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Interview: Karl Pilkington

30th April 2014

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Everyone’s favourite Idiot Abroad stars as Dougie in Ricky Gervais’s bittersweet comedy Derek – although you won’t hear him calling himself a “proper actor” anytime soon.

Here he tells us why he feels like an imposter, who is about “to get found out.”

When Ricky offered you the role of Dougie, did you initially reject it?

Yes. I felt guilty about the idea of taking the job from a proper actor. But Ricky persisted.

Please describe Dougie to us...

Dougie is me if I hadn't had any luck. Although he hasn't been very lucky, he always tries his best. Deep down he still knows that life is basically rubbish, but he can't do anything about it.

Does he enjoy his job at the nursing home?

As much as he moans about his job, part of him likes it. It gives him a sense of worth. Like a lot of people, the highlight of his week is Friday when he gets paid. But despite his complaints, Dougie knows he has to keep working. In fact, he thinks that everyone should work. He hates scroungers and people who come to the nursing home hoping to benefit from their relatives’ wills. He's always complaining about Britain's Got Talent and people who don't want to work for a living and just look for an easy life.

Does this mean you are now going to focus entirely on acting?

No. This is not a new line of work from me. I'm not looking to become an actor. I still don't feel like a proper actor. Kerry is a proper actress. When you're doing a scene with her, you're looking over your shoulder and thinking, "Blimey, she's really good". I always think, "I can't do that. I'm going to get found out here!" The hardest part is remembering the lines and trying not to laugh. Ricky is determined to make me laugh all the time – that must drive the crew mad!

Have you benefited from this job?

A: Yes. I've learnt a lot, and it's been a great experience. Ricky has been great. From the start, he's told me, "You can do it. What are you worried about?" I suppose I can't believe my luck. I've got no qualifications, but I've been given this great opportunity and I want to make the most of it. I suppose Ricky didn't go to drama school, either. In the end, if you can convincingly be that person onscreen, what does it matter?

What will you take away from the experience?

I'm a bit rubbish at knowing when something is good. But if it goes out and I can say, "I wasn't as bad as I thought I would be", then I'll be happy. Until then, I'll be thinking, "I shouldn't be here!"

Finally, why do you think the show works so well?

It messes with your emotions – it makes you laugh and cry – and there is not much around like that.

Derek is on Channel 4 on Wednesdays at 10pm.

Read our interview with Ricky Gervais here.

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