Ghosts’ Best Guest Stars (So Far) From Jennifer Saunders to Kylie

Standing out among the rock-solid ensemble that is the cast of BBC’s Ghosts is no mean feat. As we await the fifth and final series, here are some of the show’s most memorable guest performances so far.

Kylie Minogue on BBC Ghosts
Photo: BBC

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the BBC sitcom Ghosts

One of the best things about BBC sitcom Ghosts is the way the cast welcomes viewers into its heartwarming friendship circle, and makes us feel like one of the gang. They might be one of the tightest ensembles in the business, but there’s a definite generosity of spirit (pun intended) in Ghosts, and a “the more the merrier” vibe. 

Perhaps this is why there’ve been so many memorable guest stars. The show easily attracts superstar-level names as well as giving a well-earned platform to some of the UK’s rising comedy stars. While we eagerly await Ghosts fifth – and sadly final – series, let’s remind ourselves of some of the show’s best guest appearances:

Jennifer Saunders

It’s hard to imagine someone formidable enough to have birthed a character like Lady Fanny Button (aka Martha Howe-Douglas), so the BBC had to pull out the big guns: in the 2021 Christmas special (“He Came!”), a flashback reveals Fanny’s mother Lavinia is played by comedy legend Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous). 

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It’s immediately obvious where Fanny gets her robust opinions from – she believes women are bred for marriage alone, and as the brief but brilliant clip above shows, she thinks maths is a man-only game – but Fanny has ambitions of going into her father’s business. She’s sadly deprived this opportunity when her father’s gambling debts leave the family destitute, and it’s Lavinia who works out a plan to save them, securing Fanny a prosperous (if “wayward”) man to marry. The two women don’t see eye to eye, but they clearly love each other, because Fanny goes along with the marriage, to the man who would later become her murderer.

Justin Edwards

Justin Edwards in Ghosts

Elsewhere in the 2021 Christmas special, Alison and Mike meet a strange man they discover living in a tent in their garden, played by The Thick of It’s Justin Edwards. This stranger’s got a white beard, he’s jolly and gentle, and his name’s Nicholas, so obviously Kitty immediately believes he’s actually Father Christmas. But, as we gradually discover, he’s a lot more real, and complicated, than Santa. Edwards’ poignant performance is pitched just right between warm but not too saccharine, making it a typically touching Ghosts festive episode.

Alastair Green

Alistair Green in Ghosts

While we never got a proper flashback of how Katy Wix’s character Mary died – probably for the best, considering she was burned as a witch, which isn’t exactly a LOL-a-minute – we do find out who caused her death. In the opening of series four episode “Speak As Ye Choose”, we get a brief but memorable appearance by Alistair Green (a comedian famous for his excruciating but very funny social media videos) as concerned villager Owen, who realises that the year’s harvest is rotten. His villager pal Ambrose suggests they ‘fess up to the squire, but Owen has a better idea: pin the blame on an eccentric local woman (Mary) by accusing her of being a witch that has cursed the village crops.

Bridget Christie

Bridget Christie in Ghosts

Comedian-writer-actor Bridget Christie won us over when she appeared in series 13 of Taskmaster in 2022, so it was a pleasant surprise to see her appear in series four of Ghosts later that year. Eagle-eyed Ghosts fans will know her character Annie, a former Button House ghost, also appeared very briefly in series two episode “The Thomas Thorne Affair”, when Mary explained she had since moved on (or been “sucked off”). Her series four return is deservedly more substantial: we see how Annie was a Puritan who died by choking on forbidden food during a fast, and then befriended the shy Mary, teaching her how to release her worldly inhibitions and confidently voice her opinions. The fact that these opinions end up mostly being creative and often scatalogical insults towards Button House’s living residents is an added bonus.

Jessica Knappett

Series three of Ghosts saw Alison face some shocking news when a woman called Lucy (comedian and Taskmaster alumni Jessica Knappett) turned up claiming to be her long-lost half-sister. At first, it’s just Kitty who’s not a fan and jealous of Alison bonding with her new relative, but soon the other ghosts begin to suspect not all is as it seems with Lucy, leading to a rip-roaring, dramatic and very satisfying series finale where the truth is revealed.

Ben Ashenden and Alexander Owen (The Pin)

Comedy duo The Pin in Ghosts

The third series of Ghosts opens with Humphrey the headless ghost’s death story, an amusing but also poignant tale of his attempts to grow closer to his French wife Sophie, with whom he has a strained relationship due to their arranged marriage. Humphrey discovers that she’s part of a secret plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I just in time for a pair of Her Majesty’s Guards turn up to arrest her, who are played by award-winning comedy double act The Pin, aka Ben Ashenden and Alexander Owen. 

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These guards are excellent at bickering but less good at catching criminals, so it looks like Humphrey’s in the clear, but he gets accidentally beheaded by a pair of swords falling off their mount above his fireplace. When the guards realise what happened, they decide to take credit for his fate – as you do.

Al Roberts

Al Roberts in Ghosts

“The Thomas Thorne Affair” in series two is one of Ghosts’ cleverest episodes, telling the story of how Thomas’ dastardly cousin Francis tricked him into taking part in a deadly duel in order to steal his beloved Isabelle, using a series of flashbacks told from different points of view, each revealing a different part of the truth of Thomas’ death. Considering the enormous fanbase for Mathew Baynton and his Ghosts character Thomas, it was probably a daunting task to take on the role of his nemesis and killer, but Al Roberts does a great job. Helpfully, he was also already familiar to the fanbase, having starred alongside Ghosts stars Katy Wix and Kiell Smith-Bynoe in Staths Lets Flats, playing Stath’s chaotic colleague Al

Kylie Minogue (and Jason Donovan)

The 2023 Comic Relief minisode saw a VIP – that’s Very Impressive Popstar – rock up to Button House: Kylie “Padam Padam” Minogue! While her manager (Tanya Moodie) scouts the grounds as a possible concert venue, we discover that, like Alison, Kylie also has the gift/curse that means she can see and hear the ghosts, who aren’t at all convinced she is who she says she is. There’s a brief Jason Donovan cameo, a little Kylie sing-song and a whole lot of very good jokes. Perfect.

Series 5 of Ghosts will arrive on BBC One and BBC iPlayer later this year