Over the past decade, Charlotte Ritchie has become one of the most well-known faces on British television. With roles on Fresh meat, Feel good, Call the midwife and Ghosts, as well as appearances on Tyrant, Doctor Who and Death in paradise, the actress is perhaps one of the most sought-after sitcom stars of her generation.
Today, she would like to point out that it’s because of hard work and not because of the pervasive rumor that her maternal grandfather is Richard Burton.
“I don’t know where it came from,” she said. “It’s boring. Only because it’s not true – my real grandfather would be really bored.
And because her career would have been considerably easier if she had had this connection with the legendary comedian. “The industry is so focused on relationships and who you know,” she says.
That’s not to say comedy isn’t in his blood. Her real grandfather, who died before she was born, actually performed in the theater and her grandmother was a TV actress in the 1940s – though Ritchie is quick to dismiss the idea that their genes helped her. in any way.
Speaking via video, Ritchie, 31, is affable, talkative and passionate about her work. We are here to talk about the return of Ghosts, the hit BBC sitcom in which she stars as Alison, a woman who inherits a mansion haunted by chaotic and charismatic ghouls, with whom only she – and not her husband Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) – can communicate.
“As soon as I read the scripts for my audition, I knew this was a really special show,” Ritchie said. Made by the same team behind the ironic children’s series Horrible stories, the comedy was praised for its silliness and tenderness when it premiered in 2019 and has since been nominated for three Baftas and two Royal Television Society awards.
“There is something for everyone,” says Ritchie. “It’s very little cynical and it’s very sweet. He’s not knocking: he’s sophisticated in that regard. He doesn’t need a punching bag to be funny. He doesn’t compromise on anything to be a family show.
The fact that this is one of the few family sitcoms on TV is its greatest strength: subtle puns and cheeky adult references are mixed alongside slapstick and childish humor.
Alison and Mike share their home with specters from caveman Robin (Laurence Rickard) and witch-trial victim Mary (Katy Wix) to 80s conservative politician Julian (Simon Farnaby) and sane Boy Scout leader Pat (Jim Howick): Everyone has their own death story to tell.
“The characters are so rich and so perfect for young minds to get hooked: they’re so complex and weird,” says Ritchie.
“They didn’t write it specifically for kids, they just happen to be able to watch it without being traumatized.”
Growing up in Westminster, Ritchie was allowed to watch limitless TV and was herself traumatized for years by The job, which she saw with her older siblings.
“I watched this when I was seven. I had nightmares for years.
She was captivated by television and movies from an early age and dreamed of being in a sitcom – “that was my # 1 life goal”. But she never considered acting as real work. “I didn’t know anyone who was an actor growing up,” she says.
While studying at James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich, 11-year-old Ritchie joined the British Youth Music Theater and embarked on a two-week tour of Japan, performing in the Arthurian play Pendragon. She caught the virus and continued to act professionally until at age 15 she landed a role in a movie, Open doors, opposite Michael Sheen and Cherie Lunghi.
“My family was very supportive of me, with the caveat that I would make enough money and go to college to have a replacement,” Ritchie says.
“My dad recently stopped telling me to train as a masseuse or hairdresser – any freelance work that people will ever need. “
Therefore, despite having professional experience under her belt, she continued to study English at the University of Bristol with the aim of becoming a teacher.
But in her senior year, she was chosen as Oregon in Fresh meat, a quirky comedy about a group of Manchester University students written by Peep Show‘s Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain who would propel her to stardom on television. Oregon was a stuck, secretly wealthy and ambitious young woman who desperately wanted to be loved: the character allowed Ritchie to be both comedic and serious comedienne when she embarked on a tumultuous affair with her tutor, Tony.
Jack Whitehall, Zawe Ashton and Joe Thomas also played pivotal roles in the series, which ran for four series until 2016. Ritchie believes she would have given up acting without it.
“These people laid the foundation for what I expect on a set, and they set such high standards,” she recalls of her castmates. “They were kind, caring and funny. It was a really good first job, strictly speaking.
They’re all part of a WhatsApp group and trying to plan a way to mark the show’s 10th anniversary next month. The experience has taught her how to dig under a character’s skin and how much she appreciates teamwork: every series she’s been on since – Ghosts, Call the midwife, Dead pixels – also had an ensemble cast.
“People who enjoy the real job rather than seeking some sort of fame or glory tend to be the ones who make the industry better,” she says.
Although she has spent over a decade working in television and film, Ritchie tries to stay away from the celebrity world and cares deeply about how the day-to-day running of a set can be. improved. She says show business can be an industry of “people and ego,” something she tries to avoid for herself at all costs.
“If someone gets big enough, then that personality will trump any type of behavior,” she adds.
“There are countless stories of bad and disrespectful behavior on the part of people too fat to be eliminated. There is such a reverence towards famous people that sometimes is not really justified. The best people in life are the ones who consider how their actions could affect someone else. “
One project that Ritchie is particularly proud of because of his sensitivity is the Channel 4 and Netflix romcom Feel good, with perhaps its best performance. She plays George, a young teacher who falls in love with Mae (Mae Martin, who co-writes the semi-autobiographical show with Joe Hampson), a Canadian comedian struggling with substance abuse and PTSD. It’s a nuanced exploration of dysfunctional love and the fluid nature of sexuality – its second series launched in June.
George moves away from Ritchie’s more explicitly comedic roles, putting storylines and character development before jokes. “I feel grateful,” Ritchie says. “I’m not a writer, so I rely on other people’s talent for the roles I play. With Feel good I feel in such safe hands that I can happily line up and feel like they’ve done justice to the character and the whole storyline.
She and Martin have an “extremely close” friendship, which, according to Ritchie, “makes the story stronger and the characters deeper.” She adds, “It’s amazing to be able to be on a show that touched so many people, when all I do is really say their words.”
Feel good has been an international success and, even after performing in hits such as Call the midwife, it is the project for which it is the most recognized today. Being approached is “intimidating,” she says – she still lives near her family in London and tries to keep a low profile – “but once you start talking to people and realize that the thing is common is that you both think the show you’re in is great, there is a charming side to it. It must be harder to be recognized for things you are not proud of – a criminal wanted, or someone who has been publicly humiliated, perhaps.
Does she already see herself famous? “Oh, I’m incredibly famous,” she says. “My grandfather is Richard Burton.”
Ghosts is on BBC iPlayer and Mondays on BBC One at 8:30 p.m.
Struggling to find your next favorite TV series?
The i on TV newsletter is a daily email full of suggestions for things to watch as well as the latest TV news, opinions and interviews. Sign up here to stay up to date with the best new TV.