In Spotlight: Daniel Mays’ 11 best TV shows and films - from Line of Duty and White Lines to 1917 and Magpie Murders

Daniel Mays is back on our TV screens in Code 404 on Sky Comedy and NOW, but where have you seen the Essex actor before?

By Sophia Moir Updated: 9 August 2022 - 2.04pm
BBC / Netflix / ITV Daniel Mays TV shows

From big-budget dramas and cult police procedurals, to Oscar-winning films and even a Star Wars spin-off, Daniel ‘Danny’ Mays has had something of a varied on-screen career.

In fact the Essex-born actor’s CV has been so exhaustive in recent years that you’ve probably already seen him in a TV show or movie.

As Code 404 returns to Sky Comedy and NOW, we round up Daniel Mays' top TV and film roles below - including Line of Duty, White Lines, 1917 and Ashes to Ashes.

1. Magpie Murders - DI Locke & DI Chubb

Daniel Mays as DI Chubb and DI Locke in Magpie Murders Eleventh Hour Films

Mays has played a lot of coppers during the course of his career, but he's never played two detectives in the same show. 

In BritBox's original whodunnit Magpie Murders, the actor plays both 1950s detective DI Chubb (above left) and modern-day cop DI Locke. Alpha male Locke is investigating the death of crime author Alan Conway, who in turn has left clues to his demise in the unfinished manuscript of his final novel. And it's in these pages that Chubb - a bumbling country copper - is solving a fictional killing.

"I’ve played so many policemen, so when they came to me saying, here’s two more, I thought 'really?', Mays said of the twin roles.

"But the gimmick of one actor playing two roles, the way the two stories work together, it was so ingenious and a big acting challenge. It stretches you in two different directions."

Watch Magpie Murders on Britbox.

All you need to know about Magpie Murders

2. Des - DCI Peter Jay

Mays is set to star as Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay in ITV's new three-part crime drama, Des.

Based on a true story, DCI Peter Jay brought serial killer Dennis Nilsen (played by David Tennant) to justice after he murdered at least 12 boys and young men between 1978 and 1983.

Watch Des on BritBox.

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From original shows like The Dry and Hotel Portofino to the best of British comedy and drama, there's something for everyone at BritBox.

3. Code 404 - DI John Major

Playing a very different kind of policeman, 2020 also saw Mays star as DI John Major alongside Stephen Graham as DI Roy Carver in Sky One's buddy cop comedy, Code 404

The series saw Mays' character DI Major gunned down on the job, before his body is fast-tracked into a new Artificial Intelligence project to bring him back from the dead. A second series followed in 2021.

Code 404 seasons 1-3 are available to stream on Sky Comedy and NOW.

4. White Lines - Marcus Ward

Also in 2020 - it’s been a busy year for Daniel Mays! - he appeared as DJ Marcus Ward in Netflix's sun-soaked drama, White Lines.

Marcus is a childhood friend of Axel Collins, who went missing in Ibiza some 20 years earlier. Despite the success of the show - which was from the makers of Money Heist - Mays recently confirmed that it won't be returning for a second series.

Mini-series White Line is available to watch on Netflix.

5. 1917 - Sergeant Sanders

In a major film role for Mays, he starred alongside Colin Firth, Andrew Scott and Benedict Cumberbatch in the Oscar-winning World War I epic, 1917.

The movie, which was released in 2019, saw Mays play Sergeant Sanders, the sergeant of the two main characters, Lance Corporals Schofield and Blake.

Watch 1917 on Prime Video (buy/rent).

6. Temple - Lee Simmons

Mays played tube worker Lee Simmons in Sky One's medical drama Temple, alongside Mark Strong as Daniel Milton - a surgeon who's drawn into the world of the underground clinic.

Mays' character Simmons helps Milton establish the illegal underground clinic, and finds meaning in his life after doing so. 

Watch Temple seasons 1 and 2 with a NOW Entertainment Membership.

Daniel Mays and Mark Strong talk Temple

7. Good Omens - Arthur Young

In 2019, Mays appeared in Prime Video's big-budget adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's cult fantasy novel, Good Omens.

He played Arthur Young - the father of Adam Young, the reluctant Antichrist accidentally placed in the family's custody.

Watch Good Omens on Amazon Prime Video.

8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Tivik

The Essex actor joined the Star Wars universe in 2016, playing Tivik in the Star Wars spin-off film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Tivik is an insurgent figure in the film, who's an informant for Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and tells the rebels of the existence of the Death Star.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is available to buy on Prime Video.

9. Line of Duty - Sergeant Danny Waldron

One of Mays' most famous roles is playing Sergeant Danny Waldron in series 3 of Jed Mercurio's hit police procedural, Line of Duty, in 2016.

Starring alongside Vicky McClure, Martin Compston and Adrian Dunbar, Mays' character was a Sergeant and Authorised Firearms Officer with Central Police. His stunning performance earned him a Bafta nomination.

Line of Duty seasons 1-6 are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

10. Mrs Biggs - Ronnie Biggs

In 2012, Mays portrayed the Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs in five-part mini series Mrs Biggs, penned by Jeff Pope.

Mays was nominated for a National Television Award for the role, alongside his co-star Sheridan Smith who played his wife, Charmian Biggs. 

Mini-series Mrs Biggs is available to watch on BritBox.

11. Ashes to Ashes - Jim Keats

Starring alongside fellow Line of Duty alum Keeley Hawes, Mays played DCI James "Jim" Keats in BBC science fiction/police drama Ashes to Ashes in 2010.

Keats claimed to have been sent from the Discipline and Complaints department of Scotland Yard to assess Fenchurch East CID but in reality, he was a malevolent spirit who aimed to destroy the division and bring its members to his department.

Ashes to Ashes seasons 1-3 are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.