Paul Ritter, a versatile British actor who played everything from a hapless suburban patriarch in sitcom “Friday Night Dinner” to a Soviet engineer who contributes to a nuclear disaster in “Chernobyl,” died Tuesday, his agent confirmed. He was 54 years old and had been afflicted with a brain tumor.
Ritter was a familiar face to British television viewers and theatregoers as Martin Goodman, the eccentric father of a London Jewish family, in Channel 4’s acerbic but warm sitcom “Friday Night Dinner.”
He also starred as the doomed nuclear engineer Anatoly Dyatlov in the Emmy-winning HBO drama “Chernobyl,” as the wizard Eldred Worple in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” and as a cunning political operative in the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace.”
Ritter was highly regarded by those who worked with him in his most well-known roles. Ritter, according to Robert Popper, creator of “Friday Night Dinner,” “was a lovely, wonderful human being.” Kind, amusing, extremely compassionate, and the greatest actor I’ve ever worked with.”
Craig Mazin, who wrote the screenplay for “Chernobyl,” said on Twitter that Ritter was “one of the most gentle, gracious, and brilliant people I’ve ever met, let alone worked with.” Today, we lost him far too soon. I wish his family and loved ones peace and comfort during this difficult time.”
Ritter was a compelling stage actor who appeared in numerous productions at the National Theatre in the United Kingdom, 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 Theatre and on a West End stage as Prime Minister John Major in the royal drama “The Audience,” opposite Helen Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth II.
In 2009, the actor was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance on Broadway in Alan Ayckbourn’s farce “The Norman Conquests.”
Russell Tovey, another actor, described Ritter as “one of the nicest and best actors you’ll ever meet.”
Rob Delaney, an actor and comedian, tweeted that Ritter “knocked it out of the PARK in Chernobyl.” While watching it, I thought to myself, ‘Oh, we have a new movie star.’ Between that and his amusing performance in Friday Night Dinner, he possesses unmatched talent.”
Ritter died Monday night “peacefully at home with his wife Polly and sons Frank and Noah by his side,” according to the agency Markham, Froggatt & Irwin.
“Paul was an extraordinarily gifted actor who excelled in a wide variety of roles on stage and screen,” the agency stated. “He was a man of uncommon intelligence, kindness, and wit. We will greatly miss him.”