How We Met: Jemima Rooper & Ralf Little

Jemima Rooper 26 is an actor who started working at the age of 13, appearing in TV shows including The Famous Five. She went on to star in the cult teen TV drama As If, and will shortly appear in Lost in Austen on ITV. She is currently on stage in Her Naked Skin at the National. She lives in north London with two flatmates

I probably first met Ralf in a hazy nightclub about six years ago. I can't remember the exact event; I do remember his party trick was being able to undo girls' bras quickly.

We're in the same extended friendship group and used to all go out once a week. Ralf really makes me laugh. One time, there was this huge hip-hop circle on the dance-floor with all these big, muscly guys, and Ralf just got in with them, looking as if he was going to do some pretty good moves. He built them up and built them up – and just when everyone was really excited, he got into the middle... and did a forward roll. It was very funny.

We used to live quite close to each other, so he'd always give me a lift home. We'd sit in the car chatting about work and friends; it was always a sweet ending to a night out.

We have a lot in common. Because of a lot of the work he's done, people only associate him with comedy and teen stuff – and I've had the same thing – but he still has a lot to show everyone. He's a brilliant actor and I have a lot of respect for him.

He's very personable and loud when you first meet him, as I can be, but that masks his sweet side: one on one he is incredibly sensitive. He's also very ambitious and talented – and very clever. He plays the fool but we quite often have competitive conversations about how many As we got at school: he beat me – I've got three As at A-level but he has four or five. In fact he'd started doing a medical degree when he got The Royle Family... I can't imagine him as a doctor. That would be very, very wrong!

Ralf flirts with everyone; it's not personal to me. There was a point about four years ago where we nearly got together, but it's much better that we don't. We're too similar. Our relationship has never caused problems with my boyfriends, though a few months ago my ex bumped into him at a festival and he mentioned me, without saying he was my ex. Ralf apparently said, "Oh she's single – great!" So you never know... but I can't see it happening now. No, I can imagine us when we're about 80, still single, sitting in a pub, still flirting – and he'll be trying to undo my huge granny bra...

Ralf Little 28 is an actor most famous for his portrayal of Antony in The Royle Family. He also starred in the long-running Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, and appeared in the Bebo-streamed internet drama Kate Modern, as well as numerous theatre productions. Next month he will be in a new drama series, Massive, on BBC3. He lives in west London with two housemates

Jemima and I are a story that has never happened. I'm pretty sure we met on a night out and I thought, "She's very sexy," but she was also dead funny and we got on really well and had loads of banter. I didn't tell her for a long time I thought she was fit.

It has been a joke discussion for years, but about four years ago we were both single and a mutual friend tried to get us to make a go of it. At that point, I didn't want a long-term commitment, but because it had all become so upfront, we decided to discuss it. And we both went, "You know what? I don't think we could now."

It could have been difficult, but she's so bright and intelligent and so together – there aren't many people I could sit down with and go, "Right, this should have happened ages ago and now it's not going to" – and for them to be like, "Yeah you're right"... She's so ridiculously together, it's hilarious – yet also completely bonkers.

We're very similar – we both started working young, both have quite a lot of front – but all actors are a mass of insecurities and we're probably no different, we just use this mask of bravado to cover it. We're also both from slightly middle-class backgrounds and secretly quite academic.

She's incredibly well-respected and incredibly talented and has gone from amazing job to amazing job: I secretly suspect she's a bit better than I am but of course I don't tell her that. Working on The Royle Family was a privilege and it's very difficult to come out of something like that badly, but a lot of the time you have to make things work that are not the stuff of genius. Jemima is one of those actresses who, no matter what she's in, always puts in a classy performance – and that is the mark of someone who is genuinely very, very good at what they do.

There's no point when I've ever been around Jemima when I haven't been smiling and we haven't been laughing. She is one of the few people outside my family who has been to see every single play I've done. She won't say, "Oh I'll try really hard to make it," she'll just be there. Because she works all over the country, all over the world all the time, we might not see each other for a few months, but every time we do it's like we saw each other yesterday. You don't get that with everyone. Each time I see her, I get the feeling – or I hope at least – that she's as pleased to see me as I am to see her. And that's a true friend.

'Her Naked Skin' is at the National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1, to 24 September (020 7452 3000, www.nationaltheatre. As part of the Travelex £10 season, more than half the tickets are priced £10

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<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
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