Neil was born in South London, the eldest of three. He was educated at Woolverstone Hall, a boarding school in Suffolk, where he gained his first acting experience. He trained at the Central School for Speech and Drama and spent the 1980s in constant work in the theatre and playing small TV parts, especially in sitcoms such as That's Love (1988) and Chelmsford 123 (1988). His break came in 1990 as "Dave", in the award winning sitcom Drop the Dead Donkey (1990), and his success has been further established as the lead in the highly acclaimed TV police drama Between the Lines (1992). He still lives (alone) in South London and supports Spurs.