Interview: Ricky Gervais
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Ricky Gervais is back on our screens as Derek, the care home worker with a big heart. Here, he tells us about bringing the character back for a second series. What more do we find out about Derek in this series? You learn that Derek is fun. Also you discover that he is not just sweet and selfless and funny, but also really wise. He’s got it spot on with his strategy. He knows that if you always do the right thing, the kindest thing, you can’t go far wrong. I don’t know if Derek’s example can change anything, but at least it might make people think a bit. On Twitter last year people wrote, “I called my nan after watching Derek.” That makes me well up. What do you think the message of Derek is? Derek is a show about kindness. It shows that kindness trumps everything. I made the characters look like life’s losers so I could pull the rug from under viewers. I don’t want them to see it coming. I want people to be laughing at Kev, and then when he begs for his job back, I want them to see that he’s got real feelings. What other themes does the show throw up? It shows that women are the real role models in life. Men think they rule, but women actually rule, without having to show off about it. I’ve never liked the idea of women as props or air-heads or seductresses or super-bitches. Where are the real women in comedy and drama? The character of Hannah is based on women in my family. Can you please on that? They are nurturing and care about babies and puppies, but they’ve also lionesses. They would take a baseball bat to someone in order to protect their family. Hannah is a conglomerate, a Frankenstein’s monster of working-class women I have known. They are always prepared to take responsibility for things. My mum had to bring up four kids, but she also knitted, sewed and did the wallpapering. She made no money go a long way. Most women are like that. How much of Derek is drawn from your own life? I have always written about what I know. I worked in an office for 10 years before I wrote The Office. The character of Gareth was based on someone I knew at school – that’s why he’s like a 14-year-old. Everything is semi-autobiographical. All my family are care workers, so that was the perfect place to put Derek because I knew about that world. I had 35 years of anecdotes stored up. That’s a real world, so that’s what I want to write about. Why does the show mingle comedy with tragedy? Because that is what life is like. You have a laugh and then someone finds a lump and you deal with that. People ask me, “Is Derek a comedy or drama?” I reply, “What’s your life?” It is always a bit of both. The world is not entirely comic and it’s not entirely dramatic.
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