Red Carpet News sat down with Ricky Gervais to talk about the second series of comedy/drama Derek, Karl Pilkington and the triumphant return of David Brent. Here’s what Ricky had to say about it all:
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
I steal them from real life, or they pop into my head. And then it takes over. And then once you’re in the moment you revert to your own experience or behavior. But in general it’s usually, I write about what I know and then it’s just I suppose, putting the work in and getting 20 pages.
Q. Is that hard though?
It is hard because I’m so consumed by these ideas but I’m also consumed by fun. I wanna enjoy everything, even if it’s just a reaction shot I’ve got to get excited by it. I want the funniest reaction shot possible. It’s just creating a world really. But it’s nice to have something in your hand. And sometimes you’re not inspired by anything and you just have to do something and put it in a drawer. And you come back a week later and there’s something there that excites you now that you’d forgotten about, or you did more than you thought, or you throw away the rubbish and there’s one gem. So there’s not real process other than being in the moment. I think all my best stuff was when I come up with the idea and then I’m actually in amongst the actors directing and I don’t know why that is. I think you up your game. You control it a bit more. You feel it a bit more. You don’t usually say things the character wouldn’t say. Whereas if you’re directing people to say things it’s not as organic. A lot of what you do in real life is in a non verbal, subliminal level. The office for me in terms of acting was a study in body language. David Brent would lie with his eyes or his feet. That’s when it comes to life. I think my stand up is best when I act it out as apposed to telling jokes. When I start acting as Hitler and Nietzche having an argument it’s just twice as funny as saying ‘I think of weird stuff. It’s like they’ve got the video of the joke now. It’s so much stronger. Seeing is believing when it comes to acting. There’s nothing in acting that wasn’t meant to be acted out. You can’t read Shakespeare, you have to see Shakespeare.
Q. With series two there’s unfortunately a lot less of Dougie. Could you just not persuade Karl to come back?
I didn’t want to convince him because if you saw him in the first series sweating and being nervous. He couldn’t really act with other people. I honestly didn’t know whether to hug him or put him down. But he was just the icing on the cake so he does his job in this. And it’s gotta be about what’s right for the show. The show is so much more about Hannah and Derek anyway.
Q. Do you miss having him on set just to tackle?
Yeah that was just an excuse but I wrestle with Arthur instead.
Q. Could you see yourself still writing this where you’re in the care home?
Like Last of The Summer Wine? When they replaced the actors with their sons (laughs) Well that’s the other thing. Just working with these actors and actresses. Just because you get to 80 and 90 doesn’t mean you don’t find things funny or tell the most horrendously dirty jokes. They were embarrassing the youngsters because they knew they could. So yeah if I could be in a care home like Broad Hill I’d take it.
Q. Would you try and be saucy with people just to shock them?
Well this might be in my blood but when my granddad was in hospital dying we went to visit him and the nurses told her that he was being rude to other patients and keeping them awake. When she asked ‘is this true?’ he said ‘yep. If I can’t sleep, no fucker can.’ So I think I’ve got that in me. To answer your question more seriously I think this could keep on going. But I don’t think I will. I think I certainly want to do the two series and a special and then see. I don’t want to make TV for the sake of it. It’s the first I’ve ever considered doing a third series. But it might be a third series or a special.
Q. You have gone back to Brent now. Are you less reluctant than you might have been previously, to going back to old characters?
I like going back more now. I didn’t want to keep David Brent going because I wanted to do other things but now I’ve done other things it feels safe to go back. And it’s a joy. I’m hooked again. I brought him back for Comic Relief and it was a joy I loved it and particularly the songs. I always sneak a song in. I wrote a song with David Bowie for Extras. I wrote one for The Simpsons, Sesame Street and I’ve written another 15 for Brent. And it’s sort of a safety net as well because as much fun as it is it’s still fun to be a pretend rock star for the day. And Brent has never really gone away. He’s still a lovely character to play.
Q. Could you leave Derek then and come back to him later?
Yeah I think so. I’d love to. This series ends lovely. I can always end with the last episode of the last series. I made sure of that with the office. That could’ve ended with 6 [episodes] or 12. And [Derek] could end with 12. But I think I’d like to do the special. I’m thinking of filming a documentary with David Brent trying to be a pop star whilst juggling repping. He thinks it’s sort of a Scorcese doing the Rolling Stones when it’s actually a Where Are They Now?
Q. Do you ever have a pinch me moment? Like what?
Well… Anything I say now is horrendous. It’s funny because I was doing an interview the other day and got asked ‘what’s the most extravagant thing you’ve bought?’ and I said I don’t really do that. I don’t buy expensive jewelry, I don’t gamble, I don’t do fast cars, I don’t do drugs. I suppose a work of art maybe? And then I went ‘Oh, erm indoor swimming pool… indoor golf…’ and it all sort of fell down (laughs) But I meant ‘that’s all part of the house’ it’s concrete. Concrete filled with water. It doesn’t count as extravagant!
Q. Are you aware it is?
Well it’s evolution. When I first got a job on XFM it was the richest I’d ever been! So you don’t see it really. But I do pinch myself. I know how lucky I am and I sometimes feel guilty about it as well. All you can do is know I didn’t do anything bad to get the money. I didn’t invest in blood diamonds. I mucked around as a fat 40 year old.
Q. How do you feel about growing old when writing [Derek]?
Terrible. I walk down the stairs and it takes me about 10 minutes for my knees to form. I think the important thing is being happy. And I think I’ve gotten happier and happier. Last year was the happiest ten years. This will be the happiest 10 years of my life. I don’t fear old age. I don’t fear death. You fear things around that. Like awful illness or pain.
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