They’re back! John Cleese and Alison Steadman’s BBC sitcom is returning for a Christmas special ahead of its second series.
Written by the Oscar-nominated Charles McKeown, Hold the Sunset – a sitcom about a pair of old friends who are intending to get married and find a place in the sun before a wayward son disrupts their plans – sees the veteran stars leading quite the ensemble of actors.
But who are they? And who are the characters they play?
Widow Edith is living a rather pleasant life and is just about to head off into the sunset with her old boyfriend, Phil, when her son Roger lands on her doorstep with some interesting news…
Who is Alison Steadman?
British stage and screen star Alison Steadman is probably best known for her roles in Mike Leigh’s Life is Sweet, Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends, and of course Gavin & Stacey.
“Edith puts up with a heck of a lot,” the actress says. “She wants to build a life with Phil, but Roger keeps getting in the way. If she could just sort out Roger, it would all be fine. But it’s never that simple, and in a sitcom, it would be boring if it were!”
Phil – John Cleese
John Cleese is Phil (BBC)
Phil is hopelessly devoted to his neighbour and ex-girlfriend Edith, who he’d quite like to marry and buy a new home in the sun with. He’s finally convinced her it’s a good idea when her son puts something of a spanner in the works.
Who is John Cleese?
It’s a question that hardly needs answering. Monty Python star John Cleese is the man who brought us one of Britain’s most beloved comedy characters, Basil Fawlty, but he’s also had numerous film and TV roles outside the UK too. From A Fish Called Wanda to The Jungle Book and the Harry Potter film franchise, Cleese’s roles have been plentiful.
“I’ve only just realised that Phil is almost exactly like me,” Cleese says of his character, Phil. “When you stop reading it and start playing it, you can immediately see that. Phil sits around making sarcastic remarks – that’s exactly how I am in real life! I keep thinking: “I know how to say that line because that’s exactly how I’d say it in real life.” It’s been an absolute pleasure to play him.”
Roger – Jason Watkins
Jason Watkins is Roger in Hold the Sunset (BBC)
Edith’s son is fed up with the life he’s leading, so he decides to leave his wife and kids and move back home to his doting mum.
Who is Jason Watkins?
Fans of comedies like W1A and Trollied will be familiar with Watkins, who has also shown he has a real flair for drama. He’s played characters in both Line of Duty and Safe House in the past 12 months alone, and also popped up in Taboo, Inside No 9 and the 2016 reboot of Are You Being Served. He’s still probably best known for his Bafta-winning portrayal of Christopher Jefferies in The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies.
“Roger is so selfish,” says Watkins. “He thinks everybody owes him a living because he is special. He wants people to understand why he is always right. He’s like a child. A lot of people are like that.”
Joan – Sue Johnston
Joan is Edith’s impossible sister, who insists on watching the Queen’s Christmas speech at Edith’s house.
Who is Sue Johnston?
Johnston has a long, long list of TV credits, starring in Brookside (Sheila Grant), The Royle Family (Barbara Royle), Downton Abbey (Miss Denker), Coronation Street (Gloria Price) and Age Before Beauty (Ivy-Rae).
Bob – James Cosmo
Bob ‘the burglar’ is Edith’s scurrilous one-time flame who Roger enlists to give Christmas its proper flavour
Who is James Cosmo?
Cosmo has enjoyed roles in movies like Highlander, Braveheart, Emma, Trainspotting and Babe: Pig in the City, as well as TV series like Survivors, Minder, Taggart and Casualty. However, you’ll probably know him best as Lord Commander of The Night’s Watch Jeor Mormont from Game of Thrones or from his stint on Celebrity Big Brother 2017.
Sandra – Joanna Scanlan
Roger’s sister Sandra isn’t too impressed with her brother’s antics and their old sibling rivalries simmer away throughout the series.
Who is Joanna Scanlan?
We’ve seen a lot of Joanna Scanlan on UK television, thanks in no small part to her roles in Stella, Getting On and of course, The Thick of It. Most recently you’ll have spotted her in No Offence (as DI Viv Deering) and as Janice Gray in BBC drama Requiem.
Wendy – Rosie Cavaliero
Rosie Cavaliero is Wendy in Hold the Sunset (BBC, SD)
Roger leaves wife Wendy and the kids behind as he heads home to his mum – and she’s not backward in coming forward about how convinced she is that Roger was far too spoiled as a child…
Who is Rosie Cavaliero?
Rosie Cavaliero’s face probably looks familiar because she’s one of those actresses who has popped up in just about everything. From Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge to The Enfield Haunting, Cold Feet to Death in Paradise and most recently, Unforgotten, she’s got plenty of roles under her belt. Oh, and she’s quite the acclaimed radio drama star too.
“At first, you think Roger is such a twit. Then you meet Wendy and you think, “I can see why he left!” She’s very passive-aggressive. They are perpetually falling out and don’t really like each other at all,” says Cavaliero. “But they are actually made for each other because they both blame each other for their failings. I think they’re lucky to have found each other, because I don’t know if anyone else would have had them!”
Queenie – Anne Reid
Anne Reid is Queenie in Hold The Sunset (BBC)
Interfering housekeeper Queenie is wild at heart and absolutely refuses to accept that she’s getting older
Who is Anne Reid?
Stage, film and TV star Anne Reid most recently made her mark as Celia Dawson in Last Tango in Halifax but she’s got a stellar CV too. She starred as Coronation Street’s Valerie Barlow for a decade (between 1961 and 1971) and also played Jean in classic comedy Dinnerladies.
“The last time I played such an extreme character was on Shameless when I was a drunken old lady with too much make up,” says Reid. “This is such good fun!”
Mr Dugdale – Peter Egan
Peter Egan is Mr Dugdale in Hold The Sunset (BBC)
Narky neighbour Mr. Dugdale is the area’s very own confrontational local resident
Who is Peter Egan?
Egan is veteran star of stage and screen. He’s probably best known for playing Hogarth in Big Breadwinner Hog and the future King George IV in Prince Regent. Fans of Ever Decreasing Circles will know him as smooth neighbour Paul Ryan, while Downton Abbey viewers will recognise him as Hugh “Shrimpie” MacClare, the Marquess of Flintshire.
Celia – Annette Badland
Celia is Phil’s wife – a woman everyone thought died eight years earlier…
Who is Annette Badland?
Doctor Who fans will recognise Badland as Margaret Blaine, a senior figure in MI5 who is secretly an invading Slitheen. She’s also enjoyed roles in Cutting It, Skins, Outlander, Bergerac and The Archers. EastEnders fans will recognise her as Babe Smith – a character she played between 2014-2017.
This article was originally published in February 2018