Ricky Gervais will take centre-stage when his critically acclaimed new comedy-drama After Life premieres on Netflix this Friday, yet this is a show that has more than one star performance.

Ricky Gervais and Kerry Godliman in After Life / Netflix

Ricky Gervais and Kerry Godliman in After Life / Netflix

With his character Tony grief-stricken following the death of his wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman), Gervais's superb performance sees him lash out at most who cross his path in his role as a local newspaper journalist, with junior reporter Sandy (Mandeep Dhillon) one of the few who escapes his wrath.

Female First sat down with Godliman and Dhillon, as they reflected on their roles in a show that is already being hailed as Gervais's best work since his breakthrough role in The Office.

This is a very dark comedy. Did you have any reservations about taking part?

Kerry: Ricky rang me and said he was doing a new show and he wanted me to be his dead wife. It was quite an opening gambit as he pitched the idea, but I was always going to do it. It sounded very interesting from the start and like nothing I'd ever seen before, but that's what I expect from Ricky's stuff.

You also appeared in the David Brent movie. How would you describe working on set with Ricky?

Mandeep: He is always joking when the cameras are off and when you hear that famous laugh of his for the first time, it is weird. I grew up with The Office being one of the big programmes in our house and to be around the mastermind of that now... You almost forget how famous Ricky is when you work with him and it becomes really normal. He is just a human like anyone else and doesn't want to be treated differently to the rest of us on set. So while he is a genius, he is also human and great to work with. I've not seen a show like After Life on TV before, but that's Ricky. He doesn't do what other people do.

Have you ever accepted the role of a character who has died before?

Kerry: In many ways, she is not dead. All of our lives are now captured forever in these little portal computer/cameras we have in our pockets and that is how he can bring her back to life after she has gone. You can always see the people you love through your phone or laptop, every time of the day, even when they are gone.

Ricky Gervais in After Life / Netflix
Ricky Gervais in After Life / Netflix

What can we learn from Tony's story?

Kerry: When someone close to you dies, you want to wear a sandwich board saying my wife has died, just so everyone leaves you alone, but that isn't how it works too often and Tony doesn't hold back when people try to give him sympathy or grief. When people shout 'Oi, cheer up' or 'Give us a smile, love' you don't know what's going on in their lives.

Tony understands how to deal with it and reacts differently now that Lisa has gone compared to what he might have done when she was alive. We see what presses his buttons now and it's part of understanding his grief.

Your character Sandy is one of the few who escapes Tony's abuse in After Life. Why does he spare you from criticism?

Mandeep: He can't be mean to me because he doesn't know me and I don't give him any reason to dislike me. I look at the way Tony speaks to other people and it is shocking at times, but he is kind to me. It was hard to keep a straight face at times because my character is looking in on the abuse he gives others a lot of the time.

How can you make comedy out of such a sombre subject?

There is something very funny about crying and laughing at the same time, both because you are happy and sad, but we have that a few times in this show. This is what Ricky does so well. He takes on topics most people would steer away from and that's why this show is so different and is being so well received.

MORE: Ricky Gervais thinks we should be able to make jokes about "anything" [EXCLUSIVE]

Do you think we will see a second season of After Life?

Mandeep: I'd love to do more. If we do series two of After Life, my character won't be the new girl anymore and maybe he will be a little less polite to her. I think she would quite like to be on the end of a few jokes from Tony, but that can only happen when he gets familiar with people around him.

I know Ricky has some ideas for the next series and I am intrigued to see what he has in mind. It was fantastic working on this project.

The cast of After Life / Netflix
The cast of After Life / Netflix

Words by Kevin Palmer, who you can follow on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer.

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