Also among the impressive cast was Stephen Graham, an actor whose name has become synonymous with great drama.
With Parade's End now available on DVD and Blu-ray, Digital Spy caught up with Graham to discuss both his role as Christopher's confidant MacMaster and his amazing acting career...
What originally attracted you to your role in Parade's End?
"It was Susanna White, the director - she's fantastic. She did an episode of Boardwalk Empire - that's how I met her and she told me she was working on this piece with Tom Stoppard and asked if I'd be interested in having a look.
"I eventually read the book... it took me a long time! It was on the bedside cabinet every night. It was a beautiful book and it's so well-written, it's a great story, but I haven't read a book that big since school, I would imagine!
"But I just thought it was fantastic and when I read Tom's adaptation of it, there was a bit of a difference. He's such a great writer. I was just really interested in doing it and then when I found out Benedict was in it... I'm such an admirer of Benedict's work, it was just such an honour to be asked to play the role."
When you play a role, how much do you research and how much of it is instinct?
"It depends on the character. With something like this, his background was very important for me - that he was from Edinburgh and he was a ship worker and that he was trying to climb that social ladder... him really wanting what he could see everyone around him had, and him inspiring to achieve that.
"I got a lot of research from the book and the time period. You know, it was the same with This Is England - that was a character that Shane [Meadows] came up with originally and we did a lot of history and a lot of background to him, and I think you have to do that.
"At a start of a job, I always have a little notebook - I know it sounds a little w**ky but I do actually write about what his favourite colour is, what his favourite thing is, everything about him. Where he is from, where he is born, even if I have to create it myself. I create a whole backstory.
"You know, you've got all that and then you can just play it and forget it. You might just look through it every now and again. But with the likes of Al Capone, you've got a lot to read from anyway - there's a lot written about him so a lot of that is done for you and then it's just balancing it and creating your own character on top, really."
Was part of the appeal of Parade's End playing something a little out of your comfort zone?
"Yeah completely. I do [usually] kind of play these roles of men slightly on the edge. Psychopaths or sociopaths or slightly unhinged characters. I just remember sitting in the room on set and it felt all very decadent. It was just so much fun playing that character and that's what Susanna wanted - she wanted everyone to like MacMaster and for him to be kind of a lovable rogue."
How was working with Benedict Cumberbatch? Some people seem to think he's like Sherlock Holmes in real life...
"No, not at all, he's very funny. He's such a funny man. His impressions are fantastic; he does so many great impressions. He phoned my wife actually as Alan Rickman. His Alan Rickman is fantastic and I went to her, "Love, guess who I'm with? I just met Alan Rickman! Say hello!" - he's brilliant and she actually fell for it."
You've starred in US drama series and a number of Hollywood films - what brings you back to UK television?
"I remember reading in a UK magazine, I don't know who the interview was, but it was someone from Hollyoaks and he was like, 'Yeah, I'm going off to LA to make it,' - you haven't earned your stripes yet! I've never been one who thought, 'Wow, over there is the land of riches,' - all I've ever wanted to do is do good work, with great scripts and work with good directors.
"I've been very fortunate in that sense where things that have come my way in America have been through the work that I've done over here. But there's no difference. I can't wait to do This Is England 1990 and I think if you look at that series last year, it's phenomenal, it was an amazing piece of television. Some of the acting was leagues apart from anything I've seen in a long time - you know, I think it was fantastic. Vicky McClure was just breathtaking.
"To me, it's just about the work and that's the most important thing. I mean, I did a little short film in Newcastle and I ended up paying them for my hotel room and stuff, but it's because it was a great script and it was a good story and it was a young director and I think we need to nurture that a lot more - young writers and directors in this country. It gives them an opportunity."
You've had some amazing roles in the past few years. Do you get the feeling that you're kind of on a roll?
" Yeah... oh yeah, completely. It's really weird when I'm asked those questions, because I don't really think about it. I'm in it I suppose, so I'm just doing it and to me it's like, 'Alright love, see you next week, I'm off to do my job,' and then I'm back home with the kids and with my wife. Yeah, I suppose you're right, I have been on a roll..."
From an outsider's point of view, it seems like your name being attached to a project raises the bar a little bit…
"I don't know... obviously it is nice to be asked to do these kind of things. Like Parade's End - to be asked to be a part of that, which had a fantastic cast. Anne Marie-Duff was just such a joy to work with, absolutely glorious, she's a phenomenal actress.
"I suppose you're right - to be in the company of actors like that, it's nice. It feels like I've done my apprenticeship and now I'm actually doing the job. I am really enjoying my job - I'm not one of these moaners. I just get on with it and do it and have a laugh, getting to meet great people and do some great work."
You mentioned This Is England 1990 - is that definitely happening, because it got pushed back?
"I think we're gonna do it next year now, because Shane is doing the Stone Roses documentary. But we're definitely gonna do it next year and my character is going to be coming out of prison, so I'm really looking forward to that.
"I had my apprehensions at first when Shane asked me about doing a TV series - you know, I think it was such a good film that it stood up on its own. And then when he explained it to me, what I loved about it was getting to know the other characters of the story and letting them really become a part of the whole thing.
"You're getting to see their life, their stories and everything. It's a big ensemble piece now. I'm such a big fan of the show - I guess because I wasn't in the TV series much, I watched it and thought it was fantastic!"
Will Combo have a larger role in the 1990 series than he did in This Is England '88?
"I think so... or I hope so - that's the plan anyway."
I have to ask about Boardwalk Empire - what's going to be coming up for Al Capone?
"Well, we get to see a lot more about Al Capone in this series. He's served his apprenticeship and he's slowly turning into this man we've all heard of and know - he's such an iconic character. I'm getting to do a whole lot more stuff with him now.
"I know in the next season he's gonna start taking over Chicago. We've spent a lot of time developing this character, because he's only young still. We wanted to create a funny, likeable character - again like MacMaster, a loveable rogue - but this man actually kills people!
"We wanted the audience to like him and then think to themselves, 'I really shouldn't like him,' - because we know who he becomes. But we wanted to just show him being young and naïve and not quite knowing what he is doing - that was the aim at the beginning, anyway."
James Gandolfini once said that Mafia types would congratulate him on his performance in The Sopranos - have you had a similar experience?
"I've never met anyone from the Mafia, no! In New York though, because the show's been doing so well, when I'm out with friends a lot of people ask to buy me a drink, so that's kind of weird. And then they go, 'You talk so weirdly, are you European?' and I go, 'I'm from Liverpool,' and then they say, 'Well, you wouldn't have guessed!'"
Parade's End is now available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray.