||This television-related article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (October 2009)|
Ryan Hawley as Robert Sugden (2014)
|Portrayed by||Richard Smith (1986–89)
Christopher Smith (1989–2001)
Karl Davies (2001–09)
Ryan Hawley (2014–)
|Duration||1986–2005, 2009, 2014–|
|First appearance||22 April 1986|
|Introduced by||Richard Handford (1986)
Anita Turner (2009)
Kate Oates (2014)
Karl Davies as Robert (2009)
Robert Jacob Sugden is a fictional character from the British soap opera Emmerdale. The character originally appeared on the show regularly between 22 April 1986 and 3 October 2005. During that time he was first played as a baby by Richard Smith from 1986 and 1989 before the role was taken over by Christopher Smith from 1989 and 2001. In 2001, Karl Davies took over the role in order for the character to become involved in more adult storylines, as he grew older. Karl Davies briefly reprised his role as Robert for one episode airing on 10 February 2009, when he returned for the funeral of his father and longest running character Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby). The character returned on 23 October 2014 with actor Ryan Hawley taking over the role.
Robert is born on 22 April 1986 to Jack and Pat Sugden. He has two older siblings, brother Jackie (Ian Sharrock) and half-sister Sandie Merrick (Jane Hutcheson). When Robert is four months old, his mother is killed in a car crash and his brother, Jackie, is killed in a shooting accident when he is three. Shortly after this, Sandie leaves the village and Robert loses contact with his maternal family. After Pat's death, Robert stays with his father who brings him up alone for the next two years but gets a new mother figure in Sarah Connolly (Madeleine Howard), whom Jack starts dating in 1988 and later marries in May 1994. Robert's half-sister, Victoria (Jessica Haywood), is born the same year.
In 1996, Robert befriends Andy Hopwood (Kelvin Fletcher), a boy the same age in the care of the local authority whilst his father Billy (David Crellin) is in prison for robbery and manslaughter. Robert takes Andy to a local quarry where Andy traps his foot under a rock. Robert runs to get help and Biff Fowler (Stuart Wade) rescues Andy. When Andy's grandmother (Beatrice Kelly) dies, Jack and Sarah (now Alyson Spiro) foster him so he moves in with the Sugdens. Robert begins to resent Andy's presence and is unhappy at having to share his home and belongings. Despite this, Robert defends Andy when they are bullied by Donna Windsor (Verity Rushworth) and punches her. Donna tries to blame Robert for the bullying but no one believes her so she is suspended from school. After leading Donna astray, Robert and Andy take her joyriding in Leeds, causing a feud between the Sugden and Windsor families.
Robert's life is rocked when he discovers that his father is having an affair with Rachel Hughes (Glenda McKay) in 1997. Robert catches Jack and Rachel kissing. Horrified, Jack ends it but Sarah finds out anyway. Robert's life seems to be back on track, but in 2000 Sarah, has an affair with Richie Carter (Glenn Lamont), and leaves Jack for Richie, taking Victoria with her. Robert sides with Sarah over his father but Jack wins custody, as Sarah is not his biological mother. Robert stays with Kathy Glover (Malandra Burrows) and tells her that he intends to leave home when he is sixteen. On 16 November 2000, Robert returns to the farm to collect some belongings and discovers the barn is on fire. Sarah is inside and subsequently dies, devastating him. Jack is arrested and stands trial for her murder but is acquitted. Robert discovers that Andy started the fire and disgusted by this, he goes to Spain in May 2001 to stay with his grandmother Annie Brearly (Sheila Mercier), and her husband Amos (Ronald Magill).
Robert (now Karl Davies), returns in August 2001. Wanting rid of Andy, Robert starts taunting him about his love life. He tries to cause problems between Andy and his girlfriend Katie Addyman (Sammy Winward) but is unsuccessful. In September 2001, Robert and Andy go on a night out in Leeds with Katie, Donna, Ollie (Vicky Binns) and Marc Reynolds (Anthony Lewis), and Eve Birch (Raine Davison). When Andy is refused entry to a nightclub, the teenagers miss their bus home and Andy steals a car to drive home. On their way back, they run over and kill their headmistress Barbara Strickland (Alex Hall). Robert suggests they cover their tracks and subsequently burn the car. However, the truth eventually comes out. Marc is jailed and the other teenagers receive community service.
After Andy taunts him over not having a girlfriend, Robert loses his virginity to Nicola Blackstock (Nicola Wheeler), a 24-year-old woman, shortly after his sixteenth birthday. Nicola dumps him the following day when she invites him round to her house in order for him to discover her having sex with Syd Woolfe (Nathan Gladwell).
After leaving school, Robert gets a job working as a mechanic at Scott Windsor's (Ben Freeman) garage. After having sex with her in the back of his car, Robert starts dating Scott's sister, Donna. Feeling he is in need of more excitement in his life, he also starts secretly dating Elaine Marsden (Samantha McCarthy). However, Donna finds out about Robert's cheating and dumps him. Robert continues his romance with Elaine, but in September 2003, he and Elaine are in a car accident while Robert is driving. Panicking, Robert flees the scene, leaving Elaine unconscious in the car. Robert manages to lie his way out of trouble, as Elaine has no memory of how the accident happened. She later realizes the truth when she sees bruising from the seat belt across his chest, which suggests that Robert was driving, not her as Robert told everyone. In December 2003, Elaine and her family leave the village. Robert and Donna reconcile that month. Despite this, Robert still wants excitement in his life and begins an affair with Katie, now Andy's fiancée. Robert and Katie are caught by Andy's half-brother, Daz Eden (Luke Tittensor), in January 2004 when he sees them kissing in the garage. Katie threatens Daz, telling him he will be put into care if he says anything. Daz tells Andy but Katie convinces him that Daz is lying and is too much for them to cope with so he is returned to foster care. Victoria (now Hannah Midgley) also catches them together. Robert swears her to secrecy and Katie threatens her so she becomes too scared to talk and uses a puppet to speak through instead.
Feeling guilty, Katie ends the affair the day before her wedding to Andy in February 2004, leaving him devastated. However, they resume the affair after the wedding, despite Robert's reconciliation with Donna. They intend to run away together but Robert insists they tell Andy the truth when he finds Katie's farewell note, leaving him distraught. Donna is also devastated by the revelation and feels betrayed by her boyfriend and best friend. The aftermath of the affair leads to Andy waiting in Robert's caravan with a shotgun, planning to kill them both. However, he accidentally shoots Jack instead, leaving him fighting for his life. Robert initially refuses to forgive Andy but when he realizes that he is responsible for the situation, they reconcile and embrace in the hospital. Jack survives the gunshot wound but disowns Andy and he returns alone to Butler's Farm. Robert also continues his relationship with Katie. In early 2005, Robert proposes to Katie and she accepts, and the pair plan to marry later that year. However, Robert is seduced by Sadie King (Patsy Kensit), a woman sixteen years his senior. Robert and Sadie embark on an affair and Robert thinks he can keep it a secret. However, Daz sees Robert kissing Sadie and he tells Andy who confronts Robert in the garage and attacks him. He tries to force Robert to tell Katie about his affair with Sadie, but Robert insists that Andy is lying. Katie eventually learns the truth when she finds erotic text messages on Robert's phone from Sadie. Katie ends the relationship and Andy comforts her, leading to them sleeping together. Robert vows to get revenge on Andy, and helps Jimmy King (Nick Miles) and Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley), set fire to the barn at Butler's Farm. Robert sees Jimmy and Cain beat up Andy and stops them. Daz accidentally stabs Jimmy with a pitchfork while trying to protect Andy. Robert and Cain take Jimmy away and Jimmy's brother, Max (Charlie Kemp), patches him up at the vets. However, the truth soon comes out and Jack throws Robert out, disowning him and calls him a traitor. Robert and Andy's feud is reignited by this, leading Katie to leave the village in June 2005, so Robert starts dating Debbie Dingle (Charley Webb), the mother of Andy's daughter, Sarah (Lilly-Mae Bartley). Robert and Debbie plan to go to London, along with Max King who was leaving the village after poisoning cows belonging to the Briggs family for his father, Tom (Ken Farrington). However, on the day that they plan to leave in October 2005, Andy finds out about Robert and Debbie's plan and forces her to tell him where she is going to meet Robert, he goes there and confronts him, and they start fighting. Max is forced to separate them and Robert tells Debbie that he doesn't care about her and was only interested in her because of Sarah and wanted to hurt Andy by taking his daughter away. Debbie leaves and returns to the village, heartbroken.
Max decides not to go with Robert and asks Andy to drive him to the railway station. Filled with rage, Robert turns the car round and accelerates, driving straight at Andy's Land Rover. Max panics and grabs hold of the steering wheel. The Land Rover goes off the road and rolls onto its roof. Robert stops and rescues Andy but the Land Rover explodes before he can rescue Max. Max is killed and Jack arrives just after the accident and Robert tells him what happened. Jack calls an ambulance and tells Robert to leave so he won't be arrested. Jack insists that Andy tell the police that he swerved to avoid a flock of sheep. Robert gets into his car and drives away. Robert is last seen at a service station, ordering some food and tells the waitress that he intends on travelling whichever direction his car is pointing.
Four years later, Robert returns on 10 February 2009, the day of his father's funeral, with his grandmother. Robert visits Butler's Farm, and meets Natasha Wylde (Amanda Donohoe), who is on her horse and thinks Robert is an intruder. He explains that his father's funeral is taking place and watches from a distance, and Andy sees him. Andy tries to persuade Robert to stay and run the farm, but Robert tells Andy that he doesn't belong there any more, before driving off. Robert returns to the cemetery after nightfall, and lays a rose upon it, before leaving.
Robert returns with his fiancé, Chrissie White (Louise Marwood) and her father and his former boss, Lawrence White (John Bowe). Upon his return, he comes face to face with Nicola. He also discovers that Donna has recently died. He goes to The Woolpack and is reunited with Diane and Victoria (now Isabel Hodgins). Robert also gets into an argument with Andy, who has recently reunited with Katie and Andy punches him when he makes insulting remarks about Katie. Hating Robert and wanting him out of Chrissie's life, Lawrence makes a proposal to Katie, offering to give her and Andy a farm rent-free, if she acts as a honey trap with Robert so that Chrissie would see his true colours and realize that he is a cheat. However, Katie refuses. The following week, Robert finds out from Edna Birch (Shirley Stelfox), that Lawrence had an affair with her husband Harold, in the 1960s and as a result Edna called the police and Lawrence was jailed. Robert later reveals Lawrence's secret to Victoria, Finn Barton (Joe Gill), Val (Charlie Hardwick) and Eric Pollard (Christopher Chittell) after inviting them all up to Home Farm for drinks. Aaron Livesy (Danny Miller) grows close to Robert and Robert initiates a kiss only to later rebuke him. Robert then feels guilty about the kiss and is scared of telling Chrissie, although the pair later have sex which continues for some time.
Robert then begins to become even more bitter towards his brother, Andy, and his ex, Katie. At Andy's stag-night before his and Katie's 2nd wedding, him and Robert soon fight again. Robert makes a snide remark on his father, Jack Sugden, saying that now Jack's no longer in Emmerdale, he'll stay for as long as he wants. Robert and Andy fight over Jack and Sarah's graves. Andy warns Robert to stay away from the wedding; but Robert states he'll go wherever he wants even if Andy hits him again. Robert coldly says to him Merry Christmas, bro. Sleep well, and walks off.
Creation and development
The character of Robert Sugden was introduced as the second son of Jack (Clive Hornby) and Pat Sugden (Helen Weir). He made his first on-screen appearance on 22 April 1986 as a baby. Initially played by Richard Smith, after three years on the show the character was recast and Christopher Smith took over the role. Christopher Smith remained in the role for twelve years between 1989 and 2001, making him the longest actor to play the character. However, when Smith played the character throughout the 1990s, he was only involved in small storylines, including his decision not to work on his father's farm and his stepmother Sarah's (Alyson Spiro) in 2000.
In May 2001, Christopher Smith was axed from the role after twelve years. ITV announced that they were casting an older actor in the role of Robert in order to involve him in more adult storylines. The character returned in August 2001, now played by Karl Davies. In September the same year, Smith sued Yorkshire Television for unfair dismissal from the role of Robert. However, Davies's reign as Robert Sugden increased the character's popularity as well as establishing the character as a sex symbol. Much of Davies's time on Emmerdale centred upon his long-standing feud with adoptive brother Andy Sugden (Kelvin Fletcher), which was used by Emmerdale producers to compete with rival soap opera EastEnders. His popular relationships with Donna Windsor, Andy's wife Katie Sugden and Debbie Dingle, established him as a bad boy, but the storyline which saw him leave his love interest Elaine Marsden for dead in a car accident, led to him being described as "an out-and-out villain" by critics. In mid–2005 it was announced that either Robert or Andy Sugden or Max King (Charlie Kemp) would be killed in a car accident that would take place in October of that year. The decision to kill off one character came after actor Charlie Kemp quit the show and producers decided to have Karl Davies written out of the soap. The episode which took place on 2 October 2005 saw Max killed while in Andy's land rover, after he grabbed the wheel when Andy and Robert began driving towards each other at high speed after Andy thwarted Robert's plan to escape the village with Andy's daughter Sarah and Sarah's mother Debbie Dingle. The following episode saw Robert leave the serial to avoid trouble with the police.
2009 & 2014 Returns
Karl Davies was asked to return to the show four years following his initial departure from the show, for one episode centred on the funeral of his on-screen father Jack Sugden, following the death of Jack's real-life portrayer Clive Hornby. Davies reprised his role as Robert on 10 February 2009, which saw him return to the village alongside grandmother Annie Brearly (Sheila Mercier), who had previously been absent from the show since 1996. Davies left the show soon after.
In an interview with Digital Spy in April 2014, Davies stated that he would not rule out a return to Emmerdale. He said he would "never say never". Davies told Digital Spy, "I'm still really glad to be working and to be part of some lovely stuff, so at the moment I'm very happy but who knows in the future? I love what I do and if that means a return to Emmerdale then so be it, but at the moment that's not on the cards." Davies also said that people still recognized and remembered him from his role in Emmerdale, saying, "It's still very much in people's memories - I don't quite know how! I've almost forgotten what I did, but people still linger on that. I guess it's 'cos you're in their house every night - six nights a week [or] whatever it was at the time. People still seem to remember that character - nearly a decade later which is very strange."
In September 2014 it was confirmed that Robert would be returning but not played by Davies instead the role being recast with Ryan Hawley now playing him. Series producer Kate Oates said: "I'm delighted to welcome Ryan to the show. Robert is a complex character and when we were looking for someone to take over the role, Ryan had the perfect balance of charm and edge, Robert Sugden's life has moved on in many ways... but those ingrained feelings - about his father, Andy, Katie, and the village where he grew up - are sure to find an explosive outlet."
Karl Davies, who was the third actor to portray Robert, received much praise from fans and critics for his portrayal of the character.
- Dainty, Sophie (16 September 2014). "Emmerdale return for Robert Sugden". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
- "News - Emmerdale". ITV. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- Jeffery, Morgan (24 April 2014). "Former Emmerdale star Karl Davies on possible return: 'Never say never'". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved 24 April 2014.