British Actors You Should Know: Michael Kitchen

Picture shows: DCS Foyle (Michael Kitchen) and his driver/sidekick Sam Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) Foyle's War

DCS Foyle (Michael Kitchen) and Sam Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks).


We know him best as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, in the ITV drama Foyle's War, which ran for eight series between 2002 and 2015. But Michael Kitchen has performed in all sorts of roles, from the James Bond franchise to William Shakespeare, on radio, stage, and TV, beginning with his debut in a school production of Cymbeline in his hometown of Leicester. Inauspiciously, Kitchen was hit over the head by a fellow actor and left the stage to be stitched up at the local hospital. But at the age of 15, he auditioned for the prestigious National Youth Theatre, one of 80 candidates chosen from 1,300 applicants for roles in Coriolanus and A Midsummer Night's Dream in London. The Leicester City Council offered him a grant to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London which he gratefully accepted, graduating in 1969 with an Acting Diploma. At RADA, he won the Emile Littler Award for outstanding talent.

Stage roles followed with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford and at the National Theatre, and his distinctive looks, physical presence, and acting versatility have kept him busy ever since in a wide variety of roles for stage, TV, and film. Kitchen rarely gives interviews and has no online presence, preferring family life in Dorset to showbiz glamour. His offstage activities have included an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the Village Education Project in Tanzania.

Let’s take a look at Kitchen’s roles over the years, starting with some Shakespeare!

'The Comedy of Errors'

An ambitious, years-long project with British top acting talent, the BBC Television Shakespeare was a noble effort to bring Shakespeare into the nation’s living rooms, and to a great extent it succeeded. Kitchen played dual roles in The Comedy of Errors, about two sets of identical twins converging on the city of Ephesus looking for their missing brothers. 

Kitchen appears as both Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus (I think the identical names are to create more chaos and comedic opportunities) with Roger Daltrey (of The Who, yes that Roger Daltrey) as each man’s servant, Dromio. There were some complaints about the identical twins looking too, well, identical.

The Comedy of Errors is streaming on BritBox.

'The Brontes of Haworth'

The Brontes of Haworth is a very early series (1973) that was an ambitious attempt by writer Christopher Fry and director Marc Miller to create a fictional treatment of Elizabeth Gaskell's biographical book The Life of Charlotte Brontë. The series aimed to acknowledge Branwell Bronte's pivotal contributions to his sisters' literary accomplishments rather than write him off as a womanizing alcoholic. 

He was that, too, and he did seduce his married pupil Joanna Monro (Lydia Robinson), as shown here. Despite the terrible orange wig, Kitchen gives a commendable performance. The series also starred Vickery Turner as Charlotte, Anne Penfold as Ann, and Rosemary McHale as Emily.

The Brontes of Haworth is available on YouTube.

'Enchanted April'

Kitchen goes into full romance hero mode in Enchanted April. Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) and Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson) want to retreat to the peace and beauty of April in Italy, and what better way to do so than to rent the local castle from hunky landlord George Briggs (Kitchen). 

Polly Walker, Joan Plowright, Alfred Molina, Jim Broadbent, and Josie Lawrence also star. The 1992 film was written by Elizabeth von Arnim and Peter Barnes and directed by Mike Newell.

Enchanted April is available as a rental on Amazon Prime.


In Falling, a TV movie based on Elizabeth Jane Howard’s novel of the same name, Daisy Langrish (Penelope Wilton) retreats to a country cottage to write and to heal her broken heart after two failed relationships. There, she meets local gardener Henry Kent (Kitchen), whom she hires to beautify the garden, taken in by his charm and admiration. She doesn't realize his intentions are not honorable, and that his charm holds a cold, greedy heart. 

Andrew Davies wrote the screenplay, and Tristram Powell directed the film. (Powell later worked with Kitchen on Foyle's War.)

Falling is available on Acorn TV.

'Dandelion Dead'

In 1921 Britain, in the sleepy respectable town of Hay-on-Wye, solicitor and magistrate's clerk Major Herbert Rowse Armstrong (Kitchen) becomes the prime suspect in the death by poison of his domineering wife Catherine (Sarah Miles) in Dandelion Dead. Later, one of his business rivals died of arsenic poisoning. At his trial, Armstrong claimed he had bought the arsenic to get rid of dandelions in his lawn, but was hanged for murder the following year. 

The key to Kitchen’s underplayed achievement is in his eyes, so full of deference and the quick, limp smiles of a man who’s always a gentleman--even going to the gallows with his spats on. Los Angeles Times

Written by Michael Chaplin and directed by Mike Hodges, the two-part series also stars David Thewlis, Lesley Sharp, and Don Henderson.

Dandelion Dead is available on BritBox.

'Mrs. Dalloway'

With a screenplay adapted from Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway by actor Eileen Atkins and direction from Marleen Gorris, we share a day in the life of socialite Clarissa Dalloway (Vanessa Redgrave) as she hosts a party and reflects on her life and the lingering effects of World War I. Kitchen plays Mrs. Dalloway's former lover Peter, who turns up unexpectedly at the party. 

Natascha McElhone, Alan Cox, and Rupert Graves also star.

Mrs. Dalloway is available on Tubi.


This seductive drama Alibi aired in 2003, and stars Kitchen as neurotic, stressed businessman Greg Brentwood, who throws a lavish party for his wife Linda (Phyllis Logan). One of the hired servers, Marcey (Sophie Okonedo), is envious of the luxurious country home and the connection between Greg and Linda. But she notices the intimacy between Linda and Greg's business partner Martin, and after she leaves her purse in the house, she returns to find Greg moving Martin's body. 

Greg claims it was an accident, and she helps him. Before long, she is involved in other dark goings-on involving the Brentwoods and their circle. By turns humorous and disturbing, the series was written by Paul Abbott (Shameless) and directed by David Richards.

Alibi is streaming on Acorn TV.

'The Hanging Gale'

The 1995 series The Hanging Gale is set in the time of the Irish famine, where land agent Captain William Gale (Kitchen), representing the English government, struggles to reconcile his beliefs with his duty to the Crown and Empire. We see the famine and suffering through the eyes of the Phelan brothers – Liam (Joe McGann), Danny (Stephen McGann), Conor (Mark McGann), and Dinny (Paul McGann), the only time all four brothers have starred together in a film – evicted from their farm after failing to pay rent. 

Violent, tragic, and thoughtful, this is a story of conscience, power, and class.

The Hanging Gale is available on Prime Video.


Sporting an expletive-ridden Australian accent, Kitchen portrays greedy Australian media magnate Stanhope Feast owner of the scurrilous tabloid The Sunday Comet in the one season 2012 series Hacks. (Not to be confused with the Jean Smart TV series) It's a publication empire that recognizes no limits and is clearly based on fairly recent history in which unscrupulous phone hacking by News of the World/News International brought down a media empire. 

Claire Foy co-stars as Kate Loy, a former tea lady personally promoted by Feast to the newsroom. 

Hacks is available on YouTube.


It's the Pierce Brosnan Bond era, and Goldeneye was praised for attempting to ditch some of the sexist, racist, violent attitudes of earlier Bond films. Kitchen appears as Bill Tanner, chief of staff, implementing DEI policy and bringing kittens into the office. Judi Dench as M tells everyone off, and Robbie Coltrane, Sean Bean, and Alan Cumming also star. 

Dench, and Kitchen reprised their roles in The World Is Not Enough, the second in the Brosnan series.

Goldeneye and The World is Not Enough are available on Prime Video.

'Foyle's War'

Foyle's War was created by screenwriter and author Anthony Horowitz for ITV after the long-running and beloved series Inspector Morse ended in 2000. It began airing in 2002 until a new director of programs, Simon Shaps, canceled it in 2007. There was public outcry and much letter-writing, and Peter Fincham, the incoming director of programs, revived the series after good ratings for the fifth season. With the storyline changed so that Foyle could continue his work for MI-5 in peacetime, Foyle's War ran until 2015, concluding with the eighth season.

Why do we all love Foyle's War? Most importantly, no one but Kitchen could have interpreted the role so brilliantly. He displays honor, thoughtfulness, and courage and counters respect for authority with a greater respect for the truth. He also rocks a hat and period clothes. (But mostly that hat!). His team consists of fully-formed characters, driver Samantha Steward (Honeysuckle Weeks) and DS (later promoted to DI) Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), with their own story arcs.

There's a strong sense of time and place, with Hastings (near where, ominously, the French landed in 1066) as a sleepy small town transformed by the war effort. Crime still continues, but there's the addition of wartime issues – racism, traitorous activity, the hardships of rationing, blackouts, and air raids. Historical details are impeccable. In addition, there's also the fun of spotting a young actor in a small role who will one day become a star – David Tennant, Emily Blunt, Andrew Scott, to name a few.

The first five seasons of Foyle's War are available for members on PBS Passport.

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Foyle's War

Michael Kitchen stars in the WWII-era mystery series set on the English coast.
Foyle's War: show-poster2x3

Janet Mullany

Writer Janet Mullany is from England, drinks a lot of tea, and likes Jane Austen, reading, and gasping in shock at costumes in historical TV dramas. Her household near Washington DC includes two badly-behaved cats about whom she frequently boasts on Facebook.

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