Jo Froggatt: ‘I was so nervous joining the Royles’

Ralf Little and Joanne Froggatt tell TV Times what to expect as the Royles celebrate another Christmas at home…

So what can we expect from this year’s Christmas Special?

“Well, the whole format has completely changed, it’s now filmed entirely on location and we spent quite a bit of the time in America… No, I’m completely lying! It is a traditional get-together in the Royle household, with Christmas dinner, all of them sat around the table, on the sofa, a little bit in the kitchen – and the lovely Jo Froggatt a new addition to the cast.”

Was it scary joining such an established cast?

“Yes! I was nervous, because my family always watches it, so I’m a bit of a fan. But everyone has been so lovely. It’s funny, I’m playing the newcomer to the family, and that’s what it felt like for me. But I feel like part of the family now.”

So what is Saskia like?

“Saskia doesn’t have awful girlfriend syndrome, she wants to get on with the whole family, and is very sweet. It actually makes me slightly wish she was real – Saskia is a nice, lovely, faithful girlfriend!”

Joanne: “Even though they are a little bit crazy, I think she has a real soft spot for the whole family, because of the fun they have together.”

Why do you think viewers always come back for more?

“I’ve been a viewer for years, and I think there are parts of it that every family can relate to – even if they are a really extreme version!”

Ralf: “One of the many reasons that people do keep coming back to watch is that it is a show with real heart and warmth. No matter how selfish Denise is, or how gross Jim is, or how silly Dave is or if they are all arguing, that overriding warmth is there all the time, bubbling under. Because they are family, that is what they do.”

Nearly 12 million watched last year?

“I know, but it’s going to be absolutely lovely to be part of so many people’s Christmas.”

Ralf: “It’s crazy. The numbers are so ridiculous, it is hard to get your head round what it means.”

And you had worked together before – in BBC1’s Paradise Heights?

“We’ve been trying to work it out, or at least I have been, whether our characters snogged. Our verdict was that we don’t think we did, but if we did, then it must have been pretty unmemorable!”

Is it true there is always lots of giggling during filming?

“I have to say I have corpsed more on this job in the last few weeks, than in the rest of my career part together. I have laughed so much.”

Ralf: “Traditionally, and Joanne fits into this, the women on the show are very professional and keep straight faces through the most trying of situations, while the men on the show – particularly Craig Cash and I – are helplessly, hopelessly unprofessional. We will laugh if there is a gentle breeze!”

This caps a pretty amazing year for you, Joanne, with Downton Abbey having gone stratospheric?

“It has been a genuinely lovely year, it has been great that Downton Abbey went down so well, I have a film coming out, and now this, which has been really good fun.”

What will you both be doing this Christmas?

“I won’t be cooking, I don’t think! I’m rehearsing for a play and only have a few days off, so we’ll be having a quiet one this year, eating lots of food and watching The Royle Famly!”

Ralf: “I’m having my mum and my brother down to stay with me in London, which is kind of like a less funny version of The Royle Family. No, I’m kidding, I’m going to be doing the dinner, and it is nice to get my mum down. It means that she can put her feet up and doesn’t have to run around looking after everybody. I can pamper her a little bit.”

*The Royle Family can be seen on Christmas Day at 9pm on BBC1