Kathy Burke has said she is proud of herself for saying no to a director who asked her to act out an intimate scene in a play when she was 18 years old.
The actress, playwright and theatre director has also said that she was overlooked for certain roles because she was not a “pretty girl”, but that she thinks she is “gorgeous” and she has faith in her own talent.
Speaking to The Observer, the 53-year-old said: “Growing up in the 70s, if you were a girl or woman, a man could tell you what to do – if you were sitting on the bus: ‘Get up,’ ‘Move,’ whatever. You did what you were told.
“I got some backbone and realised, no, I don’t need to be spoken to like this.”
Burke was cast in a play as a mentally ill patient in a psychiatric hospital who was being abused by a porter, and she said she fought back when the director asked her to feign masturbation in a scene.
She said: “I was only 18. And I’m so proud when I look back because I just said no: ‘No it’s not in the script so, no, I’m not going to do it.’”
Burke added: “The thing with me is that I’m quite arrogant. I’ve got faith in my own talent and I always have.
“And if anyone turned around and said to me: ‘You’re never going to work again,’ I used to say ‘I will.’”
“In fact, I didn’t realise I was ‘unattractive’ – in inverted commas – until I started acting. It was, ‘Oh no, you’re not right for the part – we’re looking for a pretty girl.’”
The star, known for her TV comedy parts in Harry Enfield And Chums, Gimme Gimme Gimme and French And Saunders, and film roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Nil By Mouth, said she looks at herself in the mirror and thinks “I’m gorgeous”.
She added: “It’s other people that tell me I’ve got a face like a smacked arse.”
In the interview, conducted in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment lodged against film producer Harvey Weinstein, Burke was asked if she had been sexually harassed during the course of her career.
“I was never the sort of girl that those sorts of men were interested in,” she said.
“I’m not conventionally pretty and I’m also quite coarse and I’ve also got a very big mouth, and if anyone had tried that with me I would have probably head-butted them and reported them to the police.”
Burke directs Peep Show creator Sam Bain’s comedy-drama play The Retreat, which opens at London’s Park Theatre in November.