Another year, another David Walliams children’s book adaptation – this time it’s Grandpa’s Great Escape, the comedian’s tale about young Jack who helps his Grandpa, a WWII Spitfire pilot, plot a daring escape from Twilight Towers – the sinister old people’s home run by Jennifer Saunders’ Miss Dandy.
Will he be able to bust Grandpa out and allow him to enjoy one final flight in his beloved Spitfire? You’ll have to wait until the BBC1 family drama airs over Christmas to find out – but first, meet the cast which also includes Tom Courtenay and David Walliams himself…
Grandpa (played by Tom Courtenay)
Tom Courtenay in Grandpa’s Great Escape, BBC Pictures, SL
Grandpa was a heroic Spitfire pilot who served in WWII but fast-forward to the 1980s and he’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and struggling to live in the present day. His grandson Jack is desperate to keep him in the family home but, with his health failing, Grandpa gets packed off to Twilight Towers where his future looks uncertain. Will Jack be able to break him free?
Who is Tom Courtenay?
Tom Courtenay first found fame in the early 1960s thanks to The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Billy Liar and Doctor Zhivago (for which he earned an Oscar nomination). He earned another nod from the Academy in 1983 for The Dresser – a role he had previously played in the West End and on Broadway. More recently, he earned praise for 2015 film 45 Years and ITV series Unforgotten. He’s also performed scores of plays all over the country and received a knighthood in 2001 for his service to cinema and theatre.
Jack (played by Kit Connor)
Kit Connor in Grandpa’s Great Escape, BBC Pictures, SL
Young Jack is utterly devoted to his grandpa. The pair even share bunkbeds. But when Grandpa is sent to Twilight Towers to live out the rest of his days, Jack starts to worry – and when he goes to visit he decides to take action, plotting a Great Escape…
Who is Kit Connor?
Teenager Kit has been acting since he was eight years old and has packed in a load of credits to his short career, including Tom in Get Santa, Archie Beckles in CBBC series Rocket’s Island, Petya Rostov in War & Peace and Bob Sheenan in SS-GB. He’ll next be seen in films Ready Player One, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Slaughterhouse Rulez.
Miss Dandy (played by Jennifer Saunders)
Jennifer Saunders in Grandpa’s Great Escape, BBC Pictures, SL
Miss Dandy is the owner of old people’s home Twilight Towers. She runs a tight ship, flanked by some intimidating nurses, but is she using her business to mask some sinister dealings, preying on the defenceless elderly?
Who is Jennifer Saunders?
Where to start? Jennifer Saunders has three BAFTAs (including a BAFTA Fellowship), an international Emmy and a Rose d’Or award to her name, after a 35-year career that started with The Comic Strip in the 1980s. She teamed up with Dawn French to write their eponymous sketch show, French & Saunders, which ran for seven seasons, finishing in 2007. The pair will reprise their partnership in a one-off comedy special for the BBC this Christmas. Saunders is also known for creating and playing Edina Monsoon in hit BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, and has had roles in Friends, Shrek 2, Blandings and Sing.
Barry (played by David Walliams)
David Walliams in Grandpa’s Great Escape, BBC Pictures, SL
Barry is Jack’s dad who spends his working life laying out traffic cones. Back home he does very little to stand up to his wife, Patricia.
Who is David Walliams?
David Walliams first rose to fame as one half of BBC1 sketch show Little Britain, alongside former comedy partner Matt Lucas. Since then he’s created Come Fly with Me, with Lucas, BBC sitcom Big School, and judged ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent since 2012. In recent years he’s had great success with his children’s books, releasing ten novels including Grandpa’s Great Escape. It is the fourth of his works to be adapted by the BBC with another of his offerings – Ratburger – made for Sky this Christmas.
Patricia (played by Samantha Spiro)
Samantha Spiro in Grandpa’s Great Escape, BBC Pictures, SL
Patricia is a dutiful mother to Jack and his sister Shelley, but can often be found worrying over her latest beauty treatments instead of poor Grandpa and his ailing health.
Who is Samantha Spiro?
Samantha Spiro began her career playing Barbara Windsor and portrayed the Carry On and EastEnders actress once again this year in BBC1 drama Babs. Her first outing was on the stage, in Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick at the National Theatre in 1998, a role she reprised on TV in 2000. Spiro is a double Olivier award-winning actress for 2000’s Merrily We Roll Along and 2010’s Hey, Dolly! She’s also appeared on screen in Tracey Ullman’s Show, Doctor Who and Grandma’s House.
Shelley (played by Alice Nokes)
Alice Nokes in Grandpa’s Great Escape, BBC Pictures, SL
Jack’s sister Shelley appears to care more about music and boyfriends than her family – but when push comes to shove, she has a great deal of affection for her Grandpa.
Who is Alice Nokes?
Alice Nokes is best known for playing EastEnders character Courtney Mitchell when she returned to Albert Square in 2016. She’s also appeared in episodes of Suspicion and Casualty.
Raj (played by Harish Patel)
Raj in Grandpa’s Great Escape, BBC, SL
Corner shop owner Raj has known Grandpa for years and years and cares greatly for the old man – even if some of the bargains he offers aren’t exactly generous to his most loyal customer.
Who is Harish Patel?
Harish Patel is largely known for his work on stage, appearing with the Indian National Theatre between 1994 and 2008, and has acted all over the world. On camera he has cropped up in Run Fat Boy Run and Coronation Street, as well as a string of Bollywood movies. He has also played his character, shopkeeper Raj, in every single one of Walliams’ BBC children’s book adaptations.
Miss Trifle (played by Michele Dotrice)
Michele Dotrice, BBC, SL
A resident of Twilight Towers, Miss Trifle takes a fancy to Grandpa and helps him plot his escape.
Who is Michele Dotrice?
Michele Dotrice is best known for playing Betty – the long-suffering wife of Frank Spencer – in classic BBC sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, which aired on between 1973 and 1978 and returned for a special in 2016. She has also appeared in The Witches for Hammer Films, ITV sitcom Chintz, period drama Bramwell and 1999 film Captain Jack with Bob Hoskins.
Grandpa’s Great Escape airs on New Year’s Day on BBC1