Goodbye Kim Craig, hello Gina Rileyano. Comedian Gina Riley tells ANNA BRAIN how her obsession with The Real Housewives of Melbourne became a comedic reality.
WHEN comedian Gina Riley watched
The Real Housewives of Melbourne (“I’m obsessed, obsessed!” she says), one character stood out. It was Gina Liano, the barrister with huge hair and formidable drag-queen style.
“Sometimes you watch a show and think, ‘Yes, I could do that, I know the essence of that person’,” Riley says. “And of course the look is so magnificent.”
In a cloud of spray tan and with some clever wig work, her alter ego, Gina Rileyano, was born. The character is one of many to appear on Foxtel’s
new sketch comedy, Open Slather. Produced by Rick McKenna ( Kath & Kim) and Laura Waters ( We Can Be
Heroes), it brings an old gang to a new show with a big ask – to make an hour of sketch comedy each week, for 20 weeks.
“We’ve always said we’d love to do another sketch show, so be careful what you wish for,” Riley, whose arguably most identifiable role came as the inimitable Kim Craig on cult Aussie comedy Kath & Kim, says. The cast reunites several of Riley’s
Fast Forward cohort, including Jane Turner, Magda Szubanski, Marg Downey, Glenn Robbins and Michael Veitch. New to the group are Stephen Curry and Shane Jacobson, and there’s a solid list of up-andcomers, such as Emily Taheny ( Mad As Hell) rounding out the numbers.
“Rick had this idea that maybe it’s time to do a sketch show, but get really
fantastic young guns to do it,” Riley says. “And get the old clacks in as well, we can do all our party pieces.”
While she won’t name names, Riley confirms that some old favourite characters will make a comeback in Open
Slather. In addition to playing the costume-intensive Gina Rileyano (“it takes a village to get me done”), she’ll also take on would-be US President Hillary Clinton.
“My Hillary [impression] is all right, it needs a little work. I’m just getting the wig right and all that. Oh my god we’re obsessed with wigs, totally. A good wig goes a long way.”
Riley has been absent from our screens for a couple of years, last seen in 2012’s Kath & Kimderella. In March 2013, she released a statement to announce she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, urging others to get a check-up, “preferably by a health professional”.
“I know whenever I read of other women finding breast cancer I want to know, how it was found and were there any warning signs?” the statement read.
“The cancer has been found early and is treatable and for that I feel lucky and grateful. I am being looked after by an amazing medical team.”
An intensely private person, Riley made it known she would not comment on her illness again. Though she is an extroverted performer, she says being herself in public “doesn’t come naturally to me”.
“My career is one thing, I’m a character actor, I’ve come to realise that’s what I am. I write and I’m a character actor. And I don’t like being myself in public. I feel like they’re two very separate things, and I feel very happy with that.”
Though she’s getting back to her comedy roots, Riley’s working life is also headed in an exciting new direction. She is currently filming ABC drama A Beautiful Lie, a contemporary re-imagining of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
“I really wanted to broaden what I’m doing and work with some other people. Kath & Kim took up 12 or 13 years of my life completely, producing and creating.
“This came up and I’m in the middle of doing it, it’s been such an amazing experience. It’s real acting, no wigs. No wigs!
“I’m kind of up for all new experiences, which is the great thing about Open Slather. We can come and do our party bits, then have a week off to do something else. I’m loving that aspect of it.”
TONIGHT, 7.30PM, COMEDY CHANNEL
Sketchy: Shane Jacobson,
Magda Szubanski, Glenn Robbins, Gina Riley and Michael Veitch will line
up the laughs in