Royle Family star Liz Smith dies, aged 95

Liz Smith with her MBE for services to drama as the Royle Family actress has died aged 95 Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

Liz Smith with her MBE for services to drama as the Royle Family actress has died aged 95 Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

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The Royle Family star Liz Smith has died at the age of 95.

The actress, who played the ailing Nana in the hit comedy show, died on Christmas Eve.

The Royle Family, clockwise from bottom Jim (Ricky Tomlinson), Barbara (Sue Johnston), Anthony (Ralph Little), Denise (Caroline Aherne), Dave (Craig Cash) and Nana (Liz Smith) who has died. Picture: BBC

The Royle Family, clockwise from bottom Jim (Ricky Tomlinson), Barbara (Sue Johnston), Anthony (Ralph Little), Denise (Caroline Aherne), Dave (Craig Cash) and Nana (Liz Smith) who has died. Picture: BBC

Her death comes in the same year as her co-star Caroline Aherne, who died from lung cancer.

A statement issued on Monday night said: “The Bafta award-winning actress Liz Smith has died, on Christmas Eve, at the age of 95, her family has announced.”

The Royle Family actor Ralf Little tweeted: “Devastating to lose two members of my second family in one awful year. RIP Liz Smith. Goodbye Nana. Xxx”

READ MORE: In Memoriam: The famous names who left us in 2016 (part one)

The Queen of Sheba - the episode of the much-loved sitcom in which Nana dies - was repeated on the BBC just days before Christmas.

In 2009, the Prince of Wales presented Smith with an MBE and told her that the sofa-bound TV characters in the show were “nothing like my family, thank God”.

Smith only got her first professional roles in her 50s when Mike Leigh was looking for a middle-aged woman capable of improvisation for his debut feature Bleak Moments.

Her career took off after she played the lead role in his first television film Hard Labour and she once said: “I owe everything to Mike.”

The actress also played eccentric baker Letitia Cropley in The Vicar Of Dibley but was devastated when her character was killed off.

At the age of 85 she won a best actress award at the British Comedy Awards for her portrayal of Nana.

Smith also won a Bafta for best supporting actress for her performance as Maggie Smith’s organ-playing mother in the film A Private Function.

Coronation Street star Andrew Whyment, who also appeared in The Royle Family, tweeted: “What a fantastic actress she was absolutely hilarious RIP lovely Liz x”

Smith appeared alongside Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in the 2005 film Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, playing the role of Grandma Georgina.

During her career she played Mrs Brandon in the long-running sitcom I Didn’t Know You Cared, as well as Bette in 2point4 Children.

She also took to the stage to play Nell in a West End production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame.

Smith announced her retirement from acting in 2009, following a series of strokes.

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