‘After Life’ star Kerry Godliman on how stand-up comedy saved her acting career

Kerry Godliman performing during the Teenage Cancer Trust comedy night, at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Picture date: Wednesday March 27, 2019. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
Kerry Godliman performing during the Teenage Cancer Trust comedy night, 2019. (Matt Crossick/Empics)

Kerry Godliman has fast become a household name thanks to her roles in popular shows such as After Life, Save Me and Our Girl, however, she very nearly ditched acting.

After graduating from Rose Bruford college in the ‘90s, she found acting roles to be few and far between, but as she revealed on White Wine Question Time, comedy thankfully came her way.

“I don't think I'd still be a performer, if it wasn't for stand up,” she told podcast host and pal Kate Thornton.

“I'd have given it up. I'd have knocked it on the head years ago because I did get odds and sods, and I did have an agent and I got the odd sort of four scenes on The Bill or Casualty, but it just wasn't enough.”

She continued: “And then stand-up came into my life and then I was like, 'Oh, I can do this. I can earn a living out of this. This is a sort of meritocracy where upon I can work hard, get better at something and get paid to do it.'”

The comedy scene also provided her with two of her biggest mentors: Micky Flanagan and Ricky Gervais. Kerry became friends with Micky on the comedy circuit and then got a huge break when she supported him on tour.

Read more: Kerry Godliman updates on After Life S3

“He was a circuit comic and a headliner, but still a circuit comic,” she said. “And then suddenly, he took off and I supported him on tour, which was a break as well. That was a really big break. He was really encouraging.”

Kerry Godliman says she has no idea what's in store for her character in series 3 of After Life (Getty)
Kerry Godliman says she has no idea what's in store for her character in series 3 of After Life (Getty)

And while she also “thinks” she met Ricky Gervais on the comedy circuit, the one thing she’s in no doubt of is that he has changed her career – and her life.

“He changed the course of my life without doubt,” she told Thornton of her relationship with The Office creator.

“When I got the part in Derek… I couldn't quite believe it! I got an email from my agent saying, Ricky would like to see you for this part in this thing. And I read it and I could see that it was a really great piece of work and that Hannah was a lovely part.

“I sort of said, ‘OK, I assume it's a normal audition and other people will be going up for it?’, and they were like, ‘No, no, no, he's not seeing anyone. He's sort of got you in mind for it’. And that is kind of one of those dream moments. Isn't it?”

Read more: After Life fans 'can't wait' as Ricky Gervais reveals he's started writing third series

Prior to having the support from an Emmy Award-winner like Ricky, Kerry says her parents were a huge influence and support system for her and her burgeoning career.

“If you end up sticking with something like this, a parent probably has played a part in that,” she stated.

“They drove me to all my clubs when I was a teenager and took me to my drama clubs. When I got into drama school, they supported that.

“They always encouraged it. They laughed at my stupid jokes! You know when kids are like trying to make their parents laugh and you think, 'Oh God, just go to bed' but they just indulged it.”

Now a regular on panel shows such as Mock The Week, Godliman said that it’s only in the last few years that she feels like her life has really come together.

“For years it felt like they were really incongruous worlds, where I was a stand-up on the circuit and that's, you know, a job,” she told Thornton.

Read more: Three-quarters of comedy venues ‘could shut in next year’ without financial help

“And then there was the acting side, where you've got these auditions and most of the time you don't get the job and sometimes you do. And it's a little bit part in a thing.

“After Derek, those two things clicked much more and I started getting more profile and then I could get more panel shows and I could come off the circuit and start touring and sell tickets off my own name and things like that started to kind of go up again. Behind that was years and years of just schlepping about.”

Hear Kerry talk more about After Life, what it’s like filming with Ricky Gervais and why she’s happy her character is dead! Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.