Friday, 20 November 2015

'The men worked hard, the women worked miracles" Q&A with Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais, actor, writer, director, producer, stand-up, musician, animal rights activist, and atheist is saying goodbye to gentle care worker "Derek" and hello again to David Brent. 

As he starts filming "Life on the Road" his mockumentary, which follows the middle aged, former middle manager and current urinal lozenge rep from Slough, I asked Ricky some questions.

Luckily, he agreed to answer them.

Derek as a character has been with you for several years what inspired you to tell his story now?
I always have a bit of a backlog of ideas and they all fight to be next. I guess I got confident enough to try to do something this delicate and fringe. “A fake documentary about a group of outsiders looking after loads of old people who gradually die”. It doesn’t exactly scream mainstream hit. But then again “A fake documentary about a desperate middle aged man in a paper merchant’s in Slough” doesn’t exactly jump off the page either. The honest answer is I do what I’m excited about at any given moment, put everything into it for 2 series and a special then move on to the next thing.

On Twitter you're a powerful voice in terms of animal rights activism when did you first become interested in this issue?
I’ve always been interested in the issue for as long as I can remember. Obviously the more famous you get the louder your voice becomes and the greater responsibility you have to always speak out for those without any voice at all. I’m involved with many different sides of animal activism from conservation to pet rescue but the thing I am most passionate about is animal cruelty. I’ve never understood the psychology of a person who enjoys the idea of an animal in fear or pain. It angers and depresses me in equal amounts.

Are you happier that you became well known for your work later in life?
Definitely.  I still feared fame a bit because I didn’t want to be lumped in with those people who do ANYTHING to be famous. I knew that if you became famous it had to be for something that you were proud of. I think this plan is a lot easier to maintain when you have a bit of an older head on your shoulders. You’ll still make mistakes but they won’t be as indelible as the daft things you do when you’re young and reckless and think you’re invincible.

You are in full creative control of your work but if you had to focus on only one field in the creative arts, which one would it be?

That’s a really difficult question to answer because when you create a whole show from scratch all the elements are intermixed. For example, I only started directing to make sure the writing was imagined correctly. I only started producing to have even more power and protect the directing. I love acting but it’s the icing on the cake for me. It also pays the best. Ha-ha. I guess all this means that the writing is the most important element to me. The best an idea gets is when it’s in your head. If you get the chance to protect it then it’s your job to ruin it as little as possible by making all the right decisions.

Internet trolls are a regular feature for anyone with a profile online, what do you feel is the most effective way to deal with them?

Even though I know they just want attention, sometimes I think of a comeback that is too good to waste. The trouble is even if they’re nasty little pieces of work, I usually get a glimpse of their existence and I end up feeling sorry for them. The best policy without doubt is to ignore, block, and forget about it.

From the age of eight you've been an atheist, what do you think is the biggest misconception people have about atheism?
Oh my word, there are so many. From equating it with Satanism to subtle confusions like "Atheism is the belief there is no God" as opposed to "Atheism is the lack of belief in a God." A particularly annoying one is that Atheism is smug or arrogant. What can be more arrogant than believing that the same God who didn’t stop the holocaust will help you pass your driving test?

You have always written strong, believable women characters. Which women in your life do you draw your creative influences from?
Yeah I’ve never seen women as “the weaker sex.” Even growing up in the un-PC 70’s in a working class environment, I saw women hold families together and protect their children like lionesses. My dad was a labourer "The bread winner”. He worked hard every day, but when his shift was over that was his time. My mum didn’t stop working from when she got up to when she went to bed. She was a so called a housewife, but she had two shifts as dinner lady everyday, fostered kids, ran a catalogue for commission, grew vegetables, and still did everything for the home. She worked harder than anyone I ever knew. And this was basically true of all the women I knew growing up. The men worked hard. The women worked miracles.