Katherine Ryan tells it like it is.
But it’s exactly this searing honesty that has won the Canadian-born comic a legion of fans on British soil.
Her latest project sees her jumping from the comedy stage into the world of small-screen streaming,as she executive produces, writes and stars in her debut scripted Netflix series, The Duchess.
She plays single mother Katherine,who contemplates having a second child with her ex–her daughter Olive’s dad-a former boy band member called Shep (played by Rory Keenan).
“I don't know what it's like to work with the BBC or Channel 4 on my own projects, because I’ve been very fortunate to be part of other people’s projects on British terrestrial channels, but I’ve not had anything of my own commissioned, nothing narratively, but Netflix have always been really supportive and very loyal in giving me opportunities when I was totally unknown,” she says.
“I mean, I’m still pretty basically unknown,apart from on one small island,” she adds, that comedic streak never far away.
“But to let me do stand-up specials was amazing and really gave me an opportunity to tour a bit outside of the UK,and they were my first choice for The Duchess.
“I had some meetings out in America with other traditional networks and channels, and I could tell that there are boundaries there, you have to have episodes that are this long, and they come out every week,and Netflix allowed me to be an executive producer and to have a lot more control over the narrative and to tell my authentic story. So,it really was the dream to be with Netflix and I was just really happy and surprised they said yes.”
Speaking of saying yes, the actress and comedian, 37, recently entered a civil partnership with her childhood sweetheart Bobby Kootstra,after rekindling their relationship following 20 years apart. She also has a daughter, Violet,11,from a previous relationship.
Asked what it’s like playing an ‘exaggerated, comedic’ version of herself in The Duchess, she says it’s a role she’s comfortable in.
“It’s really fun,and I feel that that's what I've been doing on stage for the last 15 years, playing an exaggerated version of myself, and the real challenge in my career has been figuring out a way to be transparent and be authentic, and tell my central truth without infringing on anyone else's privacy,” she says.
“So,my friends and family and my daughter even really trust me to be very forthcoming and to share as much as I can with an audience, but not to really reveal too much about their lives.
“I’m very comfortable in this exaggerated, glamorous version of myself because I've known her for over a decade, and this was just a different long form incarnation of that.In stand up,I have to do punchlines and have a rhythm,but in a sitcom,I was able to stretch it out and to have collaboration.
”While this is her debut scripted series,Katherine is no stranger to TV, of course, having featured on shows including 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Taskmaster and Have I Got News For You, as well as Netflix comedy specials.
She also appeared in the 16th series of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, joining the likes of Daniel Radcliffe and Kate Winslet in tracing their ancestry with the help of the Bafta-winning genealogy show.
In The Duchess, Shep is a former Irish boyband member, still trying to ride his 15 minutes of fame. Talking about the character, Katherine explains: “Well, my dad is from Cork... I grew up with an Irish dad and my parents had a tumultuous divorce, so I liked the element that I was almost drawing on my own fantasy of how my parents perhaps could have handled themselves and put aside their differences.
“And when I first moved to the UK in the Noughties, there was this boom of girl bands, boy bands, we didn't have the same saturation in Canada at all. We had some, we were even exposed to Five a little bit, and then we had American boybands, but it was only when I visited Cork and then when I moved to the UK that I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is really something else here’. I've watched a lot of their careers, I’m very fascinated with pop culture generally, but also what is the trajectory and where does it end up, and how eccentric do they become once it's over. I just think it's a very unique way to live your life. I've always been fascinated by boybands.”
She’s pragmatic when it comes to gauging how people will receive the series.
“I count on people not liking it, and that's always been a part of what I do,” she admits. “It is so impossible to be liked by everyone, and I wish I knew that when I was a teenager.
“Of course, my preference is that people enjoy it. I don't think anyone goes to work hoping to disappoint the general public. I would be so thrilled if people laughed and if people related, and if people loved it-but the reality is,especially when you are a divisive character as I am, there will be people who aggressively hate it, and/or feel confused/attacked by it.
“I think it's out of my hands now,” she reasons.
“I tried the best that I could to make a project that was authentic to me and that people would love, and if they don't then they are entitled not to”.
The Duchess is available now on Netflix