The Duchess star Katherine Ryan: “Single motherhood is nothing to be ashamed of”

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Katherine Ryan speaks to Stylist about her new Netflix sitcom The Duchess. 

Historically, single mothers on screen – as in life – have been painted as bedraggled, pitiable and powerless.  However Katherine Ryan’s new comedy The Duchess aims to redress that balance. She discusses the show in this week’s Stylist magazine, which you can download on the App Store or Google Play.

The Duchess on Netflix
The Duchess on Netflix

The show, which the succesful comedian, created and stars in, is centred on Katherine, a single mother. She wants another baby and has to decide whether to have one by artificial insemination, or with the father of her daughter, who she largely loathes. 

Ryan describes her protagonist as someone who “exits the house each day with intention”. She is unapologetic, often hostile, wears high fashion to do the school run, lives in a beautiful home and is a potter. “I was really careful to avoid using language like ‘a sweary mom’, ‘a sassy mom’, ‘a feisty mom’, to describe her,” she says of creating the role. “I wanted to be careful to use language about this character that wouldn’t be used about a father.” 

The Duchess on Netflix
The Duchess on Netflix

Ryan goes on to talk about the importance of challenging the stereotype of single mothers in the six part series  – something she has experience of after raising her daughter Violet solo after moving to London twelve years ago. 

“It was really important to show that single motherhood was nothing to be ashamed of. When I was raising my daughter, it certainly wasn’t an aspect of my life that I disparaged or made me less attractive or less valuable. It’s something that is actually a lot easier, in many ways, than having a man around.”

The Duchess on Netflix
The Duchess on Netflix

She also talks about the social pressures put on women, and the expectation that they have to shape themselves to make themselves amenable. “Women are still expected to be likeable first and foremost. I am expected to be likeable and I’m not, because of my job. They’ll only hire me if they can compare me to a duvet,” says Ryan. “I thought, ‘What made Tony Soprano likeable?’ He was a mobster who murdered people. He was a terrible husband. I don’t think a woman has to be nice and warm to be likeable.”

To read Katherine Ryan’s full interview download Stylist magazine on the App Store or Google Play. Pricing for our digital magazine starts at just 99p for a single issue, or £21.99 for a full year’s subscription –that’s less than 50p a week.

The Duchess is on Netflix now 

Images: Netflix 

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