Kerry Godliman: From Drama School to Derek
2013 is to be set to be another great year for British Television. At the end of January when everyone tires of bidding friends and colleagues a Happy New Year, Ricky Gervais’ ‘Derek’ will be returning to our screens for its much anticipated full first series. The pilot was first broadcast in 2012 and was welcomed by over 3 million viewers in the UK. The series is both written by and stars Ricky Gervais who has previously had us peeing ourselves with laughter at television hits such as ‘Extras’ and ‘The Office’. ‘Derek’ also stars Ricky’s best mate Karl Pilkington (An Idiot Abroad), as well as Kerry Godliman (Live At The Apollo) and David Earl (Extras).
This week Comedy Chords sat down with Kerry to chat about her role as Hannah in the upcoming series that is sure to be yet another success for Ricky Gervais. Kerry plays a lonely singleton carer with a heart of gold. Kerry is no stranger to the comedy scene having regularly performed as a stand-up as well as dabbling in a bit of comedy radio. Kerry talks to us about Ricky’s farting antics, cracking up on set and how she went from being a drama school student to performing on the big screen as a female stand-up.
EO: So Kerry, can you tell us a little bit about what is in store for the first series of ‘Derek’?
Kerry: Just lots of stories about people that live in the home, and outside characters that come in to the home…and sometimes they’re a bit threatening!
EO: So are there any blossoming romances for Hannah…?
Kerry: I don’t want to do any spoilers…but there is a little bit of romance. I won’t say how it all ends though [laughs]!
EO: What was it like working with Ricky Gervais? You’d previously worked with him on ‘Extras’…?
Kerry: Umm… I did do a scene on ‘Extras’…yeah a few years ago, and I did a scene on ‘Life’s Too Short’. So I had very brief experiences of working with him. It was really lovely working on something with him for longer. He was lovely to work with and was very focused and excited for the project. He loved working with Karl, so they were a pleasure to work with.
EO: In fact, was this Karl’s first acting job…?
Kerry: I think it was, actually. I think he was a bit nervous initially and then he really got into it. It was really lovely to watch his confidence grow you know… the more he did it. I think he really enjoyed himself.
EO: Who was the worst for cracking up on set?
Kerry: Oh Ricky! Ricky without a doubt! Oh god, I mean he’s known for it isn’t he! But he wasn’t that bad and every scene always got done in the end. Karl cracks him up and he loves cracking Karl up as well. I think he kind of makes it a private project to crack Karl up as often as possible so yes there was quite a lot of corpsing!
EO: Who was the biggest joker on set then?
Kerry: Oh Ricky again! Ricky without a doubt! Yeah!
EO: Have you got any off-camera funny moments that you can tell us about?
Kerry: Umm…Derek wrestles Dougie quite a lot, Karl’s character, and he was in a kind of lock… a wrestling sort of body lock, and farted in Karl’s face, which I think he was over the moon about the timing of and the good luck. I think he couldn’t believe he’d actually lucked out. Karl was disgusted and appalled… but it was hilarious!
EO: That sounds brilliant! What was it that attracted you to the role of Hannah?
Kerry: Well no one is likely to turn down a lead part in a Ricky Gervais sit-com [laughs]! I felt very lucky to be asked to do it, and I think the part is very unusual as she’s not a cliché or a stereotype. I don’t think anyone has ever seen anyone like Hannah in a sit-com before. I loved the pilot and that kind of carried off as her been a carer and protectively violent. She is so protective that she loses self-control sometimes and can get quite emotional. I think she’s a really lovely part; I think she plays someone in real life that isn’t celebrated that much really…
EO: When did you first realise that comedy was for you?
Kerry: I loved comedy when I was a kid and I probably didn’t have the guts to become a stand-up because I didn’t know how you did it. So, I went off to drama school and did sort of legitimate drama training to become an actor. Then I did that for a few years, and I sort of finally plucked up the courage to have a crack at stand-up as I think privately I’ve always wanted to do it; and then I went and did a course and I still felt like I wasn’t really going to do it properly but I just wanted to get it out of my system. Then at the end of the course they did a gig, like a showcase, and then I got the bug and I couldn’t stop!
EO: What would you say your first big break was?
Kerry: I don’t think I’ve had one specific big break really. I think the reality of doing this for a long time…I think that’s the trick to just keep doing it and in the end you accumulate quite a few jobs and experiences. I tell you this [Derek] is probably the biggest job I’ve ever had… without a doubt, because everyone watches what Ricky does, so to be involved in something with him is the closest thing I could say to a proper break. I suppose leaving drama school and getting my first bit of telly work- I remember feeling like that was a big deal. I think ‘Live At The Apollo’ was a big gig to get, and doing ‘Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow’ was big. So it’s accumulative really, so keep doing it!
EO: Which comedians did you look up to when you were little?
Kerry: Ummmm…Billy Connolly! Well, all the classic-y sort of 70’s ones I watched as a kid like ‘Morecambe and Wise’ and Les Dawson as they were on telly all the time. And then I suppose as a teenager I started getting into Bill Hicks and all the usual stuff really, all of those people. I liked Victoria Wood too as she was an actor and a comic, and she made me realise you don’t have to do one thing or the other… you can diversify.
EO: Have you got any plans after ‘Derek’?
Kerry: Yeah… I’m doing a radio show for Radio 4, which I’ve written and am working on in April. So we’re going to be recording that effectively over the next couple of weeks and it’s scheduled for a late April I think, and it’s called ‘Kerry’s List’.
EO: If you could give one bit of advice for any aspiring comedians what would it be?
Kerry: Just keep gigging, keep gigging, and keep gigging! Get as much stage time as you can! There are no short cuts. You’ve just got to keep doing it to find your voice really.
The first series of Derek will be broadcast on Channel 4 on the 30th January 2013. If you missed the pilot you can catch it here now on 4oD: