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Family sitcom is now all grown-up

By Gemma Dunn

When a photo of the three Brockman kids looking all grown up surfaced on social media this summer, Outnumbered fans - refusing to acknowledge the universal ageing process - went wild.

The 'little 'uns' - Tyger Drew-Honey (Jake), Daniel Roche (Ben) and Ramona Marquez (Karen) - were now 20, 17 and 15 years old respectively, and looking a lot different than the 'kids' audiences most associate them with.

At the time, their reunion was a bit of a mystery. But it's all become clear now and fans of the hit British sitcom - a light-hearted look at the daily roller coaster of life with growing children, starring Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner as the parents - will be pleased to learn the series, which ran for seven years before officially ending in 2014, is winging its way back for a 40-minute Christmas special.

It's Boxing Day and the Brockman family have to carry out a special mission for their late grandad. Along the way, they encounter car problems, child problems, parent problems, emotional problems and World War Two. If the adults can't sort things out, the children will have to. Like all families, everything has changed - and yet, at the same time, everything remains the same.

So how does the Brockman brood feel about returning to their roles?

Tyger Drew-Honey - Jake

The only official adult of the Brockman children, Drew-Honey - who was just 11 when he was cast as eldest sibling, Jake - is well-versed in the furore that surrounds the family show. And the recipe to its success, he believes, is clear.

"Outnumbered is funny but in a realistic way, not a traditional sitcom-y way," he begins, in reference to how creators Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin manage to keep the laughs relevant. "I think that's why the audience can really connect with us.

"We want to give them this slice of time. This is the family and this is how they're going to be. We have that honest, realistic relationship."

And while the actor - whose credits also include Citizen Khan, Cuckoo and documentary series Tyger Takes On - admits he hasn't had much contact with his co-stars between shoots, he insists they're a tight-knit group when they're back together.

As for growing up in the public eye, Drew-Honey says: "I find it hard to perceive myself as famous and I really don't like the word 'celebrity'. I appreciate that a couple of the episodes we did, we got 10 million viewers, and that's an unfathomable amount of people when you're trying to count them out into individuals.

Daniel Roche - Ben

Unrecognisable from the curly-haired schoolboy most will remember him as, Roche - now a semi-professional rugby player at Wasps Academy - is equally excited to dip his toe back into the world of TV. Even if just for a festive soiree.

"There were rumours they [Andy and Guy] were working on this and I always thought, 'Yes that's cool', but it always seemed really far away. And now suddenly it's here and it's like 'WOW!'" he enthuses.

"It's been three years, so its nice coming back for a little nostalgic screenshot."

Does he feel a certain pressure returning to what was such a loved institution?

"I don't," reasons Roche. "Regardless of how it's received it's nice just to be a part of it and to know people still watch me as a seven-year-old and enjoy that."

Now more used to getting sweaty on a sports field than flexing his acting muscles, he admits it'll be "weird".

"I haven't really done anything since Outnumbered," says Roche, confessing he often catches his parents "embarrassingly" watching re-runs. "So it will be weird getting back in front of the camera and back in the environment, but I'm not too fussed, I reckon it will be fine."

Ramona Marquez - Karen

The youngest of the Outnumbered stars is Marquez, who took on the role of quick-witted youngster Karen when she was six - but growing up hasn't prevented her from being recognised on the street.

"Since I've had my hair curly people recognise me all the time," quips the avid Instagrammer. "So if I go out and I don't want to be recognised, I straighten my hair, but it doesn't work! People recognise me all the time!"

As for getting back into character behind the camera, she has no qualms, stating: "We all know them very well, so it's easy to get into their mindset.

"People always say, 'I used to watch that all the time'," she adds of the series. "I don't watch anything with my parents, there's not much that would appeal, but people will, and that's quite rare."

But the star - who has also had roles in movies The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The King's Speech and hopes to pursue more acting once her education is complete - laughs as she recalls not realising the popularity of her on-screen dad, Pete (Dennis).

"It's funny because since we've finished Outnumbered, me and my boyfriend always watch Mock The Week [which Dennis is also a regular on], and now I feel really star-struck! I'm like, 'Really, was I working with Hugh Dennis?'"

As for the Christmas special, Marquez thinks it's sure to be a hit.

"If people really like Outnumbered," she states, "then I think it's been long enough that people will want another one."

*Outnumbered will air on BBC One on Boxing Day

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