Our Favourite Leading Men

Prepare yourself for brooding looks, unbuttoned shirts and cheekbones you could chisel rocks with, as we spend this Valentine’s weekend celebrating some of the greatest leading men ever to grace our TV screens.

Leading Men Weekend


It's always a thrill to uncover an early performance from a future superstar. Exhibit A: Eddie Redmayne in Tess of the D'Urbervilles, where he manages to make dairy farming one of the most alluring careers a man can have. It's not every chap who can look dashing while hemmed in by cows, but Redmayne manages it thanks to those dreamy eyes and sleek features (not to mention his natty waistcoat). He plays Angel Clare, wholesome romantic interest of the traumatized Tess. The course of true love may not run smooth for these two, but they still get to dance in fields and swoon in Stonehenge. And there's a lot of Eddie Redmayne brooding dramatically in forests, which we can all agree is a very good thing indeed.

Sharpe played by Sean Bean


To us, Sean Bean's most iconic role will always be Richard Sharpe, that brash warrior from Yorkshire who stole the hearts of the nation when he first marched onto our screens. Sent on daring missions in the blasted, sun-scorched world of the Peninsular War, Sharpe is the perfect combination of rugged action man and romantic hero. With his golden mane, dusty uniform and quick temper, this fearless soldier is never less than magnetic - even the occasional unflattering military hat doesn't cramp his style. It's no wonder Sean Bean became a household name overnight, making us instant experts on this lesser known aspect of the Napoleonic Wars. Whoever said history couldn't be fun?


How devastating is Richard Armitage in North and South? Well, when it first aired on the BBC, it caused such a sudden online stampede that the website crashed. The nation had found its new Mr Darcy, in the form of a Northern mill owner with raven hair and smouldering eyes. He's actually far more hard-edged than any Austen hero - the first time his love interest Margaret Hale sees him, he's dishing out a beating. Richard Armitage's sharp, almost hawk-like features make him perfect for the role, especially whenever he's called upon to scowl or stare sternly at things (which is often). But he also has a boyish vulnerability that comes through as well, and the yin-yang contrast of his dark and light sides makes him all the more irresistible.

Robson Green - The Gambling Man


Nobody can do cheeky chappy like Robson Green, but in this Catherine Cookson classic he takes things much further. As the eponymous "gambling man" Rory Connor, he's more than just a cocky rogue with a heart of gold. He's a man so in thrall to his gambling habit that he ends up mixing with underworld thugs and has to betray those closest to him. Not good. So it's very fortunate that he's Robson Green, a man so wonderfully likeable that he always has on his side, through thick and thin. In fact, it gets really rather emotional watching him try to overcome adversity and find true love. And when you see the compassionate way he goes about his business as a rent collector, your heart really will melt.


Come on, you didn't think we'd have a weekend devoted to our favourite leading men and NOT give pride of place to Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy? Many men have played Jane Austen's most famous romantic hero over the years, but it's fair to say Colin Firth fully owns the role, and not just because of a certain scene featuring water and a white shirt. Stubborn yet soft, commanding yet coy, Colin Firth is still utterly entrancing, no matter how many times you watch him do his thing. He may have gone onto Hollywood blockbusters and Oscar glory, but when we think Colin Firth, we still think Darcy.

Inspector George Gentle - Martin Shaw


He's had so many great roles on telly in his later years that it's easy to forget Martin Shaw was a big name back in the 1970s, as the curly-haired star of The Professionals. But it's the dapper, silver fox version of Shaw we love best, especially in the role of Inspector George Gently. An old school copper adjusting to the changing society of the 1960s, Gently is a decent man who's committed to bringing criminals to justice despite having to deal with personal traumas like the murder of his wife. Who better to embody that quiet nobility than Martin Shaw, with his rich lavish voice and handsomely long-suffering expression? Even if he wasn't playing a detective, it would be enough to arrest anybody's attention.