With the recent news that Channel 4 have given Ricky Gervias’ comedy Derek a second series for 2014, I spoke with actress Kerry Godliman about the reaction to the series, working with Ricky and Karl Pilkington and her TV obsessions.
How did you become involved with the series?
My agent rang and said they wanted to see me for Ricky’s next project. I got sent the script and read it and immediately thought that is a part I want to play. I auditioned and we did a few improvisations. He asked some questions which he wanted me to answer in character. It was very relaxed and I remember feeling really excited about it.
How have fans reacted to this first series?
Generally very well. Most people I speak to love it. I find the warmth and affection for it has been really lovely.
What do you make of the criticism that the series has received?
I’m not sure I fully understand the criticism. No one has come out and said that he shouldn’t be playing a character with special needs. No one really seems to know what their opinion is and they watch it and realise it’s harmless. He doesn’t portray anyone spitefully. I think whatever Ricky does he gets a bit of stick but what’s brilliant about him is he’s relatively immune to it. I’m fascinated by that because most people are neurotic about what people think of them so I think he’s attitude is admirable.
Do you find Hannah an easy character to play?
I wish I was more like Hannah. People think I’m like her and I’m not I must confess. Ricky’s written so well that’s she’s just real and a down to earth woman.
What hopes do you have for her as a character?
I think her main priority is that the care home is financially secure and she’d put that before her personal life. She probably would like to have a relationship, but I don’t think she knows how to have work life balance.
How does Hannah view Derek?
I think she adores Derek, she thinks he’s perfect.
Why does she put up with Kev?
I’ve had mates that have said “wouldn’t Hannah kick him out?”, but I think because Derek loves him so much that’s enough for her. Hannah’s a natural carer and just because Kev is dysfunctional foul and revolting it doesn’t mean that he isn’t someone who requires care. Her nature is to care and I think she’s sees him as a lost soul.
How did you find working with the older cast members?
They were absolutely delightful and made the job a pleasure. They made the set very relaxing. There was a woman doing a jigsaw and she did that jigsaw for six weeks. She got really annoyed that it had to be taken apart for continuity. She’ll be over the moon about a second series because she might get to finish it!
What was the pace like on set?
Ricky has a reputation for being very relaxed which is easy. He knows what he wants and he knows how to get it so it moves very quickly.
What is Karl Pilkington like to work with?
He’s been so brilliant. His is a totally authentic performance. He’s such an unusual bloke, well he’s not unusual because there are million Karls up and down the country but what’s amazing is that there aren’t that many of them in this business. He’s a delight be around because he’s a down to earth geezer with no pretension.
And in general what’s it like working on a Ricky Gervais set?
Absolutely thrilling, really exciting and everyone loved being there. I think everyone was curious as to how it was going to turn out because I think Ricky’s taken a gamble with Derek and done something very unusual.
Was there any improvisation or does Ricky insist you stick to what’s on the page?
With the talking head parts he’d let you keep talking but they are predominantly scripted. I think with Dougie there’s a bit more room but for me it was scripted.
Did you find the more serious elements of the show like death difficult to do?
Not really, I would rather be involved in something that shows the full scope of reality and that deals with different emotions. These are things that happen in everyday life and I’d rather do that than do something very two dimensional. Hannah’s a richer and more rounded character because you see her happy and you see her sad. If you work in an old people’s home you are going to have to deal with people dying, so I didn’t find it hard at all as it made the job a deeper and richer experience.
How have you coped with being recognized since the series has been on?
I haven’t been recognized at all! When I was on the Isle of White this woman came up to me and said “Are you Hannah off Derek?” I said yes and she walked off!
What can you tell us about your role in upcoming BBC1 drama Our Girl?
She’s a woman who has 7 children and her eldest daughter played by Lacey (Turner) joins the army. I thought it was a really interesting script because it didn’t have any clichés in at all and said really original things about this young girl that didn’t have anything going for her in life who finds herself in an army recruitment office and signing up. It’s interesting what it explores.
Now that you’ve been on TV a bit do you still get the same thrill out of doing your stand-up?
I do yeah, there’s no buzz like stand-up really. It doesn’t matter how well acting is going, you’re always going to have to go through periods of unemployment. Stand-up is always there and I can always depend on it. The stand-up circuit is a lovely thing and you really feel in control, whereas with TV you don’t have any control most of the time.
Where would you like to see the characters go now that a second series has been confirmed?
I don’t know. There’s so many stories with the older people because we can cover the family members so you tell many stories through them. I’d like Hannah to have some romance and to see Broadhill financially secure.
I liked your relationship with the young community service girl Vicky.
Yes she’s amazing. Ricky’s very good at writing for women. He did it with the Office and Extras and now with Derek. I think Hannah gives Vicky some hope and I think she can see a bit of herself in her.
What do you love and loathe on TV?
I’ve never been a big fan of reality TV. I knew right from the first Big Brother that it wasn’t for me. It’s such grubby TV. I’ve got a peculiar fascination with Location, Location, Location. I think it’s the sexual tension between those two presenters, it’s like Moonlighting you just want them to get together! I love it, I don’t know why. I watch a lot of BBC4 documentaries. I don’t watch as much drama as I’d like but I think when my kids are a bit older I’ll probably catch up on a lot of telly. I do love Call the Midwife.
Do you watch yourself?
I have been watching Derek. I’d watch that even if it I wasn’t in it because I’d watch anything Ricky does. My husband is watching it too. He tells me I’m nothing like Hannah. I put the brilliance of it down to Ricky and the writing is fantastic.
Derek is soon to be shown on Netflix in America.
Yes! I doubt it’ll have a massive impact on my life but it’s very exciting. I hope it translates as well as his other work has but I think there’s something uniquely British about Derek.
Derek concludes Wednesday night at 10.00pm on Channel 4.