Simon Bird pays tribute to ‘unfailingly generous’ on-screen father Paul Ritter

The actors starred together in Friday Night Dinner.
Simon Bird pays tribute to ‘unfailingly generous’ on-screen father Paul Ritter

By Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter

Simon Bird has paid tribute to his Friday Night Dinner co-star Paul Ritter as “the best in the business” following his death aged 54.

Ritter, who also notched up credits in Vera, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, Wolf Hall and James Bond film Quantum Of Solace, had been suffering from a brain tumour.

On co-star Tom Rosenthal’s Twitter, Bird described the late actor as “unfailingly generous” and “undeniably cool”.

Bird found widespread success in E4’s comedy series The Inbetweeners and later played the son of Ritter’s eccentric patriarch Martin Goodman in Friday Night Dinner, which detailed the weekly mishaps of a dysfunctional middle-class Jewish family.

He wrote: “Not even going to touch the acting. That goes without saying. He was the best in the business.

“What’s less well known is that he was also the Platonic ideal of a green room companion: unfailingly generous (with praise, snacks, the Guardian Sport section); unendingly thoughtful (he would set up shop on the floor if he knew there were going to be more actors than chairs in that day); and undeniably cool (calm and collected in his flat cap, but an absolute coiled spring if there was a game in the offing).

“He was such a peaceful presence but throbbing with intelligence and – let’s not beat around the bush – entirely capable of a hilariously indiscreet and filthy broadside when in the mood.

“I think I’ll always aspire to be like Paul. I guess that’ll happen when someone pretends to be your Dad for 10 years.”

Bird added that he felt “unbelievably fortunate” to have spent time with Ritter, and shared a message of support with the actor’s children.

Paul Ritter death
Paul Ritter (Zak Hussein/PA)

Stars of TV and film including Brenda Blethyn, Stephen Mangan, Rob Delaney, Mark Gatiss, Russell Tovey and Eddie Marsan shared tributes following the announcement of his death on Tuesday.

A statement from Ritter’s agent said the actor died peacefully at home with his wife Polly and sons Frank and Noah by his side.

“Paul was an exceptionally talented actor playing an enormous variety of roles on stage and screen with extraordinary skill,” the statement said.

“He was fiercely intelligent, kind and very funny. We will miss him greatly.”

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