'Ghosts' Christmas special star Charlotte Ritchie: 'It’s a family event!'

Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Charlotte Ritchie in Ghosts.
Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Charlotte Ritchie are in for a spooky Christmas in Ghosts. (Image credit: BBC)

Ghosts has swiftly become one of the nation’s best-loved comedies and the Ghosts Christmas special 2021 is set to bring festive mayhem for the residents of Button House.

The one-off episode of the BBC1 series finds the stately home’s owners Alison (Call the Midwife’s Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (Stath Lets Flats’ Kiell Smith-Bynoe) uncertain about how to deal with a strange man, Nicholas (The Thick of It’s Justin Edwards) who sets up camp in the grounds prior to Christmas. 

The myriad of ghosts who share the house with them also have their own views on the mysterious visitor. But the surprisingly compassionate reaction of stern Edwardian spook Lady Button (Martha Howe-Douglas) reveals more about her early life with her formidable mother Lavinia, played by guest star Jennifer Saunders.

We caught up with Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe to find out more about the Ghosts Christmas special, a surefire Christmas TV highlight...

The 'Ghosts' Christmas special sounds very festive. Are you pleased to be back?

Charlotte Ritchie: “It’s a huge thing for a show we feel so proud of. Knowing how much viewers care about Ghosts is special, for some people, it's a family event. That feels right for Christmas.” 

Justin Edwards in Ghosts

Mysterious Nicholas (Justin Edwards) causes a stir in 'Ghosts'. (Image credit: BBC)

What can we expect?

Kiell Smith-Bynoe: “They have this unwanted visitor and Mike and Alison have separate ways of dealing with him. Alison wants Nicholas to stay for a bit but Mike isn't keen, and then Alison gets annoyed with Nicholas! They set out to make things right though.”

Charlotte Ritchie: “Yes, Alison is a bit of a do-gooder and she does something nice for Nicholas but doesn't get the reaction she wanted from him! But there’s a lovely moment where they change their point of view.” 

How does Lady Button respond to Nicholas?

Charlotte Ritchie: “You’d expect her to be extremely haughty and territorial, but she's not. We see that her way of being comes from a sense of grief about how her life could have gone.” She's constantly bossing everyone else about because she didn't get to control her own life." 

Jennifer Saunders and Martha Howe-Douglas in Ghosts.

Lavinia (Jennifer Saunders) makes life difficult for a young Lady Button (Martha Howe-Douglas) in 'Ghosts'. (Image credit: BBC)

Jennifer Saunders plays Lady Button’s formidable mother Lavinia in flashbacks. Did you enjoy having her on board as she’s a fan of 'Ghosts'?

Charlotte Ritchie: “I didn’t get to meet her so I was gutted. But she’s such an idol. Martha said they were laughing non-stop! It feels like Jennifer has watched Martha's performance and adopted it but also has her own take. It’s so funny! It really shows the origins of Lady Button.” 

Kiell Smith-Bynoe: “Jennifer’s incredible. It's always lovely when people say nice things about the show, but when it's performers you've watched and who you rate, it's extra special.”

Did the episode feel festive to film?

Kiell Smith-Bynoe: “We filmed in February, so it was cold. And we had a massive tree, lights and fake snow so it did feel Christmassy! I had a Father Christmas outfit on, it looked so heavy, but I loved it!”

Charlotte Ritchie: “I like Alison's cosy Christmas jumpers because the house where we film [West Horsley Place in Surrey] is so cold! But it’s the sort of house you dream of having Christmas in.” 

What are your own Christmas plans?

Charlotte Ritchie: “We've got a lot of family coming around and it's going to be chaotic. I think I'll find myself stress-washing up at about midday, frantically trying to get some time alone! But it will be really nice, especially after last year was such a washout.”

Kiell Smith-Bynoe: “My mum and I will go to my aunt’s. We'll do the yearly thing where my mum says that we're not going to go because she doesn't want to stress anyone out, then I'll spend two hours convincing her to go and we'll eventually get there and she’ll fall asleep! But we’ll have a lovely time!”

When can I watch the 'Ghosts' Christmas special?

The one-off episode will air on BBC1 on Thursday 23 December at 8.30pm and will also be available on BBC iPlayer (see our Christmas TV guide for more shows to enjoy).

Caren Clark

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.