Ricky Tomlinson stars in BBC America's post-zombie apocalypse drama "In the Flesh," as Ken Burton, who lives on the same street as the Walkers and is a pillar of the Roarton Community.

British actor Ricky Tomlinson is perhaps best known for his role as Jim Royle in "The Royle Family." He also starred in ITV's comedy "Great Night Out" and BBC's oil rig drama "Roughnecks" in addition to playing recurring roles in ITV's crime drama "Cracker," as DCI Charlie Wise, and BBC's sports comedy "Playing the Field." He got his first big break playing Bobby Grant on the long-running Channel 4 soap opera "Brookside."

On the big screen, he has been seen in the family comedy "Nativity!," "Formula 51," starring Samuel L. Jackson, "Once Upon a Time in the Midlands," starring Robert Carlyle, "The Virgin of Liverpool," and the sports comedy "Mike Bassett: England Manager," which spawned a television series on ITV, in which he also starred.

The story of Ricky Tomlinson is really the story of two men. One, a natural performer with a talent to amuse: teller of corny jokes, seasoned actor and banjo virtuoso. The other, an unrepentant working-class warrior, a radical socialist who has staunchly refused to compromise his old-fashioned ideology.

Tomlinson was born the the son of a baker in Liverpool in 1939, during the first month of the Second World War. His childhood was hard: "I'm not getting the violin out," he told a recent interviewer, "but there were six of us in a two-bedroom house." Early hopes of a career as a footballer (he was offered, but turned down, a trial for Scunthorpe United) took second place to playing banjo in Liverpool's pubs and clubs. He worked as a plasterer before his involvement in the 1972 builders' strike, during which he organized flying pickets and refused to testify in court against his fellow strikers. This earned him a two-year prison sentence for conspiracy. He served his time in 14 prisons, mostly in solitary confinement because, as he puts it, "I wouldn't wear any clothes." He developed a passion for classical music and, through one prison governor, who was an ex-bricklayer, discovered socialist theory. "He gave me a copy of 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist,'" says Tomlinson, "which I have read and sent copies of all over the world."

The support which the National Union of Mineworkers gave to the striking builders also impressed him and he staunchly supported Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party during the general election. He appeared in a party election broadcast and campaigned on Scargill's behalf when he later stood, unsuccessfully, against Peter Mandelson, who Tomlinson calls "a political careerist on a bloody great ego trip," in Hartlepool.

On his release from prison in 1975, Tomlinson found himself blacklisted from the building trade so he set himself up as an entertainer, theatrical agent and pub landlord, to varied success. But his life was transformed in 1980 when the director Alan Bleasdale, who had seen Tomlinson's stage routine a year earlier, cast him in a minor role in the acclaimed series "Boys from the Blackstuff."

The Thatcher years and the "gritty" theatrical response which they provoked, were meat and drink to Ricky Tomlinson. With his grizzled face and world-wise manner, he was a natural for parts in Jim Allen's "United Kingdom," Ken Loach's bleak "Riff Raff" and, most notably, as the bolshie trade unionist Bobby Grant in "Brookside."

His transformation to national superstar, though, came in 1998 when, reunited with his "Brookside" screen wife Sue Johnston, he starred as the grumpy paterfamilias in "The Royle Family." The role, which Tomlinson happily admits is "about 99% me," has brought him fame and wealth. But he refuses to play up to his star billing, taking cans of his favorite mild to awards ceremonies and continuing to live in Liverpool.

Tomlinson co-owns The Greenroom, a cabaret lounge and bar in the North West where he also regularly appears as the show's master of ceremonies.

Zombie Drama in the Flesh Season 2 Premiere Date Set for May


How tall is he? How old is he? Find out here.

Age: 77 years old
Birthday: September 26, 1939
Height: 5' 8"
Full Name / Real Name: Eric Tomlinson
Birthplace: Bispham, Blackpool, England, UK
Hometown: Liverpool, England, UK
Wife: Rita Cumiskey (1/4/2003)

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