Ghosts stars Martha Howe-Douglas and Jim Howick have revealed which stories involving their characters were inspired by members of their own real-life family.


The co-creators of the BBC sitcom, which recently aired its final episode, spoke to to celebrate the launch of the official companion book The Button House Archives, which contains artefacts from the world of Ghosts.

Howe-Douglas recalled the Christmas 2021 special, which delved into the backstory of the stern Lady Fanny Button, depicting her at an earlier stage of life when she had hopes of joining her father in business.

However, due to the sexist attitudes of the 1800s, her mother Lavinia (Jennifer Saunders) insisted that she should instead focus on finding a husband – which became particularly important as the Buttons' finances took a turn for the worse.

As it turns out, this storyline was partly inspired by the life of Howe-Douglas's late grandmother.

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"When we went into her backstory at the Christmas [2021] special, that served quite a big purpose for her," explained Howe-Douglas. "I didn't want it to be all one-note, and I kind of wanted to delve into why she was the way she was.

"I remember writing that Christmas special with Larry [Laurence Rickard, co-creator] and saying to him about my nan, who was from a family of 10 and she was the eldest – and she was a brilliant mathematician."

Howe-Douglas continued: "She never got the chance to go to university and pursue that, because she had to look after the other children – she was born in, like, 1914, so it was that era.

"You were expected to look after the house and she had to look after all these children [too]. She never got the chance to fulfil that dream, [so] I thought that was a nice nod to my nan, who's not here anymore."

Jennifer Saunders and Martha Howe-Douglas in Ghosts, with Saunders doing up Howe-Douglas's blouse
Jennifer Saunders and Martha Howe-Douglas in Ghosts. BBC

She added: "Just that feeling of, 'You could have been so much more if you were born into a different age or different time,' and what that must have felt like for my nan, of course, but then [also] for Fanny."

Howe-Douglas was not the only member of the Ghosts cast to bring true family stories to their character, with Jim Howick also revealing that excerpts from the Button House Archives are drawn from real life.

The Pat-centric sections of the book include postcards from the ill-fated scout master, where he recounts wild anecdotes from trips abroad with wife, Carol, and son, Daley.

Howick said: "I enjoyed them immensely. It actually took me back to my youth; a lot of the stories in those postcards are taken from my own personal experience of my own childhood holidays."

Naming one particular example, he added: "Certainly, my dad trying to keep up with a rugby league player and then [him] coming back drunk with a rotisserie chicken – that's a memory."

Ghosts is available to stream on BBC iPlayer. Check out more of our Comedy coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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