Suresh Gopi was born in Kollam into a Hindu Nair family to Gnanalekshmi and Gopinathan Pillai. Suresh Gopi did his schooling at the Infant Jesus Anglo-Indian High School at Thangasseri. He graduated with a B.A. in English literature from Fatima Mata National College in Kollam. He is married to Radhika, the granddaughter of late actress Aranmula Ponnamma, and has five children: Lekshmi (deceased in a traffic accident at the age of two in 1992), Gokul, Bhagya, Bhaavni, and Madhav. He is settled at Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and is currently living in Sasthamangalam.
Suresh Gopi first appeared onscreen as a child in K. S. Sethumadhavan’s Odeyil Ninnu (1965). It was a popular film that had Sathyan in the lead role along with Prem Nazir. He returned to acting in the mid-80s with Sathyan Anthikkad’s T.P. Balagopalan M.A. (1986), where he played a prospective groom in a small scene. He went on to play supporting and villain roles. The films that made Suresh Gopi a bankable lead actor were Thalastaanam (1992), Ekalavyan (1993), Mafia (1993) and Commissioner (1994), all by Shaji Kailas and scripted by Ranji Panicker. All of them were police dramas and had, more or less, similar themes. He became immensely popular with his role as Bharathchandran IPS in the block-buster movie Commissioner. Renji Panicker’s dialogues employed by Suresh Gopi in English became quite popular with the masses.
During this period, most of his films were dubbed and simultaneously released in Telugu, which made him a sensation in Andhra Pradesh.
The success of his cop roles led to more films of such nature, where he either played police officers or other tough characters with most of them failing to get noticed. In 1997, with Jayaraj’s Kaliyattam (1997), an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello, Suresh Gopi won the National Film Award for Best Actor for playing Kannan Perumalayan. He proved he was more than just another mainstream actor. This was a turning point in his career.
After 2000, when his films were doing fairly well, he decided to stop acting in movies depicting violence, a decision he would later regret. It was also rumored that he was giving up his acting career for pursuing a political career. He acted in off-beat movies and accepted only soft roles from 2001 to 2005. With his movies failing to make an impact, he had just one release each in 2002 and 2003. In 2005, he decided to return to action movies. Ranji Panicker, scriptwriter of his most successful movie, Commissioner, directed the sequel Bharathchandran I.P.S. portraying him as the police commissioner. The movie was a super hit and was followed by a number of movies in the same genre, in which he played the typical police officer or detective. Some of them were successful, like The Tiger, Chinthamani Kolacase directed by Shaji Kailas, Nadiya Kollappetta Rathri directed by K. Madhu and Detective. In between he attempted to do a different role with negative shades in Lanka which, flopped at the box office and ignited a controversy for an unaesthetic kissing scene with his female co-star, Mamta Mohandas. In 2006 he reunited with his favorite director Shaji Kailas for the movie Time, which had huge expectations but bombed at the box office. It was dubbed into Telugu as Police Ante Veedera and Hindi as On Duty, but failed to fetch better results.
Before coming to the film world, he had displayed great interest in the field of literature; his favorite authors are Bernard Shaw and Shakespeare. He is famous for his philanthropic efforts.