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Robert Sugden

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Subject: Emmerdale, Sarah Sugden, Katie Sugden, Karl Davies, Pat Sugden
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Robert Sugden

Robert Sugden
Ryan Hawley as Robert Sugden (2015)
Emmerdale character
Portrayed by Richard Smith (1986–89)
Christopher Smith
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)
Classification Present; regular
Occupation Mechanic (2004–05)
Bartender (2004–05)
Chef (2004–05)
Estate Manager (2014–15)

Karl Davies as Robert Sugden (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.[1]


  • Storylines 1
    • 1986–2009 1.1
    • 2014– 1.2
  • Casting 2
  • Development 3
    • Brief return 3.1
    • Reintroduction 3.2
    • Sexuality 3.3
  • Reception 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6



The son of Jack and Pat Sugden (Helen Weir), Robert is born on 22 April 1986. He has two older siblings, a brother Jackie (Ian Sharrock) and a 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. Sandie also leaves the village for Scotland, 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 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 parks his car, gets out 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 the emergency services 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. 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 on his Jack's grave, before leaving.


Robert returns with his new fiancé, Chrissie White (Louise Marwood), her son Lachlan (Thomas Atkinson) 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 Victoria (now Isabel Hodgins) and their stepmother Diane (Elizabeth Estensen). 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 realise 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.

After catching them trying to steal his car, Robert blackmails Aaron Livesy (Danny Miller) and Ross Barton (Michael Parr) into robbing Home Farm, in order to teach Lawrence a lesson. Ross knocks Lawrence unconscious with an iron bar during the raid, but Chrissie comes home unexpectedly and Ross and Aaron threaten her, disguising their voices before fleeing. Robert later feels guilty when Chrissie discovers that her mother's ring was stolen during the raid and Aaron helps get it back. Robert later accuses Aaron of fancying Chrissie when Aaron fixes her car for free and is surprised to discover that Aaron is gay. Robert later calls Aaron out with the garage tow truck, claiming that his car has broken down and kisses Aaron, before pulling away and driving off. Aaron is confused and Robert later has sex with Aaron.

Robert continues to feel resentment towards Andy and is jealous of him and Katie as they are due to remarry. At Andy's stag night on Christmas Eve, Robert goads him in the pub and they get into a confrontation in the village churchyard by Jack's grave. Robert makes a cruel remark about his father, saying that he is glad Jack is dead and that with him gone he will stay in the village as long as he wants. He also taunts Andy about his and Katie's affair and Andy punches Robert and a fight breaks out. Victoria and Finn Barton (Joe Gill) separate them and Andy warns Robert to stay away from the wedding; but Robert is unfazed and tells Andy he will go where he wants and storms off.

Andy and Katie remarry and Andy and Robert eventually put their differences behind them. Robert begins an affair with Aaron behind Chrissie's back. Katie suspects Robert is cheating on Chrissie but thinks it is with a woman. Aaron eventually betrays Robert to Katie when Robert insists on going ahead with his marriage to Chrissie. Katie takes a photograph of Aaron and Robert kissing and threatens to tell everyone. Robert and Katie argue. Robert angrily pushes Katie but the floor collapses and she falls into the basement, breaking her neck. Robert hacks into Katie's mobile, deleting all evidence of his and Aaron's affair. Robert then calls Aaron and says the floor collapsed and Katie died. Aaron sends Robert to marry Chrissie and cleans up, leaving Katie lying dead at Wylie's farm. Robert goes ahead with his wedding to Chrissie. Andy later finds Katie and is devastated. A guilty Robert invites Andy to stay with him and Chrissie until he moves out to live with Victoria.

Robert later becomes overprotective of Victoria and disapproves of her fiancé Adam Barton (Adam Thomas). Also, Chrissie breaks up with Robert, after finding out about his role in the robbery from Adam's half-brother Ross. Chrissie decides to gain revenge on Robert and locks him in a shed and pours what Robert thinks is petrol over it. She uses her cigarette lighter to worry Robert and then she throws it into the liquid, with Lachlan looking on. Robert is terrified thinking he will die the same way as his mother and is relieved when nothing happens. Robert then later asks Aaron to run away with him to Manchester but when Aaron refuses he plans to leave on his own. However, though Lachlan convinces Robert to let Chrissie believe that Lachlan will kill himself, making her think its because he believes it is his fault they are breaking up, Lachlan later blackmails Robert. Chrissie then takes Robert back. Robert becomes furious when Victoria runs away with Adam, as he becomes worried that Victoria would miss her court case after running over Ashley Thomas (John Middleton) in her car. When Robert gets Harriet Finch (Katherine Dow Blyton) to follow Cain believing he knows where they are she takes a photo of Cain and Chrissie kissing. Robert later blackmails Cain to tell him where Victoria and Adam and finds out they are getting married and he attempts to stop the wedding. When he gets to where Cain said they would be, Cain hits him round the head and puts Robert in the boot of his car. Robert is later beaten by Cain until Aaron saves him and later tells Cain about the affair.

Paddy Kirk (Dominic Brunt), after finding Robert and Aaron in the porter cabin together after they had sex, sends Chrissie a note saying to "Rein your cheating husband in." Later, Robert gets drunk and turns on a grain machine and buries Paddy in grain. He later goes back though and turns it off when he sees that Paddy might die. He hears Andy when attempting to save Paddy and flees, leaving Andy to save deal with the situation. Later, Paddy tells Aaron that Robert tried to kill him which leads to Aaron booking a cabin for him and Robert to try and trick him into confessing about Paddy and Katie on tape. However, his plan does not work and Robert is soon holding a tied up and gagged Aaron at gunpoint after knocking him unconscious with a glass vase. Robert cannot bring himself to kill Aaron and as he cries holding the gun, Paddy bursts into the cabin and Robert shoots him. After Robert sows up Paddy's arm, he releases him and Aaron.

Just a few hours later, a furious Aaron reveals all to Chrissie about his affair with Robert and she throws Robert out of Home Farm. The next day, Chrissie tells the entire pub about what Robert and Aaron's affair. Robert, not wanting him to find out by someone else, tells Andy why Chrissie is so angry and he throws Robert out saying that he wishes he had killed him years ago when he had the chance. With nowhere else to go, Robert stays at Val and Eric's B&B. In the following weeks, at the scrapyard, Chrissie desperately attempts Robert to sign the divorce papers and to sign everything over to her and Lawrence, however Robert refuses so Chrissie pours petrol all over his car. She then lights a cigarette lighter and burns his car. They then leave arguing, while the fire spreads to a nearby car that Adam is sleeping in. The fire also spreads to some gas canisters, which in turn causes an almighty explosion and helicopter crash. Robert saves Adam from the flames, however they and Chrissie are sent flying when the car explodes. Diane's sister, Val, is killed in the helicopter crash. Robert and Lawrence are desperate for Chrissie not to tell anybody about her involvement in the incident, however she ignores them and reveals to everybody what she has done in The Woolpack. Eric is furious and orders Chrissie to leave the village, so she leaves to stay with her sister, Rebecca. While she is away, Robert organises for a man named Connor to turn up at Home Farm badly beaten, leading to Lawrence cleaning him up. However, Connor called the police lying that Lawrence assaulted him, leading to Lawrence being in trouble with the police.

In September, Robert is shot by an unknown person, and is put into a coma as part of a whodunit storyline with many suspects being the potential shooter. On 22nd October, in the rewind episode, Robert's shooter was revealed as Ross Barton. Ross agreed to shot Robert following a talk with Andy who was planning to kill him anyway. Ross then asks Andy to kill Pete, Ross' brother in exchange for Ross killing Robert. Andy didn't go through with his side of the deal but Ross did.


Robert Sugden as portrayed by Christopher Smith.

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) death 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.


Karl Davies's reign as Robert 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.

Brief return

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.[2]


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".[3] 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."[3] 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."[3]

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."[4]


Following Robert's return and recast in 2014, the character showed romantic interest in Aaron Livesy as portrayed by Danny Miller.[5] Series producer Kate Oates spoke at an Emmerdale conference saying: "Chrissie [Robert's fiance] doesn't know about the relationship with Robert and Aaron, and that's obviously going to be a long-burner. She doesn't know that her husband-to-be has this tendency that he also fancies men, so that might be a big surprise to her!" In an interview with Digital Spy she also said: "Robert is very different from his brother in that Andy can live in the terraced house in the village with the girl that he's always loved and be happy. He works as a farmhand on the farm where he grew up, he doesn't need any more and he's a really happy guy like that. Robert always wants more - there's never enough. He's in a position now where he's with Chrissie and he's in the big house on the hill. He's also got Lawrence in his back pocket now, but it's still not enough. Robert is still taking risks and seeking adrenaline. He just wants more all the time. I think Aaron is going to be a victim of that to a certain extent, but the attraction between them is genuine."[6]

Praising Danny Miller and Ryan Hawley, Oates continued: "What I really like is that the lads have done a great job of creating that chemistry. In the scenes where they're together, you absolutely believe it and I think that they've done brilliantly with that. It's genuine to a point, but Robert will always be out for himself!"

Oates also revealed that she spoke to Karl Davies and offered him the chance to return. When he declined the opportunity, a decision was made to recast the role with Hawley in the part.[7]


Karl Davies, who was the third actor to portray Robert, received much praise from fans and critics for his portrayal of the character. Anthony D. Langford of The Backlot remarked that Cain knocking Robert to the floor in one punch was "ridiculous", because Robert isn't "exactly a small guy".[8] He also mentioned how he noticed that Robert, Aaron and Finn (all of which are either homosexual or bisexual) had been "beaten up, shoved around and/or intimidated by Cain".[8]

See also


  1. ^ Dainty, Sophie (16 September 2014). "Emmerdale return for Robert Sugden".  
  2. ^ "News - Emmerdale". ITV. Retrieved 2012-03-26. 
  3. ^ a b c Dainty, Sophie; Jeffery, Morgan (24 April 2014). "'"Former Emmerdale star Karl Davies on possible return: 'Never say never.  
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Langford on Soaps: Upcoming Big Gay Romances on "Eastenders" and "Neighbours" -, Page 2
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