Ralf Little On Following 'The Royle Family', 'Two Pints' With His Own Creation 'The Cafe'
"When this was commissioned, my mother was text-book brilliant and supportive. She said, 'Oh, well done, I'm so proud of you'... Eight seconds later, the phone rang again and she added, 'Make sure it's good, won't you?'"
If there is ever any danger of Ralf Little allowing his acting success to go to his head, we need look no further than his own mother to keep him in check.
"Mums are the same everywhere," he muses in London. "My mum will say to me 'James Corden is doing well, he's got a sports quiz show on Sky one... why don't you do a sports quiz show on Sky One?"
Little's attentive mother can rest easy for a while. After a decade of success, first with The Royle Family and then with six series of Two Pints of Lager and A Packet of Crisps, her son's new comedy - written by his own hand - debuts on Sky One tonight. According to Little, The Cafe is "gentle, observational humour - just looking at people, and wondering what's going on inside. It's in a cafe, because that's where you get all types."
It's also where Little and his co-writer Michelle Terry bashed laptops for two years, after first teaming up after acting together.
"We appeared in a play together," remembers Terry. "Most of the time with acting jobs, you make great friends very quickly and you're great mates, but then you go away, and it becomes impossible to keep in touch with everybody. So we decided to write something together. Which always gets said, but this time it actually happened."
"Michelle joked that once it was written, I'd ditch her. I told her, 'just for that, you're acting the lead role.'"
Toiling over the blank pages demanding to be filled has given Little fresh respect for the creators of The Royle Family, the mould-breaking comedy that he first joined as an ungainly 17-year-old, immortalised as 'Anthony!' reclining sulkily on the sofa. A decade later, he still sounds genuinely awed:
"Now we're able to bandy words around like The Office, The Royle Family, Human Remains'. But Caroline (Aherne) and Craig (Cash) created The Royle Family out of nothing, with the idea that people just sit around being funny. Ricky Gervais has always said The Office wouldn't have existed without it, so they were really ploughing ahead where no one had been. Now, I'm just standing on the shoulders of giants, or just ripping them off, depending on how you look at it."
Despite his success in Royle Family, it seems it is his stint in Two Pints of Lager that has secured him lasting recognition in the street.
"People come up to me to this day about Two Pints and will say more about it, calling it the funniest show they've ever seen, and I feel like saying, 'Have you seen The Office? Have you seen The Royle Family?'
"It's great and has its place, but it's not the best show ever. But it obviously captured something that, to this day, people remain fanatic about."
With two such comedic gems in his back-pocket, does Little worry that his best work may, in fact, be already behind him at the ripe age of 31?
"The Royle Family was always going to be tough to follow," he agrees. "As an actor, things occur to you all the time. I've had a great career so far, but if I'd known then what I know now, I would probably have finished Royle Family, sat back and waited for the big film career that other people have gone on to enjoy.
"The cache that The Royle Family had, I didn't cash in on, but there are lots of different things to weigh up. Plus it's only been recently that America has really looked at Brits in this favourable way."
But if all that had happened for Ralf Little, what would his mother have to worry about?
The Cafe debuts tonight on Sky One, double bill starting at 9pm