Which show would you take to a desert island?
I think The Office is about as perfect a piece of television as you can get. I am a huge, huge fan. It’s definitely the best comedy in my lifetime. Ricky Gervais said The Office wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for The Royle Family, which is hugely flattering for Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne. They deserve those accolades. Do you miss filming The Royle Family?
I was only 17 when it started and it’s been a huge part of my life. The good thing is, it’s not particularly plot-driven, so if we only catch up with them once a year, we won’t have missed much in between. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a Royle Family special. Will there be another?
I had a central role last year, but one year I didn’t appear at all because Antony was babysitting! Whenever Craig wants to wind me up, he says they’ve written the first line and it’s: “Oh, isn’t it a shame about Antony dying in that freak accident? Let’s never mention him again.”
Whatever they write, it’s such a joy to turn up on set and see everyone again. For me, that’s not work. That’s just fun. But I saw Craig last night and he just said, “I know, I know, we need to write it.” What would your dream role be?
I always play slightly gormless, sweet guys. In real life I don’t think I’m gormless and I’m not even that sweet, so I’d love to play a serious baddie. I’d like to really shock and scare people and just be properly evil. I’m even sweet and gormless in The Café, and I wrote that! Have you always wanted to write as well as act?
I did a play called 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover with a very funny and talented actress called Michelle Terry, and we got on so well that we said we wanted to write something together. It’s something actors say a lot to each other, but we actually did it.
We spent months getting together in a coffee house or pub and making a note of all the things that make us laugh. Eventually our notes became a script for The Café, a sitcom set in Weston-super-Mare, which I gave to Craig Cash. He offered to direct it, and we got it commissioned. Would you ever appear in a reality show?
No. I’m an actor, not a personality, and I’ve worked hard to make that distinction over the last few years. I don’t want to be too snobby or preachy about it, but I don’t really believe in reality shows so I take a stand and won’t watch them.
There is definitely a place for a programme that is pure entertainment, but I just think the medium is slightly swamped at the moment. Mind you, The Match was a reality show and I did take part in that a few years ago. I had to do quite a lot of mental gymnastics to justify that. Who was your first TV crush?
Cheetara, from Thundercats. I’m aware she is a cartoon, and also half-cat, half-woman. But she was made deliberately gorgeous! What was the last film that made you cry?
The Iron Giant. It’s an animation loosely based on Ted Hughes’s book The Iron Man. The last time I watched it, my missus [actress Miranda Raison] turned round and was shocked to find me in tears. I’m not much of a crier, but it gets me every time. I have a bit of a thing for animation.
I’ve watched The Little Mermaid a few times, too. The mermaid was desperate to live on dry land and become a princess, and I couldn’t understand why because life under the sea looked nicer. I must have been a bit of a feminist, because I couldn’t work out why the prince couldn’t become a merman and join her under the sea.
Ralf Little stars in The Café, which starts tonight at 9pm on Sky 1.