Interview with Niecy Nash
What about ‘Getting On’ and the role of DiDi Ortley appealed to you?
I mainly do very big comedies, and this was very scaled back. ‘Getting On’ is a dark comedy, which is something I didn’t have on my resume, so it was a very different thing to take on. I was originally brought in to audition for the role of Dawn [played by Alex Borstein], but after reading the first two scripts, I thought this other character, Marta, was amazing. At first the producers said “no” when I asked to audition for her because they couldn’t see me in the role. But once I started to explain what I loved about the character and they saw how excited I was, they finally agreed. I’m so happy they did, because that’s the role I wound up booking -- Marta eventually became DiDi.
Marta was a 60-something white woman [based on the character in the original BBC show], and she was coming back to work after she’d retired. They rewrote her as DiDi, and she’s a new hire with some nursing experience.
Do you have any favorite scenes?
I loved my “Language Line” translation scene from episode one. I think we could have had a whole episode from just that scene if they’d used all the footage. My lines on the phone to the interpreter were scripted, but what Alex said to me, and how I repeated it back, was a real game of telephone.
‘Getting On’ is filmed with minimal makeup and natural lighting. Have you ever worked on a show like this before?
You mean where we look hideous?
You don’t look hideous!
Oh, yes we do! Oh my goodness, we look horrible! America has seen us with our real faces. I got so scared that perhaps people would want to put us on a magazine cover looking just like our characters with the scrubs and the lighting. That’s the part where you’re going to start crying. That’s not a magazine you’re going to want to send to your grandmamma!
How does DiDi feel about her co-workers after witnessing their antics during her nightshift?
She thinks these people are crazy! This is the unraveling; before, she was trying to give everyone a fair shake and understood her role in the pecking order. But after everything happens, she just thinks, “These people are bananas, but this is my crowd. This is the hand I’ve been dealt.”
Is that why she assures Dawn she’s not going anywhere?
I think her situation is a lot like a marriage. Once you’re in it, there’s a feeling, “Let’s ride it out. It is what is.” I also think that DiDi probably feels like “woe to the patients” if she’s not there. Because somebody has to put them first, before wanting to date Patsy, before wanting to make a new Bristol Stool Chart. Somebody has to be the one to hold the patients’ hands, to brush their hair, to tell them it’s going to be okay.
DiDi’s compassion really sets her apart from the rest of the staff.
I love that about her. That’s the part of my personality that I bring to this character. That’s why I think we’re the same.
Is that what made DiDi appeal to you more than Dawn?
Actually, when I read the script, I looked past Dawn at the role that’s now DiDi because I kept seeing the look on her face. I thought it would be so interesting to tell a story just through a look on a character’s face. She has so many moments where she can convey so much without saying a word.