Sunday, 3 March 2013

Exclusive Interview with Ricky Gervais

Just writing the title alone has given me goose bumps. As a fan of The Office, Extras, Ghost Town, The Invention of Lying, The Ricky Gervais Show, Animals, Politics, Fame and Science, oh, and some little-known TV show called Derek, this really is the pinnacle of my 4-week-old career as a journalist, but it certainly isn't the end.

I don’t really know what to write now. If you've made it this far you know who Ricky Gervais is – he’s an actual legend. He is up there with the great British comedy icons. He is somebody who consistently raises the bar, pushes boundaries and whether TV, film, radio or stand-up, he is the true English version of the American dream. No, this isn't a sycophantic out-pouring of idolatry – it is an honest introduction to one of the world’s greatest talents.

Ricky in his office (Photo by Rich Hardcastle)

You may have noticed that I didn’t add music into his list of his achievements, but why shouldn't I? He worked hard to become a musician in the 80s and was good enough to get signed and release a couple of tracks. The band, Seona Dancing, was huge……. in the Philippines!

Ok, the above example of something less successful actually tells us a lot about Ricky. He’s a hard worker, ambitious, creative and not afraid to have a go at something, and even if something fails, he gets back up and keeps on going. Being an acclaimed director, writer and actor didn't just fall on his lap; he’s worked tirelessly to get to where he is now. From being an Assistant Events Manager to creating sketches for radio he eventually had the opportunity to present his own radio show on Xfm. It was there where he met some bloke called Karl. Heard of him? The show and the downloadable podcasts starred Ricky, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington, and were a massive success. You may not know it, but they even appeared in the 2007 Guinness World Records for the “most downloaded podcast.”

The dream team - Gervais, Merchant & Pilkington (Photo by Ray Burmiston)

In TV Ricky contributed his writing talent to the BAFTA-winning The Sketch Show and appeared in Channel 4’s Comedy Lab series of pilots. But it was when watching The 11 O’Clock Show that I first came across Ricky Gervais, where his use of political incorrectness and expletive rants attracted everybody’s attention. From that point on a new TV comedy star was certainly born.


He has contributed to many great shows over the years but it was The Office where he achieved super-stardom  It may surprise you to learn that it wasn't an instant success; there was little attention to it when it first aired but through word-of-mouth, repeats and the DVD release, huge momentum had built up for series two, which topped the ratings and then switched from BBC Two to One for the final two Christmas specials.

The Office excelled; Ricky Gervais became a household name, going on to make consistently successful TV and film, and selling-out arenas for his stand-up tours. Yes there has been some controversy but so what? We don’t want Ricky to be constantly thinking about the endless, politically-correct red tape bollocks – if he did that we probably would never have met Derek.

Derek is what this website is all about and he’s a character who has been with Gervais for over a decade before he filmed the pilot in November 2011. He had the character, but not the context and when he finally found it we were treated to a 35-minute episode in April 2012. It wasn't a traditional comedy, but it was never meant to be; it was very much a comedy-drama with touching and thought-proving moments interspersed with that famous Gervais humour. 

Ricky Gervais as Derek

It had its critics but everything does, but the fans of the show wanted more. More is what we got and this year the 6-part series has been a phenomenal success with interest and admiration for the show growing week by week. If you still haven't seen it, watch the next video and then I urge you to watch the final episode of the series this Wednesday.


I created this website as homage to Derek after the joy of watching episode one. I've interviewed the entire cast, I've experienced the love from the fans and now, as Derek Episode 6 is only a few days away, I have the icing on my Tadpole Hitler cake – an interview with Ricky Gervais himself.

If you’re about to go to church, forget it – skive off today. God, I've read on Twitter, is Ricky’s mate, and I've been assured that he will forgive all those who opt to read this instead of sitting on a hard, wooden bench for an hour in a building with no insulation or heating.

So here you go, I won’t waffle on anymore. This week Tadpole Hitler spoke to Ricky Gervais and here’s what he had to say:

The final episode of season one airs this week – excited?
I honestly can't wait. It's not for me to say whether it's any good or not, but I am allowed to say that I'm probably prouder of this half hour of TV than I am of any other half hour of TV I've ever created. It's in a similar vein to The Office or Extras' Specials, but with even more sweetness and gravitas. In my opinion.

Derek series finale this Wednesday at 10pm on Channel 4

Do you think Derek has been as successful as you hoped it would be?
More so. I've honestly never had a reaction like it. The closest is probably the first series of The Office. Some people got it straight away, and some took a few episodes. Critics argued, and everything happened by word of mouth. Success for me, by the way, is simply it turning out the way I wanted it to. And all that money and awards, obviously.

Derek is the first TV series you've made in the social media era. How to you think Twitter and Facebook has helped the show?
I think they've been very important to be honest. They are simply an evolved version of word of mouth. There's a lovely openness to Twitter. Everyone sees everyone else's opinions but aren't swayed by it. Forums can be a bit more insular and stuck in their ways. They are often a dying breed who dwindle to a hardcore 12 people doing all the posts and agreeing with each other. New users, or people going against the flow, are shouted down and either conform or don't post any more. Twitter is too big for that to happen. Forums are like a prison wing run by one gang. Twitter is the outside world.

Each Derek star has acted their role perfectly - a testament to the show's casting. Was it difficult to assemble the right people for the roles?
No. It was exactly the same process as The Office or any other project I've done. Most of my characters have been based on someone, or a composite of people who I knew at some point in my life, so I usually have a very clear vision of who I want. It's almost like casting for an ensemble biopic. Then you see loads of actors, some you know already and many you don't. If you work hard and cast the net wide you usually find the absolutely best person for any particular role. I usually do great in auditions with myself and get the exact role I wanted. Haha.

Are you going to make Derek Season 2? If you're still unsure, what will be the deciding factor?
I really want to make more Derek but the diary fills up very quickly. I also want to do a world tour and two movies. Something always needs to be put to the back of the queue. But yes, I will definitely do more Derek. If not this year, then 2014.

Brent, Millman, Derek - I know all three mean so much to you, but which one is closest to your heart?
Derek. No question about it. I absolutely love all the characters I play or create, but Derek is different. I think of him as more than a fictional character to be honest. He's someone who is never around when I am, but definitely exists. Relax. I'm not having a nervous breakdown. I know he doesn't exist really. But I wish he did.

Ricky Gervais as Andy Millman in Extras

Is there another character bouncing around inside you, waiting to come out?
There are about 12 at the moment, but even a fully formed character isn't enough. They need to find a context. A reason to be. I had Derek for 10 years before it finally clicked what he should be doing.

You're bringing David Brent back for Comic Relief. Can you tell us anything about that?
It's been 10 years since we last saw David so I thought it was a good excuse to catch up with what he's been doing.

In the new mini episode - The Office Revisited - we find out that David hasn't given up his dream of making it in the music business.

Ricky is back as David Brent next month

The documentary crew find Brent selling cleaning products to offices, pubs, restaurants and anywhere else with toilets, floors and staircases. It's not a glamorous job but it funds his real passion: music. Brent is managing acts now.

He's passing on his wisdom to younger would-be rockstars now and is living vicariously through a young performer, Dom Johnson. Well, really he is trying to worm his way back into rock and roll. Fans of The Office will be excited to know we finally get to hear the whole of 'The Serpent who Guards the Gates of Hell' and an amazingly cringeworthy, self-funded video 'Equality Street'. Horrendous.

I always seem to sing: “Free love on the freelove freeway, the love is free and the freeway's long.” Did you write that masterpiece yourself?
Yes. I knew being a failed pop star would come in handy one day.

I hear The Muppets is coming up. Can you tell us more about it?
I'd like to say I'm the lead but everyone knows that's Kermit. I can't tell you much obviously, as two representatives from Disney, dressed like Men in Black, are watching me, but I can tell you it's going to be fucking brilliant. (The two men are shaking their heads because I used a bad word).


It really is a great movie. It's obviously a family film but there are lots of great bits of genuine comedy and the production values are amazing. I can tell you that I play a bad guy. I've said too much. They're opening a briefcase...

What other projects have you got lined up in the future?
Well I definitely want to do more Derek. I want to do another stand up tour all over the world. I'm writing a new movie and developing Flanimals for the big screen too.

Directing, writing, stand up and acting. Will you continue to do them all or would you like to devote a larger chunk of your time to one in particular?
All of them for as long as I can. I guess the last one to survive will be writing. I can do that lying down drunk or on painkillers with someone doing the typing. I should know, that's how I do it now. 

I would like to thank Ricky Gervais on behalf of all the fans for giving us Derek, and I would like to thank him personally for offering me support with tadpolehitler.com over the past few weeks. Make sure you watch the series finale this Wednesday at 10pm on Channel 4. Here's some clips from the episode to get you excited:





If you’re not one of his 4.1million followers, you can follow Ricky on Twitter at @rickygervais and to keep up to date with all of his projects, visit rickygervais.com.

© M. A. Sibson
Twitter: @tadpole_hitler

7 comments:

  1. angela thurlow3 March 2013 11:08

    Great interview so pleased to hear there will be a series 2 of #Derek !!! :)))

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  2. Great to hear a possible 2nd series of Derek is on the cards. Love that Ricky isnt too precious about getting old Brent out now and again

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  3. Love it! Great interview.

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  4. my nephew had constantly raved about an idiot abroad..not for me I am not into that false, over the top, pretending to be stupid malarkey yeah yeah yeah..had done the same with the office and the rest..first Idiot Abroad in China I howled, rolled over and begged for more. I am working my way through RG's works albeit backwards with the exception of Derek. My love for his humour, wit, wrestling, wisdom, insight and characters knows no bounds. Thank you kindness truely is magic

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  5. Wonderful interview! Love this site.

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  6. Great interview and I do hope Ricky will make more Derek this year and not next!! I can't wait that long!! Ps, Ricky, if you're reading this, Purrleease do some more Podcasts and get Karl back on our screens soon!! Wouldn't mind some Smirch too!! *blushes* X #kindnessismagic

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