Comedy legend Rik Mayall talks about his role in Man Down...
Hi Rik. Your latest project is Man Down, could you tell us about how you got involved?
I was first attracted to the part through Greg Davies, who I've always admired and thought was great... because he is. Then the pilot came up last year, and I had a spare week and he was looking for a psycho to attack him, so I thought this looks lovely. And that was always one of the dreams of my life... to beat the shit out of Greg Davies.
Plus, of course, he is my love child - as many people are aware - we look like each other. I'm grown up now and I've been hunting for angles to sort of express the age I am now, and here was a lovely one! To be a dad I mean; I'm a dad and I'm somewhere in my fifties but I've always wanted to do something a little more grown up. To have this particularly peculiar dad who's in unusual circumstances because his son is so grown up. Greg and I had the same rhythm, so we worked well together and he's a great writer so the script excited me.
Your character has a habit of showing his love in slightly unconventional ways?
Yes, I think that's the best way to describe it. If I was to give away the gags the audience may fail to be surprised when they saw them. I think they should watch it, because surprise is one of his hobbies.
So you've been working for over 30 years, do you still have the same hunger for it?
Yes, I adore it, it's my life - it's what I do. It's always been the passion and I adore it, it's my everything.
As you know, a big chunk of my art came to a holt when my partner Adrian decided to give up comedy and we'd done Bottom and The Young Ones and stuff, but now I'm in my fifties and I want to work out what I'm going to do for the next 25 years, so this is the next chapter.
This character is 'very Rik Mayall' and it's what the punters would expect, as I think the essence of my work is that I've always taken the mick out of myself.
Have you done any other parts where you've had a beard?
No, not that I'm aware of. Well, there was the mutton chops that I had for some very good adverts that I did for Bombardier beer and of course Lord Flashheart from Blackadder but that was blond and it was really more like a moustache and sideburns. This time though my beard has come out white - something's happened over the last couple of years where my hair's gone white!
Has there ever been a character you've played that you've either loved or hated?
Hmm... no, because if I've ever had trouble with a character then I'd wrench him and stretch him and fix him. It's like car - some blokes like to beat up old cars that don't work, so they can fix them. Also, in doing that, you can make it into a good character, who you can use and work with... so, no, I don't have a character that I've hated.
Occasionally there might have been ones that I haven't been able to tinker with correctly but then, if that's the case, I would ask 'can I do this, and change that'. Sometimes people say 'no' and so I continue to talk to them until they realise why they should say yes to me.
Is that what you like to do - really invest in the character?
In order to live in contemporary life, I have to submerse aspects of my own character in order to live because I like excitement, I like exploring and I like adventure and that's what acting is. I don't have to go to war say, or assassinate presidents, because I can do that in acting. It allows me to experience things you might not get to otherwise. My parents gave me an upbringing that was full of permission with care, and my dad gave me a taste for life.
How do you think comedy has changed over the 39 years you've been working?
I think it's become less theatrical, which I miss. I always like a studio audience. I like all forms of entertainment and that doesn't mean I don't enjoy filming with a camera without an audience because the thing is I know how techniques work and I know if you want to get a laugh in a big theatre you do it in a different way than if you've got a camera right up close just looking at your two eyes and your mouth. I understand the disciplines and I'm good at my job.
I mean, it's a different era. I don't think, for example, that the audience are quite so amazed by the shock of something these days, in a theatrical sense say, because everything can be done on a computer.
Another example: twelve years ago, Adrian and I wrote another series of Bottom and took it to the BBC and they said 'no, it's too violent' so we took it on the road and changed it into a live show. I think these days obviously there's a lot more restrictions in place than there might have been.
Have you got any further ambitions?
Yes, I would like this series to be a success so that it gets another series and another. I would really like the opportunity to explore the character of Greg's dad fully.