The Royle Family – then and now

For some reason, we just really get a kick out of watching other families on our television screens, while we’re watching the screens with our own family. We know, it totally doesn’t make sense, but family sitcoms have proved to be hugely popular during the last few decades – and you just can’t argue with the statistics. Believe us; we’ve tried!

Although many people believe that American sitcoms reign supreme, we can’t help but think the United Kingdom have tried their hardest to get their own sitcom voices heard, and it’s kinda worked. In fact, family sitcoms such as Birds of a Feather, Mrs. Brown’s Boys, Outnumbered and My Family have all entertained families for many years as they venture into the lives of dysfunctional families trying to maintain functionality.


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Yet, there is one British sitcom that we’ve missed off this list… The Royle Family. After debuting onto our screens in 1998, The Royle Family allowed us a sneak peek into the lives of the Mancunian Royle Family, who were loud, obnoxious, and downright lovable. The show originally gave us three seasons before taking a break, but thankfully returned in 2006 with all-new seasons to have us laughing out loud for years.

However, it wasn’t over just yet. The Royle Family has also provided us with epic TV specials to keep us up to date with the Royle cast. Yet, have you ever wondered what the cast of The Royle Family are up to now? Well, carry on reading to find out…

Ricky Tomlinson as James Randolph ‘Jim’ Royle – Then

As the patriarch of the Royle family, James Randolph ‘Jim’ Royle is arguably the leading man within The Royle Family – and there is absolutely no way we could forget about him! With his bushy beard, his iconic stripy T-shirt, and his strong accent, Jim is not the kind of stay at home husband most of us would wish for. In fact, he used to spend every moment of his day sat in his favorite chair, with a remote control in his hands, switching between TV channels and barking cynicism at the rest of his family. Yet, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a loving side deep, deep, deep down…


Ricky Tomlinson – Now

Before starring as the leading patriarch of The Royle Family, Ricky Tomlinson had already made a name for himself in the popular British soap operas, Brookside and Cracker. Nevertheless, his true claim to fame came when he was cast as Jim Royle, and he has since managed to maintain a rather busy lifestyle ever since. Thanks to his epic accent and his exceptional acting talent, Ricky has managed to score himself numerous acting gigs – between them films like The Brothers Grimsby and the musical drama Northern Soul. He also had roles within various high-profile adverts for the likes of British Gas and McVities. Yes, you knew you’d heard him somewhere!

Sue Johnston as Barbara Royle – Then

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the woman who had to deal with Jim on a daily basis! Yes, as the wife of Mr. Royle, Barbara Royle is the complete opposite of her husband. Where Jim is cynical and selfish, Barbara is kind and loving. However, this can often work against her. Because her family knows that she would do absolutely everything to make them happy, Jim and her daughter would often take advantage of her good nature to get what they wanted. During the early seasons of The Royle Family, Barbara was one of the only member of the Royle family to have a paid job… until she made a bold exit.

Sue Johnston – Now

Like Ricky Tomlinson, Sue Johnston also scored herself a role on the soap opera, Brookside, before landing herself the chance of a lifetime to appear on The Royle Family. Since her time on the series, Sue has continued to be cast in major British television shows that have allowed her to maintain her high level of fame – and given viewers the chance to obsess over her even more! In recent years, she has taken on recurring roles in the soap opera, Coronation Street, as well as the period drama, Downton Abbey. In recent months, Sue guest starred on the crime drama, Kiri.

Caroline Aherne as Denise Best – Then

As Jim and Barbara’s daughter, you probably already have a pretty good picture of what Denise Best was like. After growing up with a cynical father and overbearing mother, Denise Best was used to having everything she could possibly want in life – which is why she wasn’t always known as the best mother herself. After marrying David and welcoming two children into the world, Denise would much rather palm off these duties to other family members than look after them herself. After all, she was too busy chain smoking with her mother…

Caroline Aherne – Now (deceased)

As one of the creators of the show, Caroline Aherne was not just a talented writer, but she was also a talented actress and really brought the character of Denise to life. After leaving the world of The Royle Family behind her, Caroline moved to Australia and continued to write and star in smaller television productions. In the later years of her life, Caroline used her distinctive voice to narrate the hugely popular reality TV show, Gogglebox. Sadly, Caroline Aherne passed away in 2016 when she was just 52 years old, after a heroic battle with lung cancer.

Ralf Little as Antony James Royle – Then

However, Denise wasn’t the only by-product of Jim and Barbara’s marriage. As their only son, Antony James Royal really stands out – as he is completely different to all of the other members of their family. Rather than taking advantage of his mother’s good nature, Antony is actually taken advantage of himself. He is treated like the busboy of the household, and is called upon to look after Denise’s children, to cook their dinner, to make them cups of tea, and is even called upon to be mocked. We have to admit; we felt sorry for this guy.

Ralf Little – Now

Ralf Little is the kind of actor who isn’t happy just being an actor – because he has to show off all of his other talents! Indeed, as well as being an actor, Ralf has also risen to fame as a semi-professional footballer. Nevertheless, he is now known primarily as an actor and has been one of the most successful The Royle Family alum on this list. Since appearing on the show, Ralf has continued his career as a television actor, and been cast in major TV shows such as the sci-fi classic, Doctor Who, and the drama series, The A Word.

Craig Cash as David ‘Dave’ Best – Then

As Denise’s husband, David ‘Dave’ Best becomes an integral part of the Royle family and soon becomes accustomed to their lazy ways. While he was originally portrayed as a laddish character with a boisterous personality, his marriage to Denise mellowed him out – just a little too much. However, his laid-back attitude allows him to deal with his wife and her family with a smile on his face. Throughout much of the show, we see Dave suck up to Jim by taking his side during family arguments. We know your games, Dave!

Craig Cash – Now

As the co-writer for the whole show, Craig Cash proved to the world that he was not just an actor or a writer – he was both! Since leaving The Royle Family behind him, Craig Cash has maintained his reputation as a hugely successful television writer and has been the driving force behind many sitcoms, including The Fast Show, The Mrs. Merton Show, After Hours and more. After the death of his writing partner, Caroline Aherne, Craig also took over the narrating duties for the reality show, Gogglebox. As if he wasn’t cool enough, Craig also cast his two sons as extras in an episode of The Royle Family!

Liz Smith as Norma Jean Speakman (Nana) – Then

Although she was really called Norma Jean Speakman, we just can’t call this character anyone other than Nana – because she will always be the nana of the family. As the elderly mother of Barbara Royle, Nana was argumentative and boisterous, and that was just the way we loved her. After living alone in a block of flats during the early seasons, she eventually moved in with the Royle family. During this time, it was clear that Nana and Jim did not get out, something that he deeply regretted after Nana later passed away.

Liz Smith – Now (deceased)

Amazingly, Liz Smith’s career spanned a whopping four decades before her sad passing in 2016. Throughout the course of her career, Liz became a much-loved actress, known for playing doting grandmothers or comedic characters. After her time on The Royle Family, Smith managed to secure herself roles in children’s movies such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and more. Her last professional acting role came in 2013, just three years before her untimely death on Christmas Eve.

Jessica Hynes as Cheryl Carroll – Then

Although she was not a part of the Royle family by blood, she was in the house so often she might well have been! As their next-door-neighbour and Denise’s best friend, Cheryl became part of the furniture throughout the show and soon shared her drama with adoring fans. During the course of her time on The Royle Family, we learned that Cheryl was the kind of woman who was never happy with her weight. To combat this, she would move from one fad diet to the next, while the rest of her friends and family took the mick out of her behind her back.

Jessica Hynes – Now

Because Jessica Hynes is now so famous, many people actually forget that she appeared in The Royle Family at all! As both an actress and writer, Jessica has truly made a name for herself since her time on the show and has been nominated for various awards – including four BAFTA Awards, a British Comedy Award, and a Laurence Olivier Award. In recent years, Jessica landed herself in the children’s classic, Paddington 2. She also appeared as The Knight in the reboot of the game show, The Crystal Maze in 2017. She’s been pretty darn busy!

Sheridan Smith as Emma Kavanagh – Then

We were first introduced to Emma Kavanagh at the end of season 2, and she certainly made an impression. As Antony’s very first love interest, Emma soon became a vital part of the household and token member of the Royle family. Although Emma’s own family were rich and incredibly well put together, she miraculously got on incredibly well with Antony’s family. In the last official season of the show, we learn that Emma and Antony are engaged, and we later find out in the specials that the pair has a child together – although they ultimately split up.

Sheridan Smith – Now

Sheridan Smith’s role in The Royle Family was her first ever professional acting gig – and it’s safe to say that she made a pretty good impression, as she has since become a hugely popular figure within the world of British television and music. Since playing Emma Kavanagh, Sheridan has taken on numerous other sitcom roles within shows such as Gavin & Stacey, Love Soup, and Mrs. Biggs. Alongside her acting career, Sheridan has also made a name for herself as a hugely successful singer and musical theater buff. In recent months, she even had her own ITV show dedicated to her love of show tunes and music.

Andrew Whyment as Darren Sinclair-Jones – Then

Although Darren Sinclair-Jones is not related to the Royle family, he might as well be. We were first introduced to him as Antony’s best friend during Season 2, and he continued to star in the show until the last official season. With little education under his belt and a dim way of looking at the world, Darren soon found himself in the world of crime. Indeed, his whole family had done stints in prison at one point or another, and Darren soon starts to steal himself. Although he doesn’t get caught, he does get caught out with numerous financial crises.

Andrew Whyment – Now


Andrew Whyment secured the role of his life when he was cast as a recurring character on The Royle Family, and it’s noted that this first introduction to television family life was the exposure he needed to secure the role he is most known for – as Kirk Sutherland in the soap opera, Coronation Street. Andrew is still a leading character on this hugely popular show and has spent much of his career dedicated to this one soap. However, that hasn’t stopped him from trying out celebrity game shows, such as Dancing on Ice and Soapstar Superstar.

Joanne Froggatt as Saskia – Then

Although she didn’t appear in the original season of The Royle Family, we just couldn’t forget Saskia off this list. After appearing in the Christmas specials in 2009 and 2010, we soon learn that Antony has moved on from Emma and has found love with Saskia. As a hardworking hospital nurse, the first time we meet Saskia she is rushed off her feet and heavily pregnant. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have an easy time with the Royle’s -as they are a little bit obsessed with her. Nevertheless, we soon learn that Saskia has gone into labour.

Joanne Froggatt – Now

Because she is now so famous, many people forget that Joanne Froggatt once appeared on The Royle Family – but we haven’t forgotten. Since she appeared as Saskia in the Christmas specials, Joanne has continued to work on major movies and TV shows. In recent years, Joanne secured herself the leading role in a six-part miniseries called Liar, as well as a role in the period drama, Downton Abbey. As if she wasn’t cool enough, Joanne has voiced the character of Wendy in the children’s show, Bob The Builder, 2015.

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