Cheers to The Grapes: A Look at the Cast of Early Doors


The beloved British sitcom, Early Doors, takes viewers on a hilarious journey through the lives of the regulars at The Grapes, a local pub in Manchester. 

Created by and starring the comedic duo Craig Cash and Phil Mealey, the show’s success hinges not only on its witty writing but also on the stellar performances of its cast. 

From the endearing pub landlord to the iconic “lads” who frequent the establishment, each character brings a unique charm to Early Doors. Let’s raise a glass and delve into the lives of the actors who brought these unforgettable characters to life.

The Mainstays of The Grapes:

John Henshaw as Ken Dixon: The ever-patient and slightly exasperated landlord of The Grapes, Ken Dixon, is played with warmth and gruff humor by John Henshaw.

Ken juggles the demands of running the pub with living above it alongside his formidable mother, Jean (played by the late Joan Kempson), and his much younger stepdaughter, Melanie (James Fleet). 

Henshaw’s portrayal of Ken perfectly captures the weary yet dedicated spirit of a small business owner who secretly enjoys the company of his regulars.

Craig Cash as Joe Broughton: One half of the iconic “lads” duo, Joe Broughton, is played by the show’s co-creator, Craig Cash. 

Joe is the more talkative and impulsive of the pair, often landing himself in comical situations. Cash’s comedic timing and natural charisma shine through in his portrayal of Joe, making him an endearing and relatable character despite his flaws.

Phil Mealey as Duffy (real name Nigel): The ever-stoic and dry-witted counterpart to Joe, Duffy (real name Nigel), is played by Phil Mealey, the other half of the sitcom’s creative force. 

Mealey’s understated performance perfectly complements Cash’s more flamboyant one, creating a hilarious dynamic between the two friends.

The Early Doors regulars 

Susan Cookson as Tanya Turner: The sassy and sharp-tongued Tanya Turner, played by Susan Cookson, is a regular at The Grapes who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. 

Cookson injects a dose of feisty energy into the show, making Tanya a memorable character who can hold her own against the lads.

Lisa Millett as Debbie: The bubbly and friendly barmaid, Debbie, played by Lisa Millett, is a constant presence behind the bar at The Grapes. Millett’s portrayal of Debbie adds a touch of warmth and kindness to the pub’s atmosphere.

Mark Benton and Lorraine Cheshire as Eddie and Joan Bell: The well-meaning but slightly clueless couple, Eddie and Joan Bell, are played by Mark Benton and Lorraine Cheshire. 

Their innocent and often unintentionally funny antics provide lighthearted moments throughout the series.

Recurring characters also add flavor to the show:

James Quinn and Peter Wight as Nige and Phil: The bumbling police officers, Nige and Phil, played by James Quinn and Peter Wight, are a recurring source of amusement in Early Doors. Their well-meaning but often misguided attempts at law enforcement add a touch of absurdity to the show.

Beyond the Pub:

While the core cast remains the same throughout the two seasons of Early Doors, the show also features a number of guest appearances. 

From well-known actors like Melanie Blatt and Ricky Tomlinson to local Manchester personalities, these appearances add an extra layer of authenticity and surprise to the series.

Early Doors Live: Keeping the Spirit Alive

The enduring popularity of Early Doors led to the creation of a live stage show in 2019

The show, aptly titled Early Doors Live, reunited the original cast members and brought the characters back to life for a new generation of fans. The live show’s success is a testament to the enduring appeal of the show’s characters and the strong bond between the cast.

A Toast to Early Doors

Early Doors wouldn’t be the same without the talented cast who brought its characters to life. From the central trio of Ken, Joe, and Duffy to the pub’s regulars and colorful guest stars, each actor brings their own unique energy to the show. 

Their performances create a sense of community and warmth that resonates with viewers, making Early Doors a timeless sitcom that continues to bring laughter and joy to audiences around the world.


Who plays the landlord of The Grapes?

The ever-reliable landlord, Ken Dixon, is played by the talented John Henshaw.

Who is the comedic duo at the center of the show?

Craig Cash plays the talkative Joe Broughton, while Phil Mealey portrays the dry-witted Duffy (real name Nigel).

Isn’t one of the main actors also a creator of the show?

That’s right! Both Craig Cash and Phil Mealey co-created Early Doors, bringing their comedic talents not only to writing but also to acting.

Who plays the sassy Tanya Turner?

Susan Cookson brings Tanya’s sharp wit and feisty personality to life.

Who’s the friendly barmaid at The Grapes?

Lisa Millett portrays the ever-bubbly Debbie, keeping the drinks flowing and adding warmth to the pub’s atmosphere.

Who is the well-meaning but slightly clueless couple?

Mark Benton and Lorraine Cheshire play the loveable Eddie and Joan Bell, providing lighthearted moments with their innocent antics.

Who plays the bumbling police officers?

James Quinn and Peter Wight portray the well-meaning but often misguided officers, Nige and Phil.

Did any famous actors appear in Early Doors?

Yes! The show featured guest appearances from celebrities like Melanie Blatt and Ricky Tomlinson, adding a touch of surprise for viewers.

Is there a way to see the cast live?

While the original series ended in 2004, the show’s popularity led to the creation of “Early Doors Live” in 2019. This stage show reunited the original cast, offering fans a chance to see their favorite characters come back to life.

The Cheers to The Grapes: A Lasting Legacy

The cast of Early Doors isn’t just a collection of actors; they’re the heart and soul of The Grapes pub. From John Henshaw’s portrayal of the patient yet exasperated Ken to the hilarious duo of Craig Cash and Phil Mealey as Joe and Duffy, each character brings a unique flavor to the show. The supporting cast, with the likes of Susan Cookson’s feisty Tanya and Lisa Millett’s friendly Debbie, adds layers of warmth and humor, making The Grapes feel like a real pub you could walk into.

The show’s enduring popularity is a testament to the talent and chemistry of the cast. Whether you’re searching online for interviews with the actors or watching fan-made compilations on YouTube, it’s clear that Early Doors has captured a special place in viewers’ hearts.

So, the next time you find yourself reminiscing about a hilarious scene from the show, remember the fantastic cast who brought those moments to life. They’ve given us a timeless sitcom that continues to bring laughter and a sense of community, reminding us of the warmth and camaraderie found in the unlikeliest of places โ€“ a local pub.

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