The stars of After Life have admitted they were concerned the world may not be ready to laugh again as the second season of the hit Netflix show premiered in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown.
Speaking to Female First on a Zoom call, After Life creator Ricky Gervais was joined by his co-stars, Tony Way and Jo Hartley, who play on-screen couple Lenny and June, as they reflected on the success of a show that has been constantly trending on the streaming service since it was launch last month.
The comedy-drama that follows the despair of Gervais' character Tony as he comes to terms with the loss of his beloved wife was a huge success when it launched last year, yet Way admits he was unsure whether fans of the show were ready to deal with subjects that are very raw at this moment in our collective lives.
"It certainly deals with some of the themes we are going to have to deal with a lot more in real life at the moment… especially death," explained Way. "This first series definitely touched a chord with people who have been through similar (experiences) to Ricky's character.
"I have been stopped a few times in the street with people saying they have lost someone too. This show is a very real representation of what it is like to go through that. There are happy moments, there are sad moments.
"I think with coronavirus, it's good to have the subject brought up. it's nice to have a laugh to take your mind off it as well. The idea of death is in people's faces a lot more… just in general. We need to talk about it a bit more."
Way's co-star and onscreen girlfriend Jo Hartley accepts that some people may find After Life difficult to stomach whilst grieving themselves, having struggled with her own personal grief.
"I've lost a parent and it's very difficult to know how to respond," she told us. "You often feel guilty for laughing afterwards. You feel confused and upset.
"I hope this show offers some identification. It's very grounded in love and hope but it's also grounded in reality. It might be too close for some people to watch right now but hopefully they'll find it when they need to.
"It's just one man's journey through grief and losing his best friend, his wife, his life partner into finding the ability to connect and be more useful in the world. Hopefully we can offer compassion and connection to people who are struggling."
Gervais admits he has been blown away by the reaction of season two, as he suggests the timing of its release may have hit a chord with millions of viewers around the world.
"Clearly I didn't write this at a moment when I felt we would be where we are now, but there is a spirit to it that makes you feel like it was done just for this period in our lives," says Gervais.
"This is a sitcom that touches on a very important and significant subject in all of our lives and that's death. It just so happens that there is a lot of it around right now.
"Right now, we are all reflecting on our families, the elderly, the people that mean the most to us and making sure they are all safe and healthy.
"They're the subjects After Life focuses on and I have always said that no topic is off limits when you are trying to find humour.
"Hopefully this show resonates now more than ever and why After Life might work now for some people is because they are all at home crying out for some good programmes to watch on TV. They are tired of TV that involves people talking to each other on Zoom and want to see something filmed on proper cameras and with a budget.
"The subject in this show is dark, but death is part our lives, probably now more than it has been ever before because we are all thinking about our own mortality now. This is still entertainment and it's meant to make people feel better."
With the Covid-19 lockdowns inspiring a huge boom in TV viewing in the first half of 2020, Netflix have seen bumper viewing figures for the second season of After Life and Gervais has confirmed he will write a third season of one of his shows for the first time.
All episodes of After Life are available to stream and download now on Netflix.
Words by Kevin Palmer and Bobbi Hadgraft; you can follow Kevin on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer.