Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw)
Freddie is an idealistic BBC journalist who believes in investigative objective journalism. He is part of the original production team formed for The Hour (along with Bel, Lix, and Isaac) and moves over to the show from their previous positions in the radio department. He's originally given the Home Affairs desk rather than the role of producer or presenter that he hoped for, but he slowly works his way into on-camera presentation. At the end of Season One, he leaves the country for his own safety after meddling in Cold War spy secrets before coming back as a Co-Presenter for Season Two with a wife in tow. At the end of Season Two, his fate is ambiguous, having been brutally beaten by club owner Rafael Cilenti.
- Affectionate Nickname: Calls Bel "Moneypenny", and she calls him "James" in return. Amusingly enough, Ben Whishaw went on to play Q in Skyfall which reintroduced both Moneypenny and Q to the Bond franchise.
- Always Someone Better: He and Hector make a two-way version of this trope. Freddie feels ever-inferior to Hector's charm, upper class privilege and military decorations, and Hector considers himself to always be a lesser than reporter than Freddie. Hector also seems to envy Freddie's Determinator nature.
- Armor-Piercing Question: asking these is his strongest suit as a journalist, lampshaded more than once by Hector.
- Betty and Veronica: In the second season, the trope is played quite straight with his triangle with Bel and Camille.
- Inverted and downplayed in the first season, with Bel as Archie, Hector as Veronica and Freddie as Betty.
- Blitz Evacuees: Freddie was sent away during World War II and stayed with the Elms family, employers of his mother, which is how he met Ruth Elms.
- Determinator: like most Intrepid Reporter types, he is 100% relentless.
- Fourth Date Marriage: With Camille. Freddie was in France for a few months at most.
- Going for the Big Scoop
- The Hero
- Intrepid Reporter: Freddie's job is to be a researcher but he often continues to research cases he's been told (or at least strongly encouraged) to drop.
- Just Friends: With Bel, or so they claim. They finally stop denying it in Season Two.
- Locked Out of the Loop: No one bothered to tell him his interview in the first episode was for the Home Affairs desk.
- Passed-Over Promotion: Freddie doesn't manage to get either the producer role (which goes to the more level-headed Bel) or the presenter role (which goes to the more tv-friendly Hector). He's stuck in what he considers to be a minor background role.
- Relationship Upgrade: With Bel at the end of Season Two.
- Will They or Won't They?: With Bel.
Bel Rowley (Romola Garai)The producer of The Hour, a fellow journalist and longtime friend of Freddie. Bel feels the need to prove herself in the position despite her gender, constantly being told by the BBC higher ups that she's only gotten the position because she's "easy to control". Despite being quite young for a producer, Bel has a lot of experience in journalism and serves as somewhat of a confidante and mentor to Hector.
- Affectionate Nickname: Freddie's, for her, is "Moneypenny". Naturally, she calls him "James".
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Bel is not happy when her mother, a divorced, dyed-blonde former showgirl, shows up at the office. Varda hits on everything male in the vicinity and believes her daughter is wasting her life as a news producer.
- Cool Big Sis: To Sissy.
- Career Versus Man: Bel isn't willing to give up her career for marriage or become The Mistress for Hector.
- Dating Catwoman: Tries dating an executive from their ITV rival show. It doesn't work out.
- Dumb Blonde: Strongly subverted. Some of the men in the series dismiss her as one based only on her appearance and gender, but she is very intelligent.
- Hysterical Woman: In-Universe, Angus tells Bel she only got the producer's job because Clarence thought she would be "easier to steer" than a man.
- Go-Getter Girl: A grown up version of the trope. She also mentions more than once that she was a very competitive child.
- The Lancer: To Freddie's Hero.
- The Mistress: Bel's dating life consists of a string of affairs with married men. She ultimately decides not to be Hector's.
- Pragmatic Hero: Mostly, part of ever-present ension in her dynamic with The Fettered Freddie.
- Relationship Upgrade: With Freddie at the end of Season Two.
- Will They or Won't They?: With Freddie.
Hector Madden (Dominic West)
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Hector's relationship with Marnie wavers due to his affairs, PTSD, and her dissatisfaction with being a housewife, but ultimately, they prove themselves to be this trope.
- The Big Guy: If someone needs a charm offensive or just an actual offensive, Hector's your man.
- Boarding School: Went to one in his youth.
- The Charmer: His main weapon when it comes to getting jobs as well as the ladies.
- Chick Magnet
- Clear Their Name: Accused of abuse in Season Two.
- Hidden Depths: A war hero of the Shell-Shocked Veteran variety.
- I Owe You My Life: Commander Stern saved Hector's life back in the War. In return Hector tries to stop him being exposed on The Hour until he refuses to give Hector any more of the photos he gained in the raid which almost cost Hector's reputation.
- Nepotism: Marnie's father pulls strings to get Hector the presenter's job.
- Slave to PR
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Suffers from PTSD after his service in WWII.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Hates it when Mc Cain, and to a lesser degree - his father in law, approve of his choices.
- Your Cheating Heart: Cheats on Marnie with Bel in Season One and Kiki in Season Two. Marnie is fully aware of this and tells Bel she's the latest in a long line of women Hector's cheated on her with.
- Working with the Ex: With Bel in Season Two.
Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor)
An experienced journalist and photographer whose career spans back to the Spanish Civil War and World War 2. Lix serves as The Hour's resident party girl and voice of reason, dispensing advice and whiskey to the younger journalists. Has a fling with Freddie in Season One. In Season Two, her past comes to light with the return of Randall Brown to England.
- Ambiguously Bi: Lix dresses quite masculine for the 1950's and flirts with a waitress in a bar. She also has a fling with Freddie and a past with Randall.
- Brainy Brunette: "Darling, I can recite the names of every minister, Prime Minister, and President in my sleep."
- Brainy Specs
- Cool Big Sis: To Bel, sharing whiskey, advice, and several pairs of nylons.
- Deadpan Snarker: Almost all of the characters display varying levels of snark, but Lix unquestionably takes the crown. She also had some shades of Stepford Snarker.
- Family Versus Career A major part of why she gave her daughter up for adoption; Lix wasn't going to raise a child in a war zone, nor would she have been accepted back in England as an unmarried woman with a baby.
- Give Him a Normal Life: Lix and Randall's big secret - she had a child in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and gave her up for adoption because he left and she couldn't raise a baby on her own.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: And boy, can she can hold her booze.
- Held Gaze: With Randall, frequently.
- The Gadfly: She enjoys pulling everyone's leg, especially Mr. Wengrow's.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: Unless you'd paid attention during one of Bel's throwaway lines during episode 1, you'd never know Lix's full name is actually "Alexis".
- The Lad-ette
- The Smart Guy: Speaks numerous languages (though Farsi isn't one of them) and if there's a question about a source, Lix is the solution.
- Team Mom: Lix treats the rest of the journalists as if they were her squabbling children. Which makes her backstory of the daughter she gave up for adoption doubly tragic.
- Nerves of Steel: Is rarely visibly stressed or upset. That's part of what makes her Character Development in season 2 so effective.
- Shipper on Deck: For Freddie and Bel.
- Stepford Smiler: Nothing ever seems to ruffle Lix... except for Randall unearthing the daughter she gave up for adoption in Spain. Stoic, badass Lix ends up crying in toilets and lifts where no one can see her.
- Working with the Ex: With Randall.
Sissy Cooper (Lisa Greenwood)
Bel's secretary, who lies about her age to get a better position than in the steno pool. She has been dating a Nigerian doctor named Sey, and the ensuing racial tensions are a major part of her storyline in Season Two.
- The Heart
- I Have No Daughter: Sissy confesses to Isaac that her father refused to give her away at her wedding because he disapproves of Sey.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: Started dating Sey Ola in Season One. She's white, he's black, it's 1950s Britain. They get married in Season Two but her father refuses to give her away and they struggle to find witnesses on the street.
- Oblivious to Love: Seems unaware of Isaac's attraction to her. Eventually, in Season Two, she gets more of a clue.
- Plucky Office Girl
Isaac Wengrow (Joshua McGuire)
Freddie's nerdish, bespectacled assistant. Isaac wants to write plays and sketches for tv and radio, and in Season Two, is actually getting one produced. He's been carrying a torch for Sissy since the moment he met her.
- Brainy Specs
- Dogged Nice Guy: to Sissy.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Feels this way towards Sissy.
- Romantic Runner-Up: He has a crush on Sissy, who's mutually in love with Sey.
- Write Who You Know: In-Universe. At one point, we hear part of the radio play he gets produced. It seems to be partially inspired by people he knows on The Hour.
Clarence Fendley (Anton Lesser)
Head of News at the BBC for Season One. Clarence has a very paternal relationship with Bel and Freddie, and tries to encourage them without stepping on any governmental toes.
- Da Editor
- Mole in Charge: Is actually a Soviet spy.
- Parental Substitute: To Freddie, who he sees as his heir, and to Bel, whom he feels protective of.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Though not a very effective one.
Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi)
Clarence's replacement, he becomes Head of News in Season Two. Randall has a storied career in journalism and has been heading up the BBC's Paris bureau for the past few years. He returns to London at Freddie's request - and to finish some very personal business with Lix.
- All Psychology Is Freudian: Randall's a fan of Freud, quoting him to Freddie.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer:Lix: Well, there must be method to the madness dear, otherwise why would the Paris bureau swear he was the best editor they've had in years?
- Brainy Specs
- Da Editor
- Establishing Character Moment; Bel finds him in his new office, lying on his couch and quoting Orwell to her. He then gets up to fiddle with the sculptures on his desk and tell her he hasn't seen evidence of the show's brilliance in a long time, challenging her to prove him wrong.
- Freudian Couch: Randall has one, used excellently in his Establishing Character Moment.
- Held Gaze: With Lix.
- Heroic BSoD: Randall utterly breaks down in a heart-wrenching fashion when he and Lix find out that their long-lost daughter had been killed during an air-raid in 1940.
- Hollywood Personality Disorders: Obsessive-compulsive variant.
- Manipulative Bastard: Especially his let's-not-call-it-blackmail of Angus.
- Reasonable Authority Figure
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness
- Silver Fox
- The Stoic
- Super OCD: There are hints that Randall has it, with his constant fiddling with the things on his desk, rearranging the clippings on the cork boards, and lining up all the thumbtacks in order. It's confirmed in the finale, when he finds about that his daughter was killed during the second World War. He slowly - and then frantically - tries to rearrange the things on his desk before he gives up and just sweeps everything away before breaking down.
- Working with the Ex: With Lix.
Marnie Madden (Oona Chaplin)
Hector's long-suffering wife, whom we believe in Season One to be a stereotypical '50's homemaker. She proves herself to be more than a match for not only Hector, but the women he's been sleeping around on her with. In Season Two, she develops a cooking show for rival network ITV.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: She and Hector have their rough patches, but they prove they're this trope in Season Two.
- Feminine Women Can Cook: In series two, Marnie even gets a cooking show.
- Gratuitous French: Speaks it on her cooking show and with Camille.
- Gorgeous Period Dress: Marnie's dresses are a standout.
- Housewife: Played straight in series one, then deconstructed in series two as she begins to look for fulfillment outside her home/marriage.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Marnie wants children but unbeknownst to her, it turns out Hector can't give her them. She then has an affair and almost immediately gets pregnant in Season Two.
- Proper Lady: Embodies it in both seasons, but she's deconstructing it in Season Two.
- Silk Hiding Steel
- Spoiled Sweet: How she is originally depicted in the show, in early season 1. Also a Daddy's Girl.
- Surprise Pregnancy: As a result of an affair.
- Your Cheating Heart: Marnie suffers through multiple affairs on Hector's side, but in Season Two, she has one of her own.
Angus McCain (Julian Rhind-Tutt)
Angus is a slightly shady government official, working at the highest levels of power in Whitehall. In the first season, he is a more malevolent figure, shutting down all inquiry into the conspiracy surrounding the Elmses and the Soviet spies. In the second season, he serves mainly as a foil to Hector and an ally for the Hour.
- "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Randall does not blackmail Angus, he simply suggests that hiding one's sexuality and one's true nature must be so tiring. Angus is the one who chooses to do what Randall suggests.
- 11th-Hour Ranger: In the Season Two finale, it's Angus who confirms all the details of the nuclear dealings Cilenti is involved in. He helps the show reveal the truth on air, and later serves as Kiki's new PR agent.
- Flying Under the Gaydar
- HeelFace Turn
- Scary Shiny Glasses
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: His philosophy and main tool in his career.
Camille Mettier (Lizzie Brocheré)
Shows up in Season Two as Freddie's new wife. She is a card-carrying bohemian and anarchist, reading Ginsburg with Freddie and holding political meetings at her home.
- All There in the Manual: You'd only ever know her surname if you looked on the BBC's bios.
- Disposable Love Interest: She's only there to cause tension between Will They or Won't They? Freddie and Bel.
- Everyone Looks Sexier If French
- Fourth Date Marriage: With Freddie. He'd only been in France for a few months at most before marrying her.
- She's Got Legs: Frequently seen in long shirts/jumpers and nothing on her lower half.
- Soapbox Sadie: Somewhere between this and a 50's version of a Granola Girl.
Sey Ola (Adetomiwa Edun)
A Nigerian-born doctor who moves to England. He is dating Sissy Cooper, which causes much trouble for them in the neighborhood.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: As previously mentioned, he started dating Sissy Cooper in Season One. She's white, he's black, it's 1950s Britain. They get married in Season Two but her father refuses to give her away and they struggle to find witnesses on the street.
- Nice Guy
Raphael Cilenti (Vincent Riotta)The Italian immigrant owner of El Paradis, he uses his showgirl to lure powerful men into honeytraps before blackmailing them into doing his bidding.
- Big Bad: Of Season Two.
- Faux Affably Evil: No amount of schmoozing can disguise the fact that he is a nasty piece of work.
- Smug Snake
- Son of a Whore:Claims to be the child of a prostitute and an English soldier.
- Villainous BSoD: When he sees Kiki exposing him on the Hour, he walks back through his club looking completely despondent.
Patricia "Kiki" Delaine (Hannah Tointon)
Star at El Paradis, who has a fling with Hector in Season Two with far-reaching consequences. Kiki is being extorted by Cilenti to act as a honey trap for politicians and celebrities, and she has another threat closer to home in Commander Stern.
- The Chanteuse: The star of El Paradis.
- Domestic Abuse: Names Hector as the man who beat her, when it was actually Commander Stern, her long-term flame.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold
- Honey Trap: lampshaded verbatim. Like all the other girls at Al Paradis, Cilenti used her as a way to put powerful men in compromising situations and then blackmail them.
- Silk Hiding Steel
Commander Laurence "Laurie" Stern (Peter Sullivan)
A high-ranking police officer for Scotland Yard, and an old army buddy of Hector's. Laurie saved Hector's life in Italy, and Hector has owed him ever since. He's also having a secret relationship with Kiki.
- Domestic Abuse: The one behind the vicious beating of Kiki. It's shocking because she's also his mistress.
- Driven to Suicide: By the exposure of his attack on Kiki on The Hour, and the knowledge that he's nearly gotten both Kiki and Hector killed with his foolishness.
- Friend on the Force
- No Sense of Humor: We never once see him even crack a smile.
- The Stoic
- Shell-Shocked Veteran
Ruth Elms (Vanessa Kirby)
A childhood friend of Freddie's, whose parents took him in during the Blitz. When she gets in over her head with an impending marriage and a mysterious murder, she goes to Freddie with the story. Ruth is killed before she can reveal everything.