About The Long Firm

The dark underbelly of Sixties London is brought into sharp focus in this adaptation of Jake Arnott's critically acclaimed novel The Long Firm. Find out more about the hit drama and its cast.

Ruby Ryder (Lena Headey) and Harry Starks (Mark Strong)

Stark truth

Describing the character of Starks, producer Liza Marshall says: "He is no regular gangster - Starks is a complex man; intelligent, vulnerable, violent when he needs to be, but all the while yearning for something more than the rough and tumble of criminal life. Everyone that he encounters is changed forever by the experience."

It’s the duality that appealed to Mark Strong, who plays him. "Harry Starks is in the gutter but reaching for the stars,” he says. “He's used criminal activity to move himself on in life and he's had to use the threat of violence to get where he is. But he's an incredibly intelligent guy who is banging on the door of acceptability.”

Strong performances

Mark Strong, who plays Stark, has appeared in the films Fever Pitch, Green Lantern, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Sherlock Holmes, and on TV in Our Friends In The North, Births, Marriages and Deaths, Falling Apart and Henry VIII.

Strong cast

The Long Firm has a stellar cast, with Sir Derek Jacobi playing Lord Teddy Thursby, Lena Headey as Ruby Ryder, Joe Absolom as Starks' toyboy Tommy and Phil Daniels as Jimmy.

When it came to who should play Lord Teddy, Liza Marshall says that there was a clear favourite. "Derek Jacobi is a big fan of the book, so when we were thinking about casting the role, his name came up really early on. He was just perfect for the part.”

Playing the part of Lenny, a lecturer and criminologist who comes under the spell of Starks when he teaches him in prison, is Shaun Dingwall. Dingwall is famous for playing Rose’s dad Pete Tyler in Doctor Who, Reg Trotter in Rock and Chips, the Only Fools and Horses prequel and impatient husband Ian in Learners.

Novel career

The writer of the original novel, Jake Arnott had a number of jobs before becoming a novelist. He was a labourer, mortuary technician, artist's model, theatrical agency assistant and actor and can be seen (or rather not) as a mummy in the film The Mummy.

Rave reviews

About the original novel, The Times said, "Brilliant... Arnott's great achievement is making his grisly hero so darn likeable, even when he's at his ugliest". "The evocation of Sixties London is brilliantly done and the powerful, stylish writing hooks the reader from the first page" - Mail on Sunday

Garlands for Judy

One thing that helped Mark get into character on set every morning was Harry’s love of Judy Garland. "She's fantastic," enthuses Mark. "Harry loves torch-song singers and I do, too. I've got a couple of Judy Garland CDs that I played when I arrived on set in the morning to get into character.”

"I'll tell you who's even better than Judy, though, Tracey Bennett, who plays her. "When Tracey started singing, everything just came to a standstill. Everyone was gobsmacked."

Bennett reprised the role of Garland in for a play chronicling the latter years of the singer’s life, End of the Rainbow in 2010. The production transferred to the West End and then on to Broadway and Bennett received Best Actress Olivier and Tony Award nominations for her role.

More Starks

The character of Starks returns in Arnott’s novel “truecrime”, which carries on directly after the finale of The Long Firm. In the novel an actress tries to prove Starks murdered her father.

He Kills Coppers

Another novel by Arnott, He Kills Coppers, was made into a three part series by ITV. The story was inspired by real events – the murder of three police officers in Braybrook Street, Shepherd's Bush, London on 12 August 1966.