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Karl Davies - Biography

Stockport-born Karl is best known for his roles in Emmerdale and Happy Valley.

Karl Davies on set as his Emmerdale character Robert
Hannah Watkin
Content Writer
Updated: June 13, 2023
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Who is Karl Davies?

Karl Davies was born on 6 August 1982 in Stockport, and is 5’ 9” tall. He was raised in the nearby town of Marple as a child, and found fame on British soap opera favourite Emmerdale. There he assumed the role of controversial character Robert Sugden in 2001 and has since appeared in international phenomena such as Game of Thrones and Chernobyl. Most recently, Karl has found fame as Daniel Cawood in Happy Valley.


Karl was educated at Marple Hall School in his hometown. Whilst he showed a keen interest in comedy from an early age, his biggest passion lay in football at primary school. He dreamed of one day playing for Manchester United, his closest club, however quickly discovered his talents lay in making people laugh through his performances.

Karl first started acting at the age of 8, joining a local theatre group called The Carver Theatre where he would act and sing in pantomimes. His very first appearance was in Willy Russell’s play Our Day Out, where he played a young child bullied because of his size and age. He enjoyed the audience’s reception to his character so much that, from there, the rest was history.

Karl studied Theatre Studies at Ridge Danyers College, where he would write and star in his first play at the age of 17. As luck would have it, a couple of professional local actors were in the crowd. After the show they spoke with his teacher at the time, and offered to put the budding young actor in touch with their agents in London.

Aside from acting, Karl took part in local climbing competitions as a teenager. He’s also expressed interests in both snowboarding and skiing. During his time on Emmerdale producers warned him off taking part in extreme sports, although he was allowed to wing-walk for charity on one occasion.

Television Career

Aged only 18, Karl made his television debut in 2000 as Rick Ashburn in ITV’s Fat Friends. In the space of a year he would graduate to British TV royalty after being cast in fan-favourite soap Emmerdale. His character, Robert Sugden, is widely credited with gaining the show a ratings victory in 2004. 7.6 million viewers tuned in to watch his character’s exciting storyline unfold, climaxing with his brother trying to kill him and his father dying in the process. He originally left the show in 2004 but would return one last time in 2009 before the role was taken over by Ryan Hawley in 2014.

During his tenure as the controversial character, Karl would also star in The Hidden City, Dead Clever, A Very British Scandal, The Unsinkable Titanic and Kingdom, where he performed alongside Stephen Fry.

Karl’s roles would only get bigger and more prolific throughout the 2010s. After starring in a 2010 episode of Midsomer Murders, Karl successfully auditioned for the role of Alton Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Here he shared screen time with Nikolai Coster-Waldau before meeting a gruesome end at the hand of his character Jaime Lannister.

Since appearing in the worldwide TV sensation, Karl has gone on to appear in further TV treasures such as The Syndicate (starring as Luke), Happy Valley (playing Daniel Cawood), My Mad Fat Diary (Rob) and HBO favourite Chernobyl (Viktor Proskuryakov). Karl also starred in an episode of Call the Midwife in 2020, appearing as Ronald Mallen.

Film Career

Karl has also starred in a handful of films over the years. His biggest role was in 2014’s Black Sea, where he performed alongside Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, David Threlfall and Scoot McNairy. He also performs in short films, with credits including 2015’s Nipplejesus and NSFW as well as 2018’s Cur:few.


Karl once took the Sunday Sport to the UK Press Complaints Commission after they published an inaccurate story about him. Karl was successful with his complaint, with the story revealed to be untrue.

The Greater Manchester-born actor also performed a play for the Youth Unlimited Theatre Group before his television career took off. During his role in Emmerdale he was approached multiple times in public by viewers who couldn’t tell him apart from his character, receiving insults and even being slapped.

Private life

Karl is married to his long-time partner and best friend Amy Blackburn, a photographer based in Shoreham-by-Sea near Brighton. The pair got engaged on 18 January 2018 and married the following year in May. He keeps his private life largely quiet on social media.

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