Netflix’s greatest skill – apart from making bizarre Christmas movies about the Royal Family – is in crafting addictive TV series that it’s impossible to stop watching. Binge-able box sets burst out of the screen at you the moment after logging in to your profile, with new shows uploaded on a weekly basis.
The Stranger, adapted from best-selling author Harlan Coben’s mystery novel, is Netflix’s latest popcorn potboiler. And boy, is it easy to get hooked on.
Transported from the book’s American setting to a small town in the UK, the show starts and ends with a simple concept: who is the titular stranger? When the baseball cap-clad young woman makes a shocking claim about his wife, family man Adam Price becomes entangled in a mystery as he desperately searches for answers.
Similarly, every character in this British-made drama has a secret, one that threatens to destroy each person’s life. We, of course, want nothing more than to find out what that secret is. So, let’s meet them, shall we?
Played by: Hannah John-Kamen
At the very start of episode one, ‘the Stranger’ follows Adam to his son’s football match and drops the news-bomb that his wife once faked a pregnancy. Throughout the series, she pops up, causing trouble for just about everyone. But who is this meddling nobody? That’s the big question, but you’ll have to watch the show to find out
What they say: “She is very mysterious – that’s what’s gripping about it. You’re very curious as an audience member [thinking] ‘who is she? Why is she doing this?’ and that will be revealed in a really, really wonderful way as well. Not just ‘bang! Here it is’. I’m excited for everyone when they binge-watch it to see all of that.” – Hannah John-Kamen
Played by: Richard Armitage
Understandably gobsmacked following the news his wife had stitched him up with a fake baby, Adam is not a happy bunny at the start of The Stranger. Desperate for the truth, he rifles through old boxes of memories – ultrasound scans, old photos, keepsake notes – before finally confronting his partner.
What they say: “I love the fact that Adam isn’t a maverick of some kind – he is just an ordinary guy dealing with something absurd and shocking that has happened to him. I think, as a viewer, actor and a reader, you put yourself in that situation and think, ‘How would I respond if that happened to me?’ What if your wife went missing and how would you keep your family together? That was what interested me about it.” – Richard Armitage
Played by: Dervla Kirwan
Seemingly a psychopath (who fakes a pregnancy?!), Corinne isn’t the most relatable character at the start of the series. But that soon changes as we learn more about her. After all, if you were faced with the possibility of your family splitting apart at the seams, you’d do anything to keep it together too, wouldn’t you?
What they say: “[Corinne] is the keeper of a tremendous secret. And as a lot of people will testify in their lives, sometimes they do the right thing but unfortunately [what she does] has huge ramifications. From her perspective, she has done the right thing… but there’s this enigmatic character, ‘the Stranger’, who has decided to infiltrate our lives, all our lives and decide that they have the moral high ground and releases certain information to their nearest and dearest. She watches as their lives unravel. But I think we all are capable of telling white lies to lubricate our lives, are we not?” – Dervla Kirwan
Played by: Siobhan Finneran
One of the areas most dedicated police detectives, Johanna starts The Stranger as an unhappily-married maverick who doesn’t play by the rules. As one particularly strange case takes over her life, it becomes clear that the Stranger’s actions could affect everyone, even her.
What they say: “There were quite a lot of funny moments on-set [with Jennifer Saunders], but we’d both be arrested if we told you what actually happened. I want to tell you, but it’s such a shame. There was one very, very amusing time, but we can’t talk to you about it, sorry.” – Johanna Griffin
Played by: Anthony Head
The estranged father of Adam, Anthony Head is a property developer with no morals. Obsessed with money – and women – this sleazy, ageing lothario will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means turfing an entire estate out of their homes and onto the streets.
What they say: “I play bad guys quite often, I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt that nobody gets up out of bed thinking, ‘I’m going to do something bad today.’ Ed Price is a narcissist basically, and he really opened my eyes to the world of narcissists, they just do shit – and they enjoy fucking somebody over. I can’t defend him.” – Anthony Head
Played by: Stephen Rea
Martin is one of the unfortunate ‘somebodys’ that Ed Price is trying to “fuck over”. A tenant on the very estate Ed wants to knock down and develop, this grumpy old git is not for turning. He refuses to sell up, but not for the reason you’d expect…
What they say: “I’m refusing to leave my house because of something that’s related to my secret and as soon as I leave the house, shit will hit the fan. At the start of the series, it’s just: ‘He’s always lived there, why should he leave?’ But later, it all changes.” – Stephen Rea
Played by: Jennifer Saunders
Serving, for the most part, as Johanna’s best friend, Heidi owns a small, cutesy-looking café in town. But as the series progresses, even she is drawn into the peculiar happenings that dog much of the cast.
What they say: “This is [my first drama role]. I have thought about [doing drama before], but nobody else has you see, that’s the problem! It came up at the right time and it was too good to be true really. I was watching [the first episode] like this *covers eyes*: ‘Have I gone yet?! No!’ It was a learning curve. It’s different, I suppose. But filming is filming, whether you’re doing a comedy or a drama.” – Jennifer Saunders
Played by: Shaun Dooley
In a world where trustworthy friends are hard to come by, you really need pals like salt-of-the-earth P.E. teacher Doug. Introduced as Adam and Corinne’s longtime neighbour, the grinning dad has a more complex character arc than you’d expect on first meeting.
What they say: “He’s not a sporty guy and he’s not very good at football either. So it was really funny [during the football match scene] and I tend to think I’m quite good at football but I had to be crap for this. But I’m like a kid, I’m like a dog with a ball. I still think I’m 18 in my head when I’m not. So I set off like, ‘Come on!’ and then I’m knackered within about four feet. There was a lot of fun on this job.” – Shaun Dooley