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Ralf Little on being reunited with Ricky for their new travel series

Ralf Little and Ricky Tomlinson
(Image credit: VISHAL SHARMA)

Friends and former Royle Family co-stars, Ralf Little and Ricky Tomlinson, embark on a road-trip adventure for their new series, Ricky and Ralf’s Very Northern Road Trip

Ralf Little and Ricky Tomlinson played the nation's favourite father and son in hit sitcom The Royle Family, and never strayed far from a telly-centric living room… a scenario we’ve all become familiar with recently!

But in Gold’s new six-part series, the actors and long-time friends are reuniting for a unique road trip that couch potato Jim Royle and ‘Our Antony’ could only dream about – all filmed well before lockdown, of course.

Beginning and ending in Ricky’s home city of Liverpool, the series follows the pair on board a cosy campervan as they tour across the North of England, exploring the stunning Lake and Peak Districts, Whitby’s Gothic history, the bright lights of Blackpool and more.

Pigeon racing, glass blowing and beer brewing are on the agenda, plus they’ll be sampling every local culinary delight from Lancashire’s beloved hotpots to Yorkshire’s finest puds.

We spoke to Ricky Tomlinson, 80, and Ralf Little, 40, to hear more about their travels…

Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf LIttle

What inspired this northern adventure?

Ralf Little: I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot for work, but the North of England has just as much vibrancy and cultural diversity as anywhere else. It’s nice to be tub-thumping about the north.

Ricky Tomlinson: We've got wonderful places up here and we wanted to show people that. Everyone is so friendly, too.

Can you tell us about some of the places you visited?

Ralf: Well, we had to visit Bury, where I’m from, but also Liverpool, where Ricky lives, and Blackpool, because Ricky was born there. So in episode one, we uncover the history of the Blackpool Illuminations as well as the resort’s comedy culture.

Ricky: Blackpool was fantastic! We went to a restaurant that’s famous for its fish and chips, and met local comedian Mick Miller, who told us stories about the big stars who used to work there.

Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little

Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little have fun on their trip

What are your favourite memories from the trip?

Ricky: We visited a working mine in Durham, went out on Windermere in motorboats, learned all about Dracula in Whitby, and I conducted the Barnsley Brass Band, which was fabulous!

Ralf: Ricky and I got to switch on the Blackpool Illuminations, which was such an honour. I used to go to Blackpool as a kid, and if my grandparents could have seen me flicking that switch, their hearts would have burst with pride!

Six weeks in a campervan is a long time. How did you get on?

Ricky: It was great to be back together and we reminisced about our time on The Royle Family, working with Caroline Aherne, Liz Smith [who both died in 2016] and Craig Cash.

Ralf: We have an incredible shared history, but it was amazing to spend one on one time with Ricky. He’s an incredible guy and loves to tell stories. We got on like a house on fire.

Ralf, you describe the show as a ‘two-bob version’ of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s show, The Trip!

Ralf: It is! Steve and Rob are always trying to outdo each other with impressions, and I can do two – one is of Ricky, and the other is of Brian Blessed.

Ricky: Oh, he did make me laugh with his Brian Blessed!

Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little

Filming this must feel like a distant memory now, considering how much the world has changed?

Ricky: It was such a tremendous experience. My wife Rita and I are nice and safe here in isolation, but I’d jump at the chance to do another series.

Ralf: It may feel like you’re watching sci-fi because this show is so far away from how life is today. But it’s such feel-good TV, which is much needed when we’re currently running out of things to smile about.

Ralf, we hope Death in Paradise will be back for a 10th series!

Ralf: You and me both! Filming is postponed and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. But I think this road trip series has come along at the right time, because it reminds us that there is a world out there and we will get back to it.

Ricky & Ralf’s Very Northern Road Trip begins on Gold on Monday 11th May at 8pm.