Kerry Godliman might be best known on TV for her stand-up comedy, but she’s won the hearts of many on Derek, Ricky Gervais’ new sitcom where she plays the kind-hearted and caring Hannah, a character that’s proved a fan favourite.
We talked to the actress and comedian about headbutting someone on the show, how acting compares to stand-up and, of course, Karl Pilkington.
Hannah’s proved to be a real favourite on the show, what’s that like for you?
It’s very flattering. I always had the feeling that Hannah was such a lovely character that she would be appealing. When I read her I felt that she was just that and I’m not surprised that she appeals to people and it’s the one of the ensemble that people connect with.
Was it that sweetness that drew you to the part?
Obviously it would be exciting to work with Ricky, to play any part really; I’d have had a crack at Kev to be honest! When I first read it, I was quite surprised by her, because in the pilot I remember reading the head-butt bit and thinking ‘Wow, that was quite shocking’. She just goes from being this really benevolent, caring woman to violence. That was really interesting and felt really believable, you can have that sort of duality in a person.
So, how was it head-butting someone?
It was a tiny bit complicated as I was quite considerably shorter than the actress I hit, so I had to have a little jump to get the angle right to make it look real. It was fun though, I always find that if you’re doing physical stuff or fights, you’ve got to get it all right, because if you don’t get it spot on it just looks wrong. I thought it was a great moment in the pilot though and something that a lot of people have wanted to do.
Ever want her to Hulk out more?
It’s interesting as in this series Karl [Pilkington] is saying all the things that she can’t say. He’s the one having a go at the council, he’s the one that yells at Shelley. In a way, she’s protected by Karl as he gets to vent his spleen at everyone.
How did you research the part? Did you go into any care homes to prepare?
I do go into a care home, as I haven’t got any relations in one. I talked to the people that work in them and went to one in Peckham and was really helpful, it gave a real context to it. The thing I was struck by was the tempo of life.
I’m in my thirties and have two young children and work, the tempo of my life is fast, too fast sometimes when it just rattles along. When I visited the home, the tempo of life is so much slower and I was just thinking ‘Oh God, why am I rushing about, this is just a nicer tempo’.
They’re obviously in the winter of their lives, so they’re not running around. That was the major thing I noticed, its calm.
I’d love to be able to get that in my life, I hope I don’t have to wait until I’m eighty before I can.
Ricky’s called you one of the best actresses he’s ever worked with. That’s pretty high praise from him.
It’s very flattering isn’t it? Although I don’t think ego trips will hold up well when I’m doing the school run. It’s a really lovely compliment though.
We have to ask, what’s Karl Pilkington like? Is he anything like what we see of him?
He is like that, it’s not put on. He’s not some sort of different person and then flicks a switch and turns into the Karl you know. I can only liken it to stand-up, but I’m not quite like my stage persona 24/7, I turn up my personality when I do that.
I suppose Karl’s like that, you couldn’t live like that all the time! It’s all genuine though, but he’s just able to exaggerate different aspects of him at different points.
Derek’s gotten a little of controversy since it launched. Do you think it’s all a bit of a storm in a teacup?
Yeah, I think so. This country loves a bit of controversy and it sells papers doesn’t it. Ricky seems to have that ability to attract that debate, but I think it’s a healthy debate, I think it’s a conversation worth having.
I think that when people watch it and really engage with it, they realise it’s not offensive. They might not like it, but they can’t accuse it of being offensive. It isn’t doing anything spiteful at all.
You’ve got a really great stand-up comedy career to. How do that and acting compare on a performance level?
They’re really different. Acting is very much about working with and reacting to other people whereas stand-up is all about you, you’re performing alone. You have a relationship with the audience of course, but the actual performing itself is a completely one man outfit.
Is it ever a matter of choosing between either?
I used to think I had to hypothesise that but now I’m realising I don’t have to, I can enjoy both. I was an actor first and went to comedy as I was being slightly unfulfilled. When people go into acting, they aspire to play leads and have the big parts in great plays, films and TV shows.
The reality is though that most of the time you’re unemployed and when you are it can be quite boring as you’ve only got a little part or there’s a lot of hanging about. One way or another it’s not as fulfilling as you had in your imagination.
So stand-up is something that I went into as I felt I had more control. It was more creatively interesting, I could write the material, decide how to perform it, it just gave me so much more autonomy and control. But now that I’ve become more successful, my acting has become more interesting and I get to do more interesting parts, I enjoy both.
I wouldn’t ever want to turn my back on stand-up as it’s what got me where I am and I do really enjoy it.
So playing ‘Witness Number Three’ isn’t living the dream then?
Those parts have to be played, I did my fair share of playing drug dealers girlfriends saying “He’s not in”, but it’s nice to play bigger parts.
So what’s in the pipeline for you then?
I’ve got a few things coming up actually, I’ve got my own radio show coming up on Radio 4 which I’ve got four episodes starting in late April called ‘Kerry’s List’. It’s about multitasking and doing too much, juggling things in life and such. It’s a comedic take on that really. Also, I’m in a thing called Our Girl on BBC One, where I play Lacey Turner’s mum in that.
You can see Kerry tonight in Derek on Channel 4.