate Parks.

Bertie Carvel in Dalgliesh: Why did he almost turn down Doctor Foster?
Suranne Jones as Gemma Foster, opposite Bertie Carvel who played her cheating husband (Credit: BBC)

Why did he almost turn down Doctor Foster?

In an interview with the Radio Times, Bertie revealed how he almost turned down the role of Simon in Doctor Foster.

He said: “I had a strong reaction that Simon was such an obviously bad guy, and I felt that was a mistake.”

He added: “I wanted it to be more nuanced, and with a sense of why Simon behaves in that way.

“I wrote to Mike [Bartlett, the creator], and I think, in his own way, he reflected some of that in the rewrites.”

Will there be a series 3 of Doctor Foster?

Bertie Carvel has admitted he doesn’t think the BBC can afford a Doctor Foster return.

The actor isn’t expecting a third series of the TV thriller because of the success his former co-stars Suranne Jones and Jodie Comer have enjoyed since the second season aired in 2017.

He’s quoted by The Sun newspaper’s Bizarre TV column as saying: “It will be difficult to get the band back together. That’s the challenge with British TV, there aren’t the budgets to keep people in golden hand-cuffs with such huge options.

“It was a blessing we were able to do the second and I wasn’t too busy at that stage. The further we go in time, everybody’s career is doing very nicely.

“You have to make a big investment in something in order to make it an endlessly returnable series.”

While Suranne went on to appear in the likes of Save Me, Vigil, and Gentleman Jack, Jodie has become a global star with her role as Villanelle in Killing Eve.

Bertie Carvel in The Sister
Bertie Carvel stars as Bob Morrow in ITV’s The Sister (Credit: ITV)

What else has Bertie Carvel been in?

Bertie’s first screen role was in the TV movie, Hawking. He played George Ellis in the 2004 film, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Hawking.

Roles in the likes of Bombshell, Holby City and Doctor Who followed, but it wasn’t until 2015 – a golden year for Bertie – that he became a household name.

First, he starred in the BBC One’s supernatural crime drama, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and then in the primetime hit Doctor Foster. He subsequently appeared in Baghdad Central, The Pale Horse, and The Sister.

More recently, he’s played Dalgliesh in the detective drama of the same name, and former UK PM Tony Blair in The Crown.

He’s also famous for his work on stage, having twice won a Laurence Olivier award, one for playing Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musical.

Who is Bertie Carvel’s wife?

Bertie married Sally Scott in 2019, after 10 years of dating. He told The Times in 2020: “We met in 2009 through some close friends who introduced us.

“She proposed to me via WhatsApp while I was doing Baghdad Central, actually.”

The pair live together in a small London flat, with their only child.

Sally is also an actor, having appeared on TV and in the West End and Broadway. She played Diana in popular satirical play King Charles III which ran at the Almeida Theatre and the Wyndham. Sally has also been a series regular in TV detective drama Lewis as Nell Hathaway.

She also featured in TV miniseries Trauma alongside Adrian Lester.

Bertie Carvel with his wife Sally Scott
Bertie Carvel with his wife Sally Scott at the Old Vic Bicentenary Ball in 2018 (Credit: Terry Scott/Flynet/SplashNews)

Does Bertie have children?

The couple has a son called Ernest ‘Ernie’ Sunshine, who was born in May 2020 in New York – in lockdown.

Talking to The Times about becoming a dad, he said: “I am so totally in love with my son. It’s joyous. He has grounded me and given me a different centre of gravity. His birth followed pretty hard on the heels of the death of my mother. Those two things together have had a profound impact on my sense of mortality.”

He also revealed there was a very real threat that he’d miss the birth of his son. However, luckily, he was made it in time, and was allowed in the room.

He said: “There was a very real fear that my wife would have to give birth without me there. Of course, she’d have aced that; she had to do many of her antenatal appointments alone. The pandemic was a horrible time, but you realised the extraordinary resilience of women.

“I wouldn’t wish the pandemic on the world, but I had a pretty good war, because it was like paternity leave times a million. We were in this little bubble of love.”

How old is Bertie Carvel? Where is he from?

Robert Hugh Carvel – aka Bertie – was born on September 06, 1977, in Marylebone, London.

That makes him currently 46 years of age.

He went on to study at University College School, Hampstead, gaining a first class honours degree in English at the University of Sussex.

Bertie eventually won a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and graduating in 2003.

Read more: Bertie Carvel in Dalgliesh: Why he almost turned down Doctor Foster 

YouTube video player

Dalgliesh repeats on Channel 5, from Friday, June 07, 2024 at 8pm.

Would you like to see Doctor Foster return someday? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.

Helen Fear
TV Editor