Interview: Gemma Whelan

Can you tell us about how it’s going working on Game of Thrones (no spoilers) and The End of the F***ing World? How are you making it work around and through your pregnancy?
I have been very lucky with my timing I think. GoT had wrapped for season 7 before I was pregnant and IF I’m in the next series the baby will be here already so no giant belly for Yara! As far as TEOTFW goes, I was so pleased they were happy to work around my pregnancy. I was beginning to give up hope of working while pregnant, I’d missed out on a couple of jobs because they ran over my due date or the character wouldn’t work if she was pregnant, then I met for TEOTFW and their attitude was so refreshing. Kharmel Cochrane the casting director for the job was actually the first person to introduce me to Raising Films. She and everyone on the team were so relaxed about it, they were very happy to work around the growing bump, as we decided the character shouldn’t be pregnant, we shot around it, and everyone was on ‘bump watch’ in case it showed in any of the shots, but it was all fine and I felt so empowered by the team. A true breath of fresh air for which I am so grateful. I could enjoy being pregnant and not worry about it holding me back, which I think is a worry for many actor mums-to-be. Especially workaholic ones like me!

 

How do you think that becoming a parent might affect your professional life and the work you do – in terms of new interests, potentially, as well as practical issues?
I haven’t a clue and don’t want to make any predictions or lay down any expectations. I will take it as I find it and as we, as parents, see best to proceed. I am very keen to keep working and share the child-care with my husband and mum. We will make it work I have no doubt.

 

Do you think that film and television are more or less practical/welcoming workplaces than live comedy for a pregnant person and/or a parent?
I don’t have any experience of doing live comedy as a pregnant woman. I can only say that so far, even though the baby isn’t here yet, the television jobs I have coming up have been very normal about it all and are happy to support me and the baby in any way needed. I really feel as though things aren’t as scary and terrifying as I thought they would be as a new mum in the industry.

 

What advice would you offer someone thinking about becoming a comedian and actor, and wanting to have a family life as well? What (useful and/or terrible) advice have you been given?
I was always told to ‘just do it’ if I wanted to have a baby as there is never a good time. So I did. I think this is superb advice, things just slot into place if you stay relaxed and go with the flow, and I really didn’t think they would, I had a lot of anxiety around it and then it turned out there’s loads of support and understanding and most people in the industry I have come across have a great attitude towards women and their babies or babies to be.

 

Is there anyone who has become a role model for you – and why? Have you seen inspirational work practices out there? 
All mums making their work/life balance make sense for them. Women are made of strong stuff and anything is possible if you want it enough. I would cite Alice Lowe as she is my friend and a great inspiration, as she made her film Prevenge during her pregnancy, adding fuel to the fact that we are not patients, we are warriors!

 

What good or bad attitudes towards pregnancy and parenthood have you encountered in the industry?
I feel very lucky in that so far I’ve only had a couple of jobs that didn’t work out because of due dates and filming/rehearsal schedules, which were totally understandable and I ended up with the wonderful job that was TEOTFW so it all worked out.

 

How are you planning to explain what you do at work to your child/ren
Haven’t thought about it! A bridge to cross in several years.

 

You said in an interview with the Independent that “mothers are always right”: what did you learn from your mother about life, work and being a parent? And how are you training for the motherhood task of always being right?
Did I!? HA! My mum will be pleased 🙂 However my mum is always right… it’s confounding. My mum is incredibly kind and very reliable. She has a sixth sense about things and just seems to know how I should proceed. Even if I don’t like what she says, I always know in my gut that she’s right. It’s hard to put words to what she’s taught me, but I feel I have good instincts, and often find myself doing what I know she would do. She has definitely given me what I consider to be a great attitude to life, with her it’s all about letting go and surrendering to what will unfold.

 

Finally, what would you most like to see change about the film and television industry, if anything? How do you think that change might come about?
I don’t think I‘m far enough down the track of motherhood yet to know the answer to this… come back to me in a few months.
*
Photograph (C) HBO. Game of Thrones is available on NOW TV.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *