In the early 1990s he was cast as lead character Mark Taylor in Steven Moffat's semi-autobiographical sitcom Joking Apart. Although only twelve episodes were made, the role remains Bathurst's favourite in his whole career. After Joking Apart concluded he was cast as David Marsden in Cold Feet, a series that ran from 1998 to 2003. Since Cold Feet concluded he has portrayed a fictional prime minister in the childrens' series My Dad's the Prime Minister, and Mark Thatcher in the fact-based drama Coup!. He also returned to the theatre for the first time in many years, appearing in The Three Sisters, Whipping it Up and Alex.
At the age of 18, Bathurst began studying law at the University of Cambridge, where he joined Footlights, appearing alongside Hugh Laurie, Rory McGrath and Emma Thompson, and eventually becoming Footlights President from 1978 to 1979. He graduated from Cambridge and took the Bar Vocational Course in London, which allowed him to go on to become a practising barrister. He did not continue with a career in law, however, instead spending a year touring Australia in Botham, The Musical.
Bathurst appeared as sitcom writer Mark Taylor in Joking Apart. The show was punctuated by fantasy sequences in which his character performed his thoughts as a stand-up routine in a small club. In the commentary and the interview on the DVD, Bathurst says that he was told that they would be reshot after filming everything else, an idea abandoned because of the expense. He has an idea of refilming the sequences 'now', as his older self, to give them a more retrospective feeling. He has also said that he believes Mark was too "designery" and wishes that he had "roughened him up a bit". The role remains his favourite: he has described it as "the most enjoyable job I will ever do", and considers several episodes of the series to be "timeless, beautifully constructed farces which will endure". Bathurst is often recognised for his appearance in this series, mentioning that "Drunks stop me on public transport and tell me details of the plot of their favourite episode". As punishment for arriving late for the series one press launch at the Café Royal in Regent Street, London, writer Steven Moffat pledged to write an episode in which Mark is naked throughout. To a large extent, this vow is realised in the second series.
In 1996 Bathurst appeared in The Rover at the Salisbury Playhouse. During his stint he auditioned for Cold Feet, a Granada Television pilot that had the possibility of becoming a series on ITV. He arrived at his audition "bearded and shaggy" and did not expect to be cast in the role of David Marsden, the upper-class management consultant. He got the part and played David in the series until 2003. The character was originally written in a one-dimensional way, with the only character note in the script relating to his high salary. Over the course of the series the character engaged in extramarital affairs and faced redundancy. Bathurst suggested a storyline for the third series in which David gets a Harley-Davidson motorbike, and the producers duly paid for him to take lessons.
From March to June 2003 he appeared alongside Kristen Scott Thomas and Eric Sykes in The Three Sisters at the Playhouse Theatre. The role marked his first time on stage in four years; after his previous performance, he had vowed never again to do a "theatre job". In 2005 he appeared in the ITV thriller The Stepfather, playing a man whose daughter goes missing. He took the role to distance himself from his Cold Feet character, an "emotional cripple", and because he could relate to how a father would feel if his daughter went missing. Following this he planned to scale back the number of "suits" he played on television, intending to spend more time at the theatre to avoid being typecast. The same year he played Mr Sesseman in an adaptation of Heidi, and Dottore Massimo in The Thief Lord.
The following year he played Mark Thatcher in Coup!, about the Equatorial Guinea affair. In November 2006 he appeared in Whipping it Up at the Bush Theatre, alongside Richard Wilson. The production transferred to the New Ambassadors Theatre and went on a national tour from September to November 2007. To research his role as a government whip he watched more Commons debates, going back to Parliament more often than he did for My Dad's the Prime Minister.
The tour coincided with his appearance as the titular character in Alex, based on the comic in The Daily Telegraph. The play, which ran at the Arts Theatre between October and November 2007, features Bathurst interacting with other characters that are projected onto a screen behind him. He was attracted to the role because of the "duplicity and guile" Alex uses to get himself out of tight situations. The role won him a nomination for Best Solo Performance at the What's on Stage Awards. He continued his association with the character when he was quizmaster at the "Alex City Quiz" at the London Stock Exchange in April 2008. Bathurst will reprise the role in an international tour from September 2008, and for a film adaptation that will mix animation and live-action.
|Noises Off||Savoy Theatre||Second cast|
|Saint Joan||National Theatre||Background actor|
|1986||The Swap||Roger||Boulevard, Soho|
|1988||Dry Rot||Lyric Theatre|
|The Importance of Being Earnest||Jack||Nottingham Playhouse|
|Lady Audley's Secret||Lyric Hammersmith|
|A Comedy of Errors||Nottingham Playhouse|
|1990||The Next Best Thing||Nuffield, Southampton|
|1992||The Choice||Consultant||Salisbury Playhouse|
|1993||Getting Married||Hotchkis||Chichester Festival|
|1995||The Nose||Kovalyov||Nottingham Playhouse|
|1996||The Rover||Willmore||Salisbury Playhouse|
|1998||Alarms and Excursions||Gielgud Theatre|
|2003||The Three Sisters||Vershinin||Playhouse Theatre|
|2006||Whipping it Up||Alistair||Bush Theatre||National tour in 2007|
|2007||Alex||Alex||Arts Theatre|| Nominated, What's on Stage Award for Best Solo Performance|
National tour in 2008
|1984||The Lenny Henry Show||Cast member|
|1986||Whoops Apocalypse||Damien, Getting His Leg Sawn Off|
|1986||Who Dares Wins||1 episode (Series 3, Episode 6)|
|1987||The District Nurse||Christian||1 episode ("Myths and Follies")|
|1988||Just Ask For Diamond||Vicar|
|Red Dwarf||Frank Todhunter||1 episode ("The End")|
|Chelmsford 123||Gaius||1 episode ("Arrivederci Roma")|
|1989||Anything More Would Be Greedy||Dennis Medlam|
|1991||About Face||Dave||1 episode ("Briefcase Encounter")|
|Lazarus & Dingwall||Justin De Jong||1 episode ("You Expect Us To Believe That?")|
|Comic Asides: Joking Apart||Mark Taylor||Pilot for Joking Apart|
|1992||No Job for a Lady||Tony||1 episode ("Lobby Terms")|
|Early Travellers in North America||William Makepeace Thackery||2 episodes ("Bed and Board" and "Slavery")|
|The House of Eliott||Hector Furneux||1 episode (Series 2, Episode 10)|
|1993||Joking Apart||Mark Taylor||2 series (1993–1995)|
|1994||The Detectives||Thomas||1 episode ("Never Without Protection")|
|A Breed of Heroes||Major Edward Lumley|
|1996||The Wind in the Willows||St John Weasel|
|1997||Get Well Soon||Squadron Leader Fielding|
|Cold Feet||David Marsden||Pilot for Cold Feet|
|1998||Hornblower||Lt. Eccleston||1 episode ("The Even Chance")|
|Cold Feet||David Marsden||5 series (1998–2003)|
|1999||The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything|| English Ambassador|
Sir Francis Drake
|2001||Goodbye, Mr Steadman||Alan Steadman|
|2002||The Secret||Alex Faraday|
|White Teeth||Marcus Malfen|
|The Safe House||Dr Adam Daley|
|2003||My Dad's the Prime Minister||Prime Minister Michael Phillips||2 series (2003–2004)|
|2004||New Tricks||Martin Lombard||1 episode (Series 1, Episode 6)|
|2005||The Stepfather||Christopher Veazey|
|Agatha Christie's Poirot||Gilbert Entwhistle||1 episode ("After the Funeral")|
|The Comic Strip Presents...||Charles||1 episode ("Sex Actually")|
|2006||The Thief Lord||Dottore Massimo|
|My Family||James Garrett|| 2 episodes ("The Art of Being Susan"  and "Dutch Art and Dutch Courage" )|
Scheduled to make third appearance in a forthcoming series.
|2007||Kingdom||Philip Collins||1 episode (Series 1, Episode 5)|