'Everyone is grieving': Ahead of season 2, Ricky Gervais tells ITV News about the 'overwhelming' response to After Life

As Ricky Gervais showed me around the set of After Life, the black comedy he created and directs, he says “Netflix was made for me.”

It was last October, and his show set in the fictional town of Tambury, in the offices of The Tambury Gazette, was being filmed for its second series.

ITV News had been invited to meet the characters he’d created to much acclaim, for the streaming platform, from the paper’s editor Matt played by Tom Baden to the advertising employee Kath played by Diane Morgan.

His praise for the streaming service was based on it giving him final edit of his work, control over the end product, that he said wasn’t so easy to come by on some channels.

We were speaking many months of course before Netflix revealed the stunning rise in subscribers - up by nearly 16 million globally in the first three months of the year.

Programmes like the bizarre Tiger King proving irresistible viewing during lockdown.

Netflix has high hopes that the second series of After Life - all thankfully completed before the global halt in most TV and film production - will prove another big hit.

It tells the story of Tony Johnson, played by Gervais, who is dealing with the tragic death of his wife and is angry at the world.

It is poignant but it is incredibly funny too.

Gervais says he was overwhelmed by the reception to the first series and at the response he gets on the street to the show’s depiction of bereavement which he wants to portray in brutal honesty.

"I've never had a reaction like it," he said. "And I think it was the emotional response that hit more than anything. Because you're in shows that people laugh at, that they love, but with this, we had people coming up to us and saying, 'I lost my wife three months before I watched it.'

"And you think, 'oh, yeah, everyone is grieving.' Everyone is grieving.

"Everyone's gone through it, everyone's going through it to a greater or lesser degree. And you don't think about that because people don't go up to strangers and say 'I lost my wife', but they do to us, because they've got a reason to.

"It's been overwhelming."

Our interview last year, happened before Gervais was announced as the host of this year’s Golden Globes back in January, where his attempts to be brutally honest about celebrities had mixed responses.

But he told me that he now simply wants to be honest whatever the response, in all his work.

Of course right now the world is dealing with death in a way and on a scale none of us anticipated.

But like Tony the character Gervais plays, it is perhaps teaching us to value life, and the quality life, what’s really important to us.

After Life series two is released on Netflix on Friday, April 24.