Ralph & Katie: We're all different which is a liberating thought

The A Word. Pictured: (L-R) Sarah Gordy as Katie, Christopher Eccleston as Maurice Scott, Leon Harrop as Ralph, Pooky Quesnel as Louise Wilson
The A Word. Pictured: (L-R) Sarah Gordy as Katie, Christopher Eccleston as Maurice Scott, Leon Harrop as Ralph, Pooky Quesnel as Louise Wilson

It's been two years since we saw Ralph and Katie tie the knot in the third season of hit drama The A Word.

The wedding "felt like the celebration of love and diversity that we all needed at the time" said Peter Bowker, the scenes having aired during the first lockdown in 2020.

Now fast forward two years and the much-loved characters (played by the brilliant Leon Harrop and Sarah Gordy) have inspired their own BBC One spin-off series - aptly named Ralph & Katie - which will offer fans an insight into their first year of marriage.

Continuing their love story, the six-part series will focus on the domestic challenges faced by all newlyweds, but with the added ingredient being that -much like Harrop and Gordy - the couple has Down's Syndrome.

"Such a show struck me as the perfect opportunity to showcase emerging d/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent writing talent," reasons Bowker, who having been lead writer on The A Word for all three seasons, set to work recruiting five writers to form his new collective.

"Most gratifying was that as the scripts developed, Ralph & Katie became its own show, grown from The A Word but now distinctive in tone and content," he attests. "As the process unfolded, we started to reference The A Word less and Ralph & Katie more.

"Our main task, in the end, was to create a compelling show telling new stories - or more accurately, age-old, universal stories - about characters who have not featured in such stories before."

Joining Bowker are Genevieve Barr, Annalisa Dinnella, Amy Trigg, Lizzie Watson and Tom Wentworth. While Bafta-winning Jordan Hogg (a director with cerebral palsy) completes the team to bring this groundbreaking, heart-warming series to a primetime, mainstream audience.

Cast-side, Harrop and Gordy are reunited with Pooky Quesnel who reprises the role of Louise, Ralph's mum; Nigel Betts and Sherry Baines, who play Katie's parents Steve and Clare; and Matt Greenwood, who previously delighted fans as Tom.

Meanwhile, new and familiar faces basking in the stunning Lakeside locations include Craig Cash, Dylan Brady, Jamie Marie Leary, Sam Retford and Daniel Cerqueira.

It's an exciting time to be back in the titular roles, says Harrop, who made his acting debut in 2009 in an episode of The Street and has since gone on to star in Sky comedy drama Brassic among others.

"I felt really excited and so happy that they were continuing the story of Ralph and Katie," muses the 30-year-old.

"I love playing Ralph because he's funny and cheeky, he likes to look after Katie and is trying to be more independent."

"After that lovely wedding in The A Word, I wanted to know what married life would be like for Ralph and Katie," adds Gordy, 46, who's known for The Long Call and Strike. "Katie had refused to be married in an ordinary white dress so I expect Ralph and Katie will do it their way."

She follows: "Katie has Down's Syndrome, but she would remind you that she is a woman and a baker first. She is quietly confident about who she is and a good friend.

"Katie has a way of encouraging others to believe in their own uniqueness. Katie loves Ralph and laughter!"

"It's got funny moments and sad moments too," Harrop confirms. "It explores cancer, family issues, a dad coping with his daughter moving out, jealousy, Valentine's Day and promotion..."

How did the duo find the filming experience as a whole?

"The two lead actors have special needs and lots of the people involved in the making of the show had a disability too which is fantastic," Harrop says.

"I really enjoyed it. It was very challenging as the hours were long and we had lots of lines to learn, but we had lots of support. It was great meeting up with new and old cast members too."

"We have a lot of diverse abilities on Ralph & Katie, so everything has been considered to accommodate," Gordy offers.

"It has been interesting to see that what has been done to accommodate one person's needs, (and how that) often results in it being easier for everybody. I really enjoyed it and felt cared for as well as respected. Even my hair is in better condition!"

Above all, it champions inclusivity and disability. And does it all against the backdrop of the everyday, relatable challenges that come as part and parcel of family life.

It's an important story to tell, says Harrop, as "it shows people that if you are born with a disability, it's not the end of the world. We can still have amazing lives too.

"Diversity is what real life is," Gordy notes. "We are all different and Ralph and Katie have the ability to liberate others to be what they want to be. Everybody has a lot to learn.

More so, it looks "at life from a different perspective," she adds.

"It is not all easy for Ralph and Katie but there is always love and honesty at the centre. We are all different, which is a liberating thought. And really importantly this story has joy."

Ralph & Katie will premiere with a double bill on BBC One on Wednesday, October 5.