Rasmus Hardiker is the implausibly pale, thin young Brummie who looks on in a taciturn manner at Steve Coogan in Saxondale and happily takes all Jack Dee's money by virtue of going out with his daughter in Lead Balloon. He is also, in no particular order: an obsessive Transformers fan; able to memorise scripts at the first time of reading, a la Robert Mitchum; a hugely gifted mimic (I once saw him do impressions of every Simpsons character to entertain a couple of kids. And I mean, every Simpsons character, it was extraordinary); and a thoroughly nice chap.
I first met him on the set of feature film Lecture 21. I was sitting in make-up for one of many long sessions, unable to move as various things were being glued and painted on me when Ras and Nat (Natalia Tena; Tonks in Harry Potter) exploded into the room full of youthful exuberance. Actually Nat was the exuberant one. She's a nice girl and fine actress but can and does, talk at Olympic level. It was to Ras's credit he got a word in edgeways. Minutes later, he was giving an alarmingly accurate rendition of Snow's novelty rap classic Informer. It was very difficult not to become friends.
When I spoke to him, he was his usual laid back, charming and slightly laconic self...
Describe what you are wearing...
White t-shirt, cardigan smoking jacket, black combat trousers and thermal socks.
How did you get started?
I was in youth theatre shows every year; we did Cabaret, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, and extra curricular drama clubs on Saturdays. And then Claire Downs (director of the company) booked an audition for us; basically the entire youth theatre went along for something called The Rotters Club (adapted for television by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais). I was 19, this was 2004. And luckily, I got the part. Everyone there helped me a lot. Sarah Lancashire, who played my mother in it, paid for my Spotlight entry. Chrissy Skins and Jill Travellick helped me put together a showreel and meet with agents. So I met with Ruth Young and PFD. And the rest as they say, is history. A lot of nice people helped me out.
If you were not acting, what would you do?
I only know now through acting, but I think I'd like to be a photographer. A chance to express myself, working freelance.
So would you be a crusading journalist and also fight crime like Spiderman?
Well that goes without saying although I wouldn't be much like Spiderman because I'm afraid of spiders. But what would I be? Hmmm... just a man. Maybe Manman.
How much of you is in your characters?
Certainly a lot of everyone is in all of their characters. Everyone has to bring something of themselves to a character. The characters that I have... yeah, a fair bit. Ben and Raymond (his characters in Lead Balloon and Saxondale) are quite solemn, laid back and very economical with their facial expressions. That's my sombre side coming out I guess.
You've worked with some big names, ever get star struck?
The first time, when I did Rotters Club, James Daffern from the Fiat Punto advert featuring the Human League song Don't You Want Me Baby. When I met him it was "Dude!". Now, with people like Coogan, you look forward to working with them but when you work with someone that all goes by the wayside.
Does Steve Coogan get his round in?
He's a generous bloke. Everyone at Baby Cow Productions is, they put you up at 5 star hotels. I was worried by what you meant by that at first. "Get his round in", does that mean penis?
Who would you like to work with in the future?
Jessica Alba. Purely because... well. I'd love to work with Ricky Gervais who I think is pretty brilliant. Kiefer Sutherland. Stanley Tucci. And I love Tony Shalhoub who plays Monk; I think he's one of the finest actors there is.
Tell me a fascinating fact that doesn't involve Transformers...
Did you know that Optimus Prime... no, hang on. I did actually have some right up until you asked me. Let me think. Ah, I have one! Apparently intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair. Next time I take an I.Q. test, I'll wash my hair with a multi-vitamin tablet and some change.
What prep do you do for a role?
I read my bit of the script and then formulate a character. I like to put the things I know in there. If there's something that I don't know that I need to know, I'll try and find it out but it's usually drawn from my own experience. The director can always direct you to do something differently.
How do you impress someone on a first date?
I dunno, just 'be yourself' I guess. Unless you really don't like yourself, then be someone else entirely. I think humour plays an important part, so if you can have a laugh, you're doing something right.
Any plans to write or direct in the future?
Yeah I definitely plan to do some writing; time-permitting. Directing... I'd love to give it a try. A friend of mine just did his first directing gig, and although the pressure was definitely on he did a fantastic job. You have to be decisive though, and it takes me until lunchtime to decide what I'm having for breakfast.
Who were / are your comedy heroes?
My favourite comedy of all time is Seinfeld. Everyone in that show is perfect for their role. I was always a big fan of Cheers, Frasier, and Taxi. A little bit old school.
So mostly American comedy?
Yeah, right now, the man for me is Tony Shalhoub in Monk. Although I do love The Office and Extras. And Alan Partridge. Coogan's great, he's never short of a character. But Shalhoub is my current thing.
Most embarrassing thing to happen to you between the ages of 17 and 21?
I don't know, really I'm too cool for school. Although I was on a train fast asleep and a loud fart crept out. Loud enough to wake me up anyway.
What TV shows do you wish you had been in?
I'd have to say Monk. Or maybe a home based one like Extras.
And what would you have brought to it?
Probably nothing, but would still, selfishly, like to be have been involved.
Be honest; which TV series do you really hate?
Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. But I don't particularly HATE any show. There's just some that I don't watch, i.e. soaps, and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. I tell you what does annoy me... I see scripts for new comedies and some of them are shockingly bad. I mean really not at all funny. And it makes you wonder how they got that far. And with some shows, they really do suffer in the editing or with bad choices being made. I mean if you just leave that extra second in a pause it can add a whole new dimension to it.
What do you really want the world to know about you?
Just that I'm a nice guy. Honestly, I am.
Awww bless. And he is, you know.