October 19, 1954
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Before he was an aspiring hospital radio DJ on "Takin' Over the Asylum" (BBC Two, 1994), a detective on shaky ground on "The Vice" (ITV, 1999-2003), and the gruff Balin in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012), Ken Stott was just a would-be actor selling double-glazed siding in his native Edinburgh, Scotland, hoping he'd be able to make next month's rent. Stott studied at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and spent several years with the Royal Shakespeare Company before joining the British National Theatre in the late 1980s. Having already made his TV debut in 1977 on the BBC series "Secret Army" (1977-79), the talented Stott spent the 1990s balancing his steady theatre career with a number of film and TV projects, including the BBC miniseries "Messiah" (2001). After leaving "The Vice" in 2003, Stott portrayed the future Nazi leader in "Uncle Adolf" (ITV, 2005), and briefly returned to the role of "Messiah's" DCI Metcalfe, before taking over as the eponymous DI in the well-received "Rebus" (ITV, 2000-07). Following a memorable turn as an alcoholic comedian in "Hancock & Joan" (BBC Four, 2008) and a string of acclaimed theatre performances, in 2012 Stott transformed himself into one of 13 dwarves in Peter Jackson's epic prequel. Whether he was on stage or screen, Ken Stott embodied a deep intensity and jagged toughness that is not easily forgotten.
Born to a Scottish father and a Sicilian mother in the fall of 1954, Stott grew up surrounded by creativity and learning. Dad taught English at George Heriot's School (which Stott attended as a child) while Mom worked as an Italian literature professor at nearby Edinburgh University. The couple frequently hosted actors, singers, musicians and other creative types as part of their involvement with the Scots Italian Circle, a cultural exchange organization the father-of-two served as president of. Music and dance took hold of Stott early, and he briefly studied ballet before turning his attention to music full-time, fronting a number of local Scottish bands and enjoying the rush of performing. While one of his former groups, Keyhole, went on to become the world-famous Bay City Rollers, Stott found himself increasingly drawn to acting. Having been a cinema fan since his childhood, the young Scot enrolled in London's Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and prepared himself for what would surely become a promising career.
Except it didn't quite work out that way. Depression quickly set in and Stott spent several years working odd jobs to stay afloat; he sold double-glazed siding as often as someone who doesn't care about it can, and endured the concerned pleas of numerous family members to come back to Edinburgh. He managed to land his debut TV role in 1977 on the World War II series "Secret Army," and slowly started landing theatre work thereafter. After an unhappy stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he joined the National Theatre in the late 1980s and began building a critically acclaimed theatre career that would eventually span two continents and receive four Olivier Award nominations. In 1994 he landed his first breakout TV role on "Takin' Over the Asylum," a six-part series centered on the inmates Stott's alcoholic salesman encounters as he tries to launch a radio station inside a mental hospital. His portrayal of the teetering Pat Chappel a few years later on "The Vice" wasn't the first time he'd played a detective inspector, but it was the first time audiences sat up and took notice.
The turn of the millennium found Stott in increasingly high demand. In 2001 he landed another detective inspector role, this time as grizzled DCI Red Metcalfe on the serial killer miniseries "Messiah," while continuing to work on "The Vice" until his exit in 2003. After a third go-round with gruesome serial murders in "Messiah: The Promise" (BBC, 2004), Stott shifted gears (and raised eyebrows) with his acutely observed role as a young Adolf Hitler in the made-for-TV movie "Uncle Adolf," which explored the future Fuhrer's obsessive relationship with his niece, Geli Raubal. 2005's "Messiah: The Harrowing" proved to be his last hurrah with DCI Metcalfe but Stott's police badge didn't stay inactive too long. Two years later he succeeded John Hannah as the title stoic detective in "Rebus," based on the popular crime novels by Scottish author Ian Rankin. Hollywood came calling next with "Charlie Wilson's War" (2007), in which he played a small but memorable role as an Israeli arms dealer, and the following year Stott returned to England in "Hancock & Joan" (BBC Four) as Tony Hancock, the successful but troubled British comedian whose 1968 suicide surprised few who knew him. Having already dipped his feet into fantasy with his voice-over role as a loyal badger in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" (2008), in 2012 Stott portrayed imposing dwarf leader Balin in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first installment of Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel.
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