Katherine Parkinson on Humans, being a working mum – and never escaping Maltesers
Katherine Parkinson definitely has the likeability factor. We liked her before we met her and, guess what, after our shoot we like her even more.
She is intelligent, warm, a bit geeky (which is always a good thing), very softly spoken and has – just as we hoped she would – the sharpest, driest sense
Perhaps first known for playing the naive Jen in comedy classic, The IT Crowd, now she has showcased her oh-so-serious acting abilities playing Laura, a high-flying lawyer in edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller Humans – which was so popular, it was Channel 4’s most-watched drama in 20 years.
Not to mention starring alongside the wonderful Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Honourable Woman last year and playing the loveable Pauline in Doc Martin – who Katherine describes as having “a bold slash utterly hideous dress sense”.
With co-stars Richard Ayoade and Chris O’Dowd in The IT Crowd
No horrendous outfits on our shoot though and, although Katherine is like Bambi on ice in every pair of high heels, we manage to get her in front of the camera for a few snaps. All while her favourite ever singer, Dolly Parton, sings along in the background.
Now starring in The Kennedys, a comedy series based on the book The Tent, The Bucket And Me, she plays Brenda, an enthusiastic wife and mother who is giddy with excitement about moving to Stevenage and throwing herself into the community. Her husband Harry Peacock also stars in the show, which they managed to do while looking after two young daughters, Dora, two and Gwendolyn, 11 months.
Sleep-deprived, but cheered up by having glamorous make-up and hair for a trip to the dentist after our shoot, Katherine takes some time out to talk and laugh about synths, Hollywood, breast pumps and not thinking she’s all that (but she is)…
Starring in Humans straight after having her baby
I said to my husband that it was going to be a no, then over the weekend he had started reading the script and was like, “Darling, you need to do this, it is really very good.” But I’d just a few weeks previously had a baby and was expecting to have six months off. I had no warning to stop eating. I was living in a vat of Nutella thinking it was all OK and then suddenly I had to be in front of a camera in three weeks.
I had an electric pump to breastfeed while filming. Those things are so unattractive. I was using it next to Colin Morgan (Leo) in the make-up chair – one of the sexiest actors ever. And I’m trying to feel like a woman next to him, but the noise it makes, good God.
Was it weird working alongside someone acting as a synth?
Yes and hats off to them all, it must have been very hard. They all decided on a language they would use too, one blink for yes, two for no. I would practise that in my quieter moments by myself.
What if next series your character Laura became a synth?
That’s my dream storyline, I’d love to have a bit of synth time. But I’d need six months of solid rehearsals. I think I’d be very giggly in synth form.
If synths were real, would you have one?
Initially I thought no but I think I’ve changed my mind. But they wouldn’t be allowed to read bedtime stories to my children. Ever.
Yes. I am a very hands-on mum. I surprised myself, I thought I’d be appalled by poo but it’s different when it’s your own child. To be honest I’m very territorial about nappies. I don’t like not being in charge of every single one, so yes. I’m not answering if I’m a hands-on wife though.
After an intense drama like Humans, was it nice going back into comedy for The Kennedys?
Yes and it was lovely to play Brenda Kennedy because I have never been more similar to a character in my life. She has a misplaced confidence that I have too. She takes her driving tests having no lessons at all. That’s absolutely something I would have thought was normal.
We thought it would be quite weird. The other day he was asked what it was like working with his wife and he just said,
Usually me and my husband would take it in turns to work. But my parents very kindly stepped in. I offered them money but they chucked it back at me. So I had to give my mother casual luxury gifts every now and again so I would feel less guilty.
I love the hair. And I would never have thought I would, growing up in the 70s. I mean, obviously I am far too young to remember the 70s. I was barely born. In fact, I wasn’t born then at all. But anyway, I am very much into vintage clothes so I loved it.
Your character Jen in The IT Crowd worked in a small office. Have you ever had a job like that?
I did a job where I had to call businesses up and check they were still at the same address. But I accidentally called the Houses of Parliament, asking if they were still at that address. The man who picked up said, “Darling, just think about what you’ve just asked me.” I also worked in TGI Fridays purely scooping ice cream for desserts. My hair kept falling on the plates, though. Puddings would come back with ginger hairs hanging off them.
Have you ever had a boss like Douglas Reynholm in The IT Crowd ?
I worked at a call centre for a bit and my boss was drunk. She said, “You, girl, have got to dance on the table” and I was thinking, “Do I? Surely not?” Anyway I never went back.
Your co-stars Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayoade have also been hugely successful- are you still in touch?
I saw Richard not that long ago. Chris lives in the states so not as much. I was invited to his wedding but unfortunately it was on my due date. So I couldn’t make it. But I would love to work with them again. Maybe not on The IT Crowd, I mean, I wouldn’t want people to see how much they have both aged. Because they really have.
Now Chris is a Hollywood star you could try and blag yourself into a nice film premiere…
I’m a little bit ‘stay at homey’. I have never been to Hollywood. I might have to bite the bullet soon but I’m scared of the long flight.
No. I don’t want to. I don’t know how that would work with my family and the kids schools. I grew up in London. I always thought I’d be in London. Well, Tolworth. But let’s say London, it sounds cooler.
To just be able to keep working comfortably. But never say never to America. I’m beginning to think I would dip my toe in, but it would only be that. Harry and I are fogies. We like staying in and watching X factor. And being with our children. But that’s their fault for being so enchanting and cute.
We would go to a rave. Absolutely. But honestly no, we live life like we’re 80. But I love musicals and have converted my husband. I went to see Les Misérables for my birthday.
Had you not gone into acting, what would you be doing?
In my dreams I would have been a top lawyer. Or a diplomat. But only a diplomat like the ones on the Ferrero Rocher advert. That’s all. Oh and an Astronaut.
If it all went away tomorrow, what would you miss?
The amount that I laugh at work. And being able to chat away to people all the time. And of course, making comedy that I myself think is genuinely hilarious. That’s the best.
She might be rolling with the big boys now, but we still love Katherine’s early work. Advertising Maltesers…
The memorable Maltesers adverts starring Katherine Parkinson
They still show the adverts on telly sometimes, do you ever see them?
Yes and I do get a bit cringe when I get recognised for Malteasers. I get pompous! As obviously I have done a fair bit since then, (laughs). But I don’t seem to have aged that much. And I was definitely drinking a lot and smoking at that time so I haven’t done too bad.
God, I wish. That would be amazing. But the amount of Maltesers I could put away, they would be out of business. I bought some the other day to make a birthday cake and they’re very good for decorating. See, still promoting Maltesers to this day.
Maybe they’ll read this and shower you with Maltesers based gifts…
I hope so. To be honest I would almost have liked to have been paid in Maltesers. It would have probably worked out about the same money. Not that the money wasn’t good or anything.
Tagged: Dolly Parton, Doc Martin, Richard Ayoade, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Katherine Parkinson, Colin Morgan, Harry Peacock, Brenda Kennedy
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