Interview: Kerry Godliman On Working With Ricky Gervais In After Life

after life review kerry godliman Ricky gervais

The latest Ricky Gervais comedy After Life has been getting rave reviews since it launched on Netflix on March 8. One if the outstanding performances in it comes from actor/comedian Kerry Godliman as Lisa, the late partner of Tony (Gervais). In this interview Godliman talks about working with Gervais, combining stand-up and acting and much more. A longer version appeared first in the Evening Standard. Read it here.

 

I have an apology to make to Kerry Godliman. When I first heard that she was in the new Ricky Gervais series After Life I was not interested in interviewing her. I was told she was playing his character’s dead wife Lisa so assumed she had a minor role. And then I watched it.

The London-born stand-up features in every episode in video footage from happier times and posthumous laptop messages from her hospital bed, where she is being treated for cancer: "If you're watching this then I'm not around any more...keep going." Lisa is at the emotional heart of the series which follows local journalist Tony (Gervais) as he grieves while writing stories about potatoes that look like Lionel Richie and damp patches that resemble Sir Kenneth Branagh. There is comedy, but expect to shed a few tears too.

After Life, which will stream on Netflix, is certainly not a return to the cringe-comedy of The Office. It is barely a sitcom. The unashamedly unstarry Godliman is not sure how to categorise it: “I don’t know what it is. Ricky has created a new genre. It mucks you about emotionally. It knocks you about and explores a mental state that we don’t see much of onscreen. There are moments that gut punch you and then make you laugh out loud.”

Tony’s misanthropic revenge on the world for taking his wife away is brutally funny. He doesn’t care who he offends. He swears at small children and gives the finger to chuggers. It’s only his love for his dog that keeps suicide at bay: “If you could open a tin, I’d be dead by now.” To paraphrase Jean-Paul Sartre – Gervais did read philosophy at London University after all – hell is other people. Except for Lisa.

One of the most controversial, dramatic scenes is when Tony decides to smoke heroin with a local junkie. Godliman thinks it is justfied. “It’s shocking because you are seeing his sadness and despair and how desperate he is to escape his pain. It’s the absolutely lowest place and it’s within all of us.”

She owes a lot of her acting success to Gervais and is very much part of his unofficial repertory company. After Life also features Ashley Jensen from Extras and David Earl (aka comedy character Brian Gittins) from Derek. Godliman played care home manager Hannah in Channel 4’s Derek, but Gervais had already spotted her, previously giving her small parts in Extras and Life’s Too Short.

“When they were making After Life the producer Charlie Hanson asked me to come in to read for Lisa. I said ‘is it an audition?’ He said ‘well it is but there is nobody else coming in for it,’ so I was led to believe the part was mine unless I fucked it up. She modestly suggests that Lisa is not a major stretch: “I’m like an extremely gobby, opinionated friend and Ricky has put that in a dramatic context.”

Interview continues here.

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