When Kerry Godliman was cast as Lisa, the deceased wife of Ricky Gervais’s character Tony in After Life, she never could have predicted the impact her role would have.
In fact, her performance left even her own husband Ben Abell in tears after he watched the show on his own!
The actress, who is mum to daughter Elsie, 13, and son Frank, 10, has the rare ability to make you laugh and cry in the same breath. But, she jokes, “I have played the odd w****r too and that’s loads of fun!”
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Kerry has certainly proved her talent across the board. She also starred in Ricky’s Derek, and has now reprised her role as Teens in Sky Original series Save Me Too, alongside Lennie James and Suranne Jones.
When she’s not on screen, she can be found flexing her funny bones on the stand-up circuit – though, sadly, she had to postpone her UK tour four days in due to lockdown.
Here, the 46-year-old opens up about coming back from the dead and why she’s keen to hand her trade down to her children…
Have you been surprised by the reception to After Life?
I’m overwhelmed. My kids showed me people on Gogglebox watching After Life, crying and in pieces. It was really amazing watching people react to it. Whenever people say, “What happens with Lisa in the next series?” I’m like, “Erm, she’s still dead.” It’s a real gift of a part for me. She’s not in it much at all but she’s so integral to it.
What is Ricky like as a boss?
He’s easygoing. People always want to know what Ricky is like but they already do because what you see is Ricky. There isn’t another persona that he’s hiding. I think the fact he is authentic is part of his success. That Ricky you know from stand-up and TV, that’s him.
How are you and your family finding life in lockdown?
It’s up and down but that’s the same for everyone. I don’t see a great deal of my teenager. Every part of her just wants to be with her mates, and she’s stuck with us. But I think they are enjoying being at home. They’ve been really good. Everyone is worried about them missing school but the kids aren’t! [Laughs].
If your kids wanted to go into the acting industry, would you encourage that?
My daughter did do drama and she has just said she wants to pack it all in. I was a bit upset because I suppose in a way, if you have a trade, there is a tradition of expecting your kids to do it as well. It’s what I know, whereas if she decides to go into another area, I can’t guide her, which is maybe why she wants to drop drama in the first place! The last thing a 13-year-old wants is their parents’ advice. I’ve got so much out of it – it’s hard, but I think life’s hard.
What’s your dream role?
Casting is a funny one. Few performers get to have a really broad range. I have a show coming up in autumn called Adult Material, and my part in that was completely different to anything I’ve done before. She’s a barrister and MP, and I really enjoyed it. Because of class and your accent, you get boxed in. I’ll invariably be playing care home managers, PCs and nurses, but I don’t get to play doctors and barristers. In the casting, I asked if they wanted me to do it in RP [Received Pronunciation, often considered standard English] and they said, “No, do your accent.” That was great.
Have you noticed a difference in the roles out there for women during your career?
I definitely think it’s got better. As a comedian, there were very few female comics that were household names when I started out. With acting, things like Fleabag and Killing Eve are game-changers. There is a real appetite for women’s stories and that’s exciting. It used to be if there was one decent part floating around, all the women that you knew would be going up for it. Even with writing, there was a time you’d pitch and they’d go, “Oh, well, we’ve got Miranda now, so we don’t need any more.” That doesn’t feel as true any more.
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How was it reuniting with Lennie, Suranne and the rest of the cast for Save Me Too?
They are a really lovely crowd and there’s a real sense of camaraderie with that lot. I think because the bits we shot in the pub are quite intense and are long days. All the pub lot, we just had a sense of bonding because of the nature of the shoot.
Save Me Too is available on digital now and on DVD alongside Save Me 1 and 2 box set from 22 June.
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