Meet the Ralph & Katie stars who are making TV history
In 2020, when Leon Harrop received a phone call at home from playwright Peter Bowker, he thought he must be pulling his leg. Harrop, who has Down syndrome, had played Ralph, a young adult with the condition, in three series of Bowker’s hit BBC One drama about autism, The A Word. In one of the latest series’ big moments, Ralph got married to his girlfriend Katie, played by Sarah Gordy, who also has Down’s. Bowker was calling to say he was doing a spin-off show about the couple, as they embark on married life in their own home in the Lake District. “I was talking to Pete,” Harrop said, “and he said, ‘Oh, we’re doing Ralph & Katie.’ I said what? Is this a prank?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s not a joke, it’s real.’ And I just went crazy, jumping around. I was so excited.”
I talk to both Harrop and Gordy via video call, and the actress confirms she was looking forward to getting started. “I love Peter Bowker. I love the way he works. He has a great imagination. It feels good to be with his friends and co-workers,” she adds. together. And working with Leon is fantastic.
Both are experienced actors. Harrop, now 30, appeared alongside Stephen Graham – his favorite comedian, with Maxine Peake – in Jimmy McGovern’s The Street as early as the 2000s and went on to have roles in Casualty, Moving On and Sky One’s Brassic . Gordy, 46, has a string of stage and screen credits that include Upstairs Downstairs, Call the Midwife and last year’s ITV crime drama The Long Call, as well as starring roles in plays such as Crocodiles at the Royal Exchange in Manchester and Ben Weatherill’s ambitious Jellyfish. , in which a single mother searches for a romantic partner, a young man with Asperger’s syndrome, for her daughter (Gordy). He was transferred for a run at the National Theater. “Performing live is totally different from when you’re on a TV set,” she tells me, even though she’s been doing the former for a long time. “I started performing with my sister when I was little. I did a lot of plays in front of my family and I also did plays in school, and things like that. She draws inspiration “One actress I look up to is Dame Judi Dench…I love the way she disciplines James Bond.”
Harrop, who lives in Bolton, where he grew up, with his parents Tanya and Dave, also started playing at school. Filming the six 30-minute episodes of Ralph & Katie, however, had its challenges for both actors. There were a lot of lines to learn, and Harrop found working with Inclusive Performance Coordinator Jess Mabel Jones helpful, especially when it came to articulating more difficult words. “If I said something and it wasn’t fair, Jess was saying, let’s mirror it. So she would say the line, and then I would stop, think, and say the line myself.
Harrop, who seems to have natural comedic timing, encountered a slightly different problem working with actor Craig Cash, who co-wrote and starred in The Royle Family with Caroline Aherne. Cash plays Ralph and Katie’s next-door neighbor Brian on the show, “We were a double act,” Harrop says. However, he sometimes found himself dead when they were in scenes together, “Everything he did, he made me laugh,” Harrop tells me. “In some scenes, I would get caught laughing and say, ‘I’m sorry.'”