The Royle Family cast now – two tragic deaths, Gogglebox star and Corrie legend
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The Royle Family epitomised British life – with the characters becoming more beloved than the actual royal family.
The iconic BBC comedy had us rolling around the floor laughing for over two decades thanks to the hilarious antics of the Royle clan.
The series originally ran from 1998 until 2000, when co-creator Caroline Aherne announced she would not be starring in or writing any further episodes with pal Craig Cash.
There was a possibility that the show could have continued without her, but Ricky Tomlinson selflessly pulled out so it would have to end at its peak.
However, five special episodes airing from 2006 until 2012 – and a sixth was in the works before a devastating tragedy.
Caroline, who also played Denise Royle, sadly passed away from cancer in 2016.
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After the tragic death of Caroline back, many of the cast have insisted they would not want to have an on-screen reunion without her.
The Royle Family cast became like one big family on set and loved playing pranks on each other.
Many people will have forgotten some of these famous faces were in the BBC comedy – with a few going on to become major stars.
Here is a look at what happened to the cast of The Royle Family:
Lazy Jim Royle loved nothing better than sitting in his armchair all day watching TV with a cuppa.
Best known for his catchphrase "my arse", Jim was always swearing or
When he wasn't barking orders at wife Barbara, Jim was mocking his son Anthony, shouting at Denise for spending money they didn't have or getting into rows with Nana.
Despite it all Jim was actually a very loving father – with the scene where Denise (Caroline) went into labour being the most powerful for actor Ricky Tomlinson.
"I think it was so special to her because Caroline didn’t have children," said Ricky.
"And it was so special to me because my own girl, my Kate, was born on Christmas Day.
"And that’s why the tears were real. The cameraman was the son of Corrie character Stan Ogden and at the end he was crying and said: ‘That’s it. We don’t need another take.’ It just stands out in my mind."
Ricky was devastated when Caroline passed away
Ricky Tomlinson was absolutely devastated when he heard the deeply sad news that Caroline had died.
"Her death is the biggest shock in the world. It’s knocked me for six," confessed Ricky, who was unaware of how truly ill she was.
"I’m so bloody shocked. She was absolutely wonderful and amazing to work for. Kind, funny, witty," he told The Sunday Mirror. "A true professional and one of the most generous people I ever worked with."
Marking the four-year anniversary of Caroline's passing this year, Ricky revealed they would always play pranks on set,
Ricky said: "There's a million stories but you can't tell them on the air because Caroline was one for playing pranks, but they were always a little bit rude. But she was wonderful and so, so missed."
Ricky Tomlinson joins protesters outside BBC Media City in Salford, Greater Manchester, at the broadcaster's decision to axe free TV licences for 3.7 million pensioners
After his starring role on The Royle Family, Ricky played the titular character in hilarious fly on the wall documentary Mike Basset England Manager.
Ricky released a Christmas single called "Christmas My Arse", based on his character's catchphrase, which reached number 25 in the charts.
He went on a comedy tour in 2008 and 2009, opened his own cabaret club the Green Room in Liverpool and appeared in many TV adverts.
This year, Ricky took part in a travel series with his on-screen son Ralf Little.
Barbara kept the family together
Long-suffering Barbara had the unenviable task of keeping the house in check and doing almost everything for her family.
The hard-working mother cooked every meal, including all of the Christmas dinners, while husband Jim sat on the sofa.
Barbara was very close with daughter Denise but showed great love to both her kids – and took good care of her mum, Norma.
In real life, actress Sue Johnston starred in Waking The Dead for over a decade then played Gloria Price in Coronation Street for two years.
Sue Johnston has been a star for years
Sue appeared in the fifth series of Downton Abbey as Miss Denker and in the films Golden Years and Walk Like A Panther.
She also teamed up with Craig Cash again in Sky One comedy Rovers in 2016.
Sue was very close to Caroline Aherne and has a painting of her in her house, which is the first thing she sees every morning.
"For me, she was the most generous of women and that showed in her spirit," said Sue.
"She was very funny, naturally funny, but her generosity was extraordinary.
"At the end of a week’s filming there would be a table laid out with champagne, beers, sweets for the crew and everyone, she spoiled everyone."
Caroline wrote the show and played Denise
Caroline co-created and starred in iconic BBC sitcom The Royle Family with close friend Craig Cash – playing Denise Royle and her husband David respectively.
Obnoxious Denise was incredibly lazy and loved sitting down smoking while watching The Jeremy Kyle Show.
Jobless Denise didn't provide for the family and always left her parents to look after her two kids.
But Denise did have a soft side and had a very close bond with mum Barbara.
Caroline was the voiceover on Gogglebox from the very start, introducing the families with her dulcet tones and bringing a warming feeling to the Channel 4 show.
While Caroline took time off to receive cancer treatment, Craig filled in as a relief host until she was strong enough to come back.
Caroline has selflessly refused to put her nearest and dearest through the torment she suffered.
When the cancer returned she only told a handful of her closest friends she had between three and 12 months to live, but she sadly passed away just two months later.
One of her final acting roles had been as Shelia in Sky One comedy After Hours in 2015, which was directed by Craig.
Many of the Royle Family cast and crew attended and Craig, who played her on-screen husband Dave, gave a speech in the packed church.
(Image: Getty Images Europe)
Craig later admitted that he struggled with the heartbreak of filling in for Caroline on Gogglebox after her death.
"When Caroline died in July 2016, I took over narrating duties," he told Radio Times.
“She will of course forever be in my life, but it was heartbreaking going into the small studio in Manchester at 8am on a Friday morning to record the narration for the show, knowing that Caroline used to sit in the same room."
However, rather poignantly, it did make him feel closer to Caroline to work in the same place she had.
"Now that time has passed, going into the studio is a lovely little moment because Caroline is with me again," he said.
"And I know she’ll be watching Gogglebox in heaven with 20 Bensons and a bottle of champagne."
Craig Cash – Dave Best
Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash
After meeting at a Manchester pirate radio station in the early 80s, Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash became best friends.
They went on to write one of the greatest ever British sitcoms, while playing lethargic on-screen couple Denise and Dave.
A simple man, Dave was the husband of Denise and son-in-law of Jim and Barbara.
He was very close with the Royle family and always supported lazy wife Denise through his job as a removal fan.
Dave and Denise were parents to baby David, who Jim claimed didn't know who his parents were because he was always left with his grandparents, and baby Norma.
Caroline and Craig worte and starred in the show
(Image: BBC Pictures)
After the show, Craig wrote BBC sitcom Early Doors and starred and directed Sky comedy Rovers with on-screen mum-in-law Sue Johnston.
Craig also took over Caroline's role as Gogglebox voiceover when she took time off to have cancer treatment.
“In November 2013, when she was gravely ill with cancer, Caroline asked if I’d narrate Gogglebox when she wasn’t up to it,” he told Radio Times.
"Of course, I said yes; it was a very sad time and I wanted to do right by her and by the programme.
"Caroline was well and then unwell, well and unwell, so I filled in whenever she needed me to."
When Caroline tragically died, Craig became the permanent voice over star.
Ralf Little – Anthony Royle
Ralf Little and Caroline Aherne
The son of Barbara and Jim, young Anthony was always called a "lazy git" by his dad, but was made to do all the chores.
Anthony was made to make the tea and answer the door – and it was only once he left home that his dad realised how much he did.
The scruffy teen managed to make something of himself when he got a big job and got a girlfriend.
Anthony broke up with Emma shortly after they had baby Lewis, then proposed to pregnant girlfriend Saskia.
Ricky and Ralf went on a Very Northern Road Trip
He has also appeared in BBC series Robin Hood, Doctor Who, Inside Number 9 and in 2019 was confirmed as the new lead star of Death in Paradise.
Ralf also had a bit of a semi-professional football career, playing for Maidstone United, Staines Town, Edgware Town and Chertsey Town.
At the start of lockdown, Will got together with Ralf to bring back the spirit of Two Pints with a new project.
Most recently, he filmed a six-part travel series with former Royle Family co-star Ricky Tomlinson called Ricky and Ralf's Very Northern Road Trip.
Liz Smith – Norma 'Nana' Speakman
Nana had us in hysterics
Nana was everyone's favourite character – and reminded us of our own grandparents.
The mum of Barbara, loud and outspoken Nana always clashed with son-in-law Jim over owning every item on Antiques Roadshow and not sharing her chocolates.
The nation was left in floods of tears when Nana died during the 2006 Christmas special – The Queen of Sheba.
Bedridden Nana got to meet her newborn great-grandaughter Norma, who Denise and David named in her honour.
After being rushed to hospital, Nana woke up to see her family gathered round her bed then died peacefully.
Liz Smith with her MBE for services to drama
The wonderful Liz Smith was part of two iconic British comedy series – The Vicar of Dibley and The Royle Family.
She became a household name playing Letitia Cropley on the church-based show until her character was killed off in the 1996 Easter special.
Liz also starred in the first series of Lark Rise to Candleford and was made an MBE in the 2009 New Year's Honours for services to acting.
Heartbreakingly, the veteran TV star died on Christmas Eve 2016 at the age of 95.
This was just days after a repeat of her emotional final The Royle Family episode had aired.
Sheridan Smith – Emma Kavanagh
Emma was Anthony's girlfriend, who was first introduced to the rest of the family at his 18th birthday party.
During Baby David's Christening it was revealed that the couple were engaged, despite Jim thinking it was never going to last.
Jim and Barbara correctly predicted that Emma was pregnant and her parents came to visit, but they broke up after their son Louis was born.
Sheridan Smith is the most famous star to come from the show – with her career absolutely sky rocketing.
After leaving The Royle Family in 2000, Sheridan had another comedic role as Janet Keough in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps from 2001 until 2009.
Sheridan Smith has become a massive star
The actress has received critical acclaim for her performances in a string of TV dramas including Mrs Biggs, Cilla, The C Word and The Moorside.
She is also known for her other comedy roles in Gavin & Stacey as Smithy's sister, Benidorm and Jonathan Creek.
As well as the telly she is a star of the stage, performing on the West End in Little Shop of Horros, Legally Blonde, and Joseph.
Sheridan has won two Olivier Awards, a BAFTA, an NTA and received two International Emmy Awards.
The actress, who has been engaged to Jamie Horn since 2018, gave birth to their first son in May this year.
Andy Whyment – Darren Sinclair-Jones
Andy played Anthony's best mate Darren
The weird best friend of Anthony, Darren was always committing crimes but never seemed to go to prison.
A simple lad, Darren would usually only give one word answers to questions and found Jim's jokes overly hilarious.
The only time he was distracted from the telly was while watching Denise breast feed baby David.
Darren broke down in tears during his final appearance in the 2000 Christmas special when Darren and Emma asked him to be godfather to their baby.
Many people will have forgotten actor Andy Whyment was in the show as he was made famous by a different role.
Andy is best known for playing Kirk on the cobbles
Straight after finishing on The Royle Family, Andy joined the cast of Coronation Street.
Andy made a name for himself playing bumbling but lovable fool Kirk Sutherland – and is still on the cobbles two decades later.
The soap actor married wife Nicola in 2007 and they have two kids, Thomas and Hollie.
As well as competing in Soapstar Superstar and Dancing On Ice, Andy headed into the I'm A Celebrity camp last year.
Andy won over a legion of fans during his time in the jungle and finished in second place.
*The Royle Family airs tonight on BBC One at 9.30pm