Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Day I met Derek (and my hero) Kindness is Magic: A blogger's tale.

Disclaimer: This is a fan's account of a visit to the set of Derek Series 2 (Or Season 2 like you Americans like to say it) and is in no way meant to be professionally written. Also this doesn't contain any spoilers!

It was a cold mid November's day last year, and Ricky Gervais and co. were busy filming Derek Series 2 in the East-end of London and I
 was lucky enough to be invited on to the set amongst a few others and witness some of the magic!

When I first arrived on the set (at 10am they had already been filming for two hours!),
I was greeted by the lovely producer Mr. Charlie Hanson and we sat in front of a monitor amongst the many (very friendly) members of the crew who were sitting in complete silence as a scene was being filmed. Everyone was huddled up near a portable heater because of how cold the set was. The scenes from the monitor were all recorded on to a hard drive which was recording even after the cameras stopped rolling, apparently this was for continuity purposes and to help with editing later on.

A very nice man who was part of the crew gave me some headphones so I could listen in on the scene being filmed as we watched on the monitor; then I heard it, that trademark laughter, through the other side of the wooden walls of the set.
This immediately had a warming presence on most of us sat there and I enjoyed hearing that famous laugh that I had heard so many times before on TV in such close proximity. Every so often, a bell would ring to indicate the end of a scene and to re-set it and do it again.

We were then given a guided tour by Charlie and shown the props used and also the rooms where the residents slept as well as Dougie's and Hannah's offices. It was so fascinating to see how different everything looked off camera.
Then, I got to go into the main part of Broadhill, the sitting area, where the majority of scenes are filmed.

I have to admit, when Ricky walked up to us, shook our hands and said 'Hello', I was dumbstruck and I'm not ashamed to admit it, it was such a surreal experience. I had finally met my hero, the man who I had become more of a fan of (if that's even possible!) since watching him play the tender, innocent Derek Noakes in Series 1.

   We then went on to see how each department functions on a huge television comedy production like this. I met the lovely ladies who were in charge of everyone's wardrobe and they explained how they have to organise the clothes for each character and sort out the budget for clothes as well. They also explained how Derek's famous cardigan is a one off creation and was bought in a London market (for those who wanted to buy one).

Then I saw the office where the hard work goes on to make sure everything runs smoothly, people are sat in there organising when actors/actresses come in to film their scenes, when they get picked up etc. 

We were kindly invited to stay for lunch and when I saw the buses outside and the catering tent I was immediately reminded of Extras, and the scene where Maggie isn't allowed to sit and eat on the bus for actors. I then saw the people serving the food and hoped that they didn't serve me any with dog hairs in (Extras reference).

When I saw the food tent, I immediately knew what Karl was talking about when he said the catering and food was good. There was a huge variety of food from fruits to gorgeous deserts and I found myself in a conversation with 'Prem' played by Prem Modgil about the rice pudding (this was something that Prem and I could both relate to, being Asian, as rice pudding is eaten a lot in South Asia).

Whilst eating, we also met the lovely Colin Hoult who was filming his first ever scenes that day after coming on board as the new caretaker Geoff in Series 2. 
Those who follow Ricky's work will remember him from Life's Too Short when he played the psychic. He's such a down to earth friendly guy as were all the actors and actresses, and I found myself chatting to him about food too!

It was clear to see that Ricky takes great care of his cast and crew and doesn't spare any expense in the food for them. There is also a very well heated room with sofas in for the elderly actors to relax and keep warm in.
Another lovely young lady was Holli Dempsey who kindly offered to us to sit in her trailer as it was quite cold, luckily 'Kev' wasn't around as he would've surely taken her up on her offer.

Speaking of 'Kev' I met the very friendly, shy and soft spoken David Earl who is world's apart from his seedy on screen character. Such a lovely guy who didn't hesitate when I politely asked him for a photo, he even asked if I wanted him to put his 'Kev' glasses on.

     After lunch, we got to stand in just behind the cameras on a very funny scene being filmed, which I am proud to have witnessed being acted out first hand. It involved 'Kev' talking about things that he liked and a lot of corpsing by Ricky; which was understandable as it was bloody hilarious. I really don't know how they manage to film a whole series, the amount of fun those guys have on set. I don't want to give anything away so you'll have to watch out for that particular scene, it's comedy gold.

        Although there was a lot of corpsing and the actors were genuinely having fun; Ricky appeared to be a fantastic director and encouraged David Earl to ad-lib and was so nice to Holli Dempsey and Kerry Godliman when he wanted them to do a scene or a line slightly differently. There only appeared to be a general warmth on set and no sign of superiority or being a diva by Ricky (who is genuinely a lovely, down to earth guy). The set was so relaxed, with Ricky chatting to the cast and crew between takes, or drinking cups of tea.
  Whilst on set I also met the very talented, friendly photographer Ray Burmiston as he was taking pictures for series 2 promos. What can I say, every person I met was as nice or maybe nicer than the last person that I'd met.

     Ricky took pictures as Derek with each of us which Ray kindly took and finally, it was time to leave, and I was so sad to go, I would've happily sat there all day just to absorb the lovely cosy atmosphere and genuine love between all the cast and crew. It's such a cliche but they are like a family, especially because the majority of scenes in Derek are filmed in the sitting area and the elderly actors/actresses are sitting there doing their knitting or reading the papers or doing a jigsaw puzzle.

      It was fascinating to see all the hard work that goes on by the crew behind the scenes and a shame that these individuals aren't really recognised in awards ceremonies because without them holding the cameras and the lighting and sound equipment, or organising the character's wardrobe or making the cups of tea then the show would not go on.

A huge thanks to my hero Ricky Gervais for allowing us the privilege of being on his set and to Charlie Hanson and Katie Mavroleon for making it happen, and of course to Holli Dempsey, Colin Hoult, David Earl, Brett Goldstein and Kerry A Godliman and all of the wonderful cast and crew who made us feel so welcome and chatted to us.
After all, Kindness is Magic!

Lastly, I'd like to say that Ricky Gervais keeps saying that he wishes he was more like Derek Noakes; but he doesn't know that he is already so much like him. He is kind, considerate, soft spoken and so nice to his fans. I am proud to be a 'Gervaisaholic' and cannot wait for Derek to come back to our TV screens again.

Derek Series 2 starts in the UK on Channel 4 Wednesday April 23rd and on Netflix worldwide from one minute past midnight on May 30th!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

'The Times' Full Interview with Ricky Gervais from Saturday 19th April 2014: 'I've always been concerned with kindness. Just not in my comedy.'

'I've always been concerned with kindness. Just not in my comedy.'

He outraged America at the Golden Globes and his sitcom is as loathed as it is liked. That's fine with me, Ricky Gervais tells Stephanie Marsh

In a sombre Soho basement a selection of Britain's pop-cultural taste-makers settle into their seats, ready to assess season 2 of the confusing Ricky Gervais comedy vehicle Derek.
Before the lights dim, the head of Channel 4 comedy says a few words.
Gervais, he informs the assembled critics, "has a lot to say."(He doesn't say what.)
And there Derek/Gervais is, on the big screen, with the same greasy fronds stuck to his forehead, the same underbite, the same simple literal-mindedness that caused some people, when the first series originally aired, to describe it as "life-affirming".
Others claimed that, in Derek, the Berkshire-born comedian was poking fun at people with learning difficulties. (He'd also used the word "mong" on Twitter). Later, when he began to accessorise his Twitter feed with pictures of himself in the bath, the same people accused him of doing so while covertly pulling a "mong face".
How much do Gervais and David Brent--- the self-regarding middle manager he played in The Office---- resemble one another? Contemporary opinion holds that they're more or less the same person. It has become fashionable to say of the breakthrough Noughties mockumentary, "Ah, but that was mostly [co-writer] Stephen Merchant", now that Gervais has become such a big star. Arrogant, prideful, foe of fat people and the disabled? Or genius, comedic revolutionary and one of the most influential figures of our times?
There are a lot of people on the internet arguing about who Gervais is: has he had his teeth whitened and become "one of them"ie, American? (Gervais bought a home in New York several years ago with his partner Jane Fallon, though they live in London). Is he a "bully" who picks on his warm-up acts? Is he "mean"(see his baiting of Hollywood stars as host of the Golden Globes from 2010-2012)? Has he "gone too far" (See his atheist tweets)? Everyone agrees he's made a lot of money.
Two hours later, whoever the real Ricky Gervais might be, he sits before me, teeth an off-white colour, mood upbeat, joyous even "Tee-hee". "Haha!" He is full to bursting with screeching laughter and pugnacious opinion. At the age of 52, he's the boy at the front of the class with his hand up and the right answer, desperate to be picked by the teacher. He's the boy at the back of the class sniggering at the boy at the front. At the teacher. At the concept of school.
     I start with: "The head of Channel 4 comedy said you have something important to say. What is it?"
"You'll have to ask him. Um" Already Gervais is shaking with mirth. "I think everyone would agree I've got a lot to say. Er. Heee. Heee!" Giggling now, he splutters: "Some would say, Shut the f*** up, ypu've said enough!"
He's talked in the past about the theme of kindness in Derek. Perhaps he hopes that Derek will make people nicer.
"What's Derek for?" I ask.
"It's for my entertainment, and hopefully some other people's. What do you mean, 'What is it for?' It's a good question, though. Because, because, because." He explodes with happy laughter.
"That's great, actually, because when somebody makes a table you wouldn't say: 'What's it for?'. That's perfect! You say, 'Well it's a table.' Whereas if anyone asks what your programme's for----f*** knows! I mean, it's to watch! It's to laugh and make you live longer."
Gervais has stopped giggling. He's suddenly utterly sober. "Um. I worry. It's a very highfalutin stance to take as someone writing TV comedy to talk about your achievements like a doctor would. There's been no change of heart in my outlook. You do things that are studies."
The Office, he says, was about comedy; men as boys and women as adults. "How you're body-snatched by trivia and if someone doesn't let you borrow their pen you think, how trivial, but in three weeks you won't let them borrow your pen to get them back. About how arbitrary a job is, how you're thrown together. The bigger themes were, mid-life crisis, fame, TV itself. Boy meets girl. Making a difference. But that doesn't answer the question, what's it for? What it was for was to give me money and awards. Hee-hee!"He corrects himself sternly: "That's not true."
   Besides "genius", the word most often used to describe him is "mean". "Do I think I was mean at the Golden Globes? No. And relative to what? What's 'mean'? Mean is telling a child they'll go to hell if they're gay. Right? Me having a go at the poster for Sex and the City being over airbrushed, that's not mean. That's pointing out what everyone saw. I mean, 'mean'? I've always been concerned with kindness. I just didn't put it into my comedy."
   Thinking back on it, the oddest thing about the Golden Globes "situation", he says, "was that they didn't realise it would be a roast".  But what did they expect? 
"There are many comedians who will turn down the chance to do what they want in front of 200 million people. So I made a decision: do I pander to the 200 egos in the room or the 200 million people watching at home? No contest. Having said that, I don't think I was particularly cruel. Everything I did was considered. Plus I think you've got to be able to say to someone's face what you'd say behind their back."
  Phillip Berk, the former president of the Globes, recently revealed that a "major Hollywood star" complained to him personally about Gervais's "roasting".
 "I know who he was!" Gervais volunteers proudly.
 And? "I'm not telling you. Because it's not fair, he'd be very embarrassed." He grins. "Are you upset that I'm not going to gossip? It was someone who thought that the general public is only there to praise them for all the good they've done."
   Did he say sorry? "I responded by saying. 'Sorry I've been invited back,'"
Gervais is quivering with amusement.
"Listen, everyone allowed to get their feelings hurt. No one wants to be the butt of the joke but I didn't say anything that was unfair or untrue. It was in the papers that Charlie Sheen got drunk. It was in the papers that Robert Downey Jr was arrested and went to the Betty Ford clinic. And I made a joke. Do you see?
  "People, when they justify their feelings being hurt, say it's objectively speaking, 'offensive' and it's not. Their feelings are personal. They merge the target of the joke with the subject of the joke. For example, Kim what's her name?" "Cattrall?" "Yeah. This is the joke I made: 'I'm surprised that the special effects award didn't go to whoever airbrushed that Sex and the City 2 poster.' Girls, we know how old you are. One of you was in an episode of Bonanza. She said it's ageist. I say it's the opposite. I'm saying, 'Why do you have to go for that paradigm of beauty that you have to be 25 years old and a leading lady? What's up with being 50? What's wrong with it? I'm pointing out something they tried to hide, and made a joke about it."
 "What's the most offensive thing that's ever been said about you?" I ask.
"The only thing that offends me is lies. Opinion dressed as opinion isn't offensive at all. If someone says: 'He's the least funny person, he never makes me laugh, I'll punch his face, he disgusts me' --- that's fine. If they say: 'I saw him eating foie gras in The Ivy...'" continues Gervais, savagely. "F***ing liar! You F***ing liar: you never did. That offends me."
  We turn to the "mong" debate. Gervais apologised for "mong" but insists he never used the word with it's original meaning--- a slang term for people with Down's syndrome. He says that Derek is not a parody--he loves the character. The whole series is an ode to his extended family, most of whom work in the care sector.
  "But for me to complain about criticism is like a fisherman complaining about waves." Early on in his career, "the first time a bad review came I thought, 'Doesn't matter, that's fine. Money still there? Yep. Awards still there? Yep. Whatever.' You've got to assume as many people dislike you as like you, rationally and irrationally. They're going to confuse you with your show. Derek is going to be a victim of any reputation. The other side of the coin is, because of my success, I'm going to get anything made that I want. So it's all good."
  "Don't you think the fact that some people hate you has been good for your career?" I ask.
"I don't know. Maybe,"
"Isn't being disliked part of the tension that keeps people interested?"
"There's this lovely Aesop fable," he says. "A mosquito decided to apologise to the Ox for annoying it and the Ox said: 'I didn't even know you were there'."
"I think you provoke people," I suggest. 
"Do I?" He challenges me to come up with some example but then interrupts himself: "Intelligent discussion sometimes frightens people. If you're confrontational and you cut to the chase, some people are taken aback by it."
 "I still think it's important for your career that there are people out there who hate you," I say.
"It's not that it's important, it's inevitable. It probably has helped me in the sense that it drives you to be even more sort of honest or to fight or answer back--I think that's very important. Freedom of speech is just about our greatest gift. For me, the point of any art, even if it's as lowly as TV comedy, is to make a connection. And for me the size of the connection is probably more important than anything else---as long as you're being honest. I am aware that I polarise. I'm aware that the emotions are extreme in both directions." 
There's a little silence. He returns to the subject solemnly. "To answer your question--yes. I do. Yes. I've just realised that I cherish that. The fact that my comedy or my Twitter polarises to the extreme. Yes. That's good. Because I think that means that you're doing something right."
 He thinks it's important that he's not like his characters in real life. But if people are going to confuse him with David Brent or Derek, "I don't give a f*** if you know the real me or not."
  Gervais is angrily remonstrating now. "People who do 'Big Brother': I just want to show the world my other side! F*** 'em! Keep your other side to you and your family. They don't deserve your other side. Who the f***! He exclaims, veering up the octaves to a falsetto: "Why do you care what some f***ing drongo, sitting at home, angry about their gout, thinks about your 'other side'? You're a millionaire. F***ing man up. You know?"
  A short, considered silence. "It's funny because I used to get people to play twisted versions of themselves in Extras and I wondered why they did it, and now I know why. Because it's like an exorcism. And you want to make it worse for yourself because you think: 'If I really act the prat now, people will think, 'Well, he can't be like that in real life'--so you make it more and more extreme. You hope that the general public know that you're not really like that."
  Are people who don't get his jokes stupid? "No. What I mean is, you shouldn't panic. You shouldn't go, 'Oh, I didn't write the joke right,' You've got to do it for yourself." For the moment, he's back to his joyful, happy self: "I look at it in a very Darwinian way: I'm going to do what I enjoy exactly as I want and hope that there's a place for it in the world. And at the moment there seems to be."
Derek begins on Wednesday 23rd April on Channel 4 at 10pm.

(Article copied from The Times in it's entireity.)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Ricky Gervais' full interview with Notebook Magazine in the Sunday Mirror 13/04/14

Ricky Gervais is channelling his inner Louie Spence, high-kicking for our photographer on repeat, until he gets just the right shot. He finds the whole thing hilarious- that infamous laugh, the one with no build up, form nowhere to peeing his pants hysteria in nought to five seconds, coming out over and over. "It's all getting worryingly Lionel Blair, isn't it?" he says.
A lot of things have been said about Ricky Gervais and the biggest misconception is probably one of arrogance. Actually he's rather normal considering his ludicrous levels of success. Sure, he's got 'people' fluttering around him, but he likes to do things himself (he even pays his own phone bills).
And though he must have met thousands of fawning folks, he remembers us from years back when we last met him. Famous people always say that, but they are almost always lying, whereas Ricky remembers actual details of what we talked about and all sorts. He's also a bit unexpectedly serious at times, though there's always a funny moment lurking just seconds away. 
There's no need to list his CV, we'd be here until Christmas, so we'll go for the edited highlights.
First there was The Office, then Extras when Hollywood knocked on the door, hosting the Golden Globes and co-writing and guest starring in The Simpsons. Then there was An Idiot Abroad, Life's Too Short and movie roles, now there's Muppets Most Wanted and his pet project Derek, about to start it's second series.
Not bad for a failed pop star from Reading, the 'laziest, least ambitious person in the world' who didn't get a job until he was 28......

'You've been famous for a good while now, and in the last few years you've become really famous. Is it a nightmare sometimes?'
I dreaded being famous before I was famous, and for the first half of being famous, but now I realise it's OK. People's opinions don't matter. I don't just have a thick skin, i actually quite like it when I get grief from people. This morning a postman from Hull tweeted me saying he was disappointed I did the Muppet movie and I was like. "Really mate?! I'm having a laugh And they paid me". Why do they think they can ruin my day? I love every day. It would only upset me if it was lies. If someone said I had illegal dog fights in my basement I'd sue them. If they say "He's the least funny person on the planet", it's an opinion.

'What's the weirdest thing that's been written about you?'
Someone said I had a boxing ring in my house which was quite weird, and because I have steel shutters around my house that come down when I'm away, they said I spend my evenings sat in a 3,000 square foot safe in the dark...

'Can you do anything without being recognised?'
I went to see a title fight with Joe Calzaghe at Madison Square Garden in New York. I went to the loo and this guy is like, 'Hey mate, can I have a picture?' Arm straight round me, doing a selfie while I'm in the middle of a wee. I didn't even have a chance to say, "Can we leave it a minute mate?"
There's a lot of testosterone at those things, you don't want to say no. All I could think was, 'How wide angled was that lens?" "What did he get in?"

'How've you "kept it real"? There must be some diva moments......
I can do what I want and I turn down 90% of the jobs I'm offered, so that makes me spoilt. But I feel sorry for people who become famous young because it's all over by the time they're 25 and they've probably done things they're going to regret for the rest of their lives. For me, everything was already in place, I had a stable relationship, friends. There is hard work, but I can't count it as work when my dad got up at 5am every day and carried bricks around. How can I complain?

It must be terrifying doing things like hosting the Golden Globes.
I don't get nervous, it's nice to be the most feared man in Hollywood. It's like the spider thing, actors are much more scared of me than I am of them.

Tell us about The Muppets. How did they compare to working with humans?
They're real. I don't think of them as being operated by anyone. I still miss them, they're my little mates. I want to go into a restaurant and be like "Ah, there's Constantine, can I join you mate?" He soon became my favourite Muppet, he's so angry and bitter and rude. I wanted to keep hugging them all and rub their pot bellies, and I kept scratching their heads thinking they's like it. It's a man's hand!

'What about when they're, you know, not working?'
I don't look at them, I can't. I'm like "Where've you been?" and they're like "In a box in New Jersey"...

What's David Brent up to?
Everything's got slightly worse, he's not even a manager any more, he's a rep, he's 50 and still trying to be a pop star in a shiny suit. There's even more desperation. I thought it'd be funny to do a documentary of Brent on tour-he thinks it's like Scorsese doing the Rolling Stones but really it's a "Where are they now?" show, like something from ITV2. They'll find out he's cashed his pension in to make his album. I might do another series, it won't be The Office, though, because you've got to move on.

What's on your bucket list? There can't be much left?
Have a house that looks out onto my own animal sanctuary. Buy a bit of Surrey and get lots of three legged dogs and blind donkeys. Wake up, open the windows and hear a Disney song start, it'll be all "Zippedee-doo-da" and "Hey Mr Squirrel, here's a nut".

What's the most extravagant thing you've ever bought? 
Works of art. Expensive guitars. Erm, a swimming pool. Inside. A virtual golf course in the basement. A gym. But that's health isn't it? Everyone's got a gym in their house haven't they?
That's embarassing. This has gone terribly wrong hasn't it? I was a man of the people for the first five minutes. Yeah, I've got a private jet in my house that takes off from my swimming pool, flies over the golf course and leads into the kitchen. Oh dear, I should be like, "Oh, an old cardigan from a jumble sale".

Describe yourself in three words.
I'd like to say funny! Honest. I'm alright. the character Derek is me before the world made me cynical. i have the same values deep down. I am annoying though.

What would your partner Jane say is the most irritating thing about you?
She hates me sneezing loudly. And she says "What did I say?" and I say "What?" I'm preoccupied a lot. But she's the same as me. We just watch crap telly and take the mickey out of our cat.

What will be written on your tombstone?
He had a laugh. Or 'Out of Office'. That'll be the newspaper headline when I die, won't it?

The low-down on Derek.....

Derek, your sitcom about the residents of a care home is back soon. This show seems super-close to your heart....
I didn't think you could do a sitcom like that, and then I thought, "Why not?' My mum, sister, sister-in-law and now their kids are all carers, so I've got 30 years of anecdotes. I've always written about what I know-Gareth from The Office is a boy I went to school with, which is why he acts like a 14 year old. Tim is based on an unhappy wisecracker from my first job and Brent is a Frankenstein of people. There's a bit of Brent in all of us- we all want to be loved and think we're important.

Does it bug you that people call Derek controversial?
I think they haven't watched it yet. They're just assuming it's going to be cruel.

You're known for cracking up and corpsing on set.....
What makes me corpse most is Kev chatting up the old women. There was a scene with Kev telling Derek what he does to Janice in the caravan. Every time he said "I like to back her in, I leave the business end near the door because if she was to reverse in I wouldn't have a chance". I literally couldn't get through it, so it's not in the show.