Katherine Ryan: It's encouraging to see comedy embrace 'layered' female leads

Katie Rosseinsky
·2-min read
Getty Images
Getty Images

Katherine Ryan feels “encouraged” to see “so many different voices and so many layered female leads” in recent hit comedies - but is not surprised by their success.

The Canadian comedian, 37, wrote and stars in new Netflix show The Duchess, which was inspired by her experiences of being a single parent to her 11-year-old daughter. She has also released two stand-up specials on the streaming service.

Ryan told the Standard that she “always knew” more diverse voices in comedy would break through to a mainstream audience, describing it as “just a matter of when.”

“All of us have just been honing our craft for a dozen years, 15 years, 20 years,” she said. “It’s only now that a lot of different voices are being commissioned, whether they are from different cities, economic backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, genders, but we knew it was going to happen.

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“It’s kind of lovely to have been given all this secret time to perfect your voice and just to write what you know. Certainly [The Duchess] is my first show, but I knew exactly who I was as a performer and what I wanted to say. That wouldn’t have been the case when I was 23.”

Ryan plays a “stage version” of herself in the six-part series, which sees her character grapple with the possibility of having a second child with her feckless ex-boyfriend.

She said that her work is “a delicate mixture of truth and fiction” and admitted it was “really liberating” to play a heightened version of herself on screen.

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“I really do wish I was more disruptive like [my character] is,” she revealed. “It’s really liberating to have a version of yourself that does shout at the mums at the school gate.

“[Fans] don’t always separate me from that stage persona. They say ‘Oh, Katherine Ryan would be so much fun to go for a drink with.’ Well that’s not true. I’m very introverted and I’m not the party girl.”

The comic said she was “passionate” about portraying single motherhood in a more “realistic” light in her series after finding that most shows didn’t reflect “the experiences of any single mother I know.”

“I think it's really important to show that this woman is problematic, but her problem isn't her child,” she explained. “She messes up her life in different ways, but it's not because she's a single mother.”

The Duchess is available to stream on Netflix now

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