Versatile British actor Paul Ritter, whose roles ranged from a hapless suburban patriarch in sitcom Friday Night Dinner to a Soviet engineer who helps cause a nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, has died, his agent said today.
The Harry Potter actor, 54, was battling a brain tumour and his passing announced by his talent agency today. Agency Markham, Froggatt & Irwin confirmed that Ritter had died on Monday night "peacefully at home with his wife Polly and sons Frank and Noah by his side".
Ritter was so much more than his small role as Eldred Worple in Harry Potter, his talent for comedy was immense and he is very well known in the UK for his role as Martin Goodman, the eccentric father of a London Jewish family on the sitcom Friday Night Dinner, alongside Episodes star Tasmin Greig.
Not only a funny man however, Greig had a dark side to his acting personality, particularly in the tense Emmy-winning HBO drama, Chernobyl. In the acclaimed dramatisation of the nuclear disaster that shocked the world, Ritter, received acclaim for his portrayal of ill-fated nuclear engineer Anatoly Dyatlov.
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Those who worked with Ritter in his most famous roles rated him highly. Robert Popper, the creator of Friday Night Dinner, said Ritter "was a lovely, wonderful human being. Kind, funny, super caring and the greatest actor I ever worked with."
Chernobyl screenwriter Craig Mazin said on Twitter that Ritter was "one of the most gentle, gracious and brilliant people I've ever known, much less worked with. We lost him today, and far too soon. I wish his family and loved ones peace and comfort as they mourn the passing of this beautiful man."
Ritter was a compelling stage actor, a frequent and memorable cast member in productions at Britain's National Theatre, including All My Sons, Coram Boy and The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. He also appeared in Art at London's Old Vic and on a West End stage as Prime Minister John Major, performing opposite Helen Mirren's Queen Elizabeth II in the royal drama The Audience.
The actor was nominated for a Tony Award in 2009 for his performance in Alan Ayckbourn's farce The Norman Conquests on Broadway.
Actor-comedian Rob Delaney tweeted that Ritter had "knocked it out of the park in Chernobyl. Watching it I consciously thought, 'Oh, we have a new movie star.' Between that & how funny he was in Friday Night Dinner ... just unreal talent."
Ritter's agency Markham, Froggatt & Irwin also shared their grief over Ritter's passing. "Paul was an exceptionally talented actor playing an enormous variety of roles on stage and screen with extraordinary skill," the agency said. "He was fiercely intelligent, kind and very funny. We will miss him greatly."