If you’re a diehard Ricky Gervais fan — and either you are or you’re not a fan of his at all, since there’s no in between — the fact that his “Extras” series is coming to an end Sunday likely fills you with both excitement and profound sadness. Excitement because you’ll be treated to nearly 90 minutes of Andy, Maggie and, this writer’s personal favorite, the most entertaining moron on television, Darren the agent, brilliantly played by series co-creator Stephen Merchant. The sadness comes because this is the end, the series finale to the BBC/HBO show that somehow managed to succeed “The Office” without embarrassing anyone.
But just because “Extras” is over doesn’t mean Gervais is taking a break. Quite the contrary — we found when we chatted with the comedian on the set of his new movie, “Ghost Town,” that he’s got film and TV projects galore in the works. And no, we’re not having a laugh.
MTV: So “Extras” is coming to an end at last.
Ricky Gervais: It’s the end to the saga of [Gervais' character] Andy Millman. Just like “The Office,” 12 episodes and a feature-length finale. It’s sort of like a TV movie. It’s got some really good stars in it: Clive Owen, Gordon Ramsey. George Michael makes an amazing appearance and [it has] the old favorites: Andy and Maggie, and the agent. Something develops with him that’s funny and sad. That’s what “Extras” is: funny and sad. Maybe I shouldn’t say this — the public will judge me on this, but I think it is the best thing we’ve ever done.
MTV: You think it’s better than “The Office”?
Gervais: I really do. I really think it is a more complete single entity than the “Office” special.
MTV: Did you always know how you wanted “Extras” to progress?
Gervais: Probably not to this degree. We mapped out the first season completely and then we mapped out the second season completely. And then we did this one totally separately. So no, right back in the day we didn’t know we were going do it, but we didn’t even know we were going do a second season. When we started, we never committed. We never gave ourselves deadlines. We never made any promises. If we had something to say, we’d do it and then hand it in. Too many people, they get a chance to do 40 more episodes and they’re like, “I can’t turn that down.” Then they have nothing else to say, and it starts getting worn down in formula, and we never do that. That’s why I suppose we do short seasons and not many seasons, because we put everything we’ve got into it. I’m not in this to milk it and be on the telly for as long as I can.
MTV: Do you have a favorite guest star from the first two seasons?
Gervais: David Bowie has sort of been my musical hero for 25 years. Obviously to get Robert De Niro to be in a sitcom is cool, but they’re all great, and they’re all great sports. Kate Winslet talking dirty [as a nun] is quite surreal. Sometimes this doesn’t feel like it’s a career. It feels like I won a competition, and I’m so grateful for everyone who did it. It’s just been an absolute blast, but it’s coming to an end, as all good things should.
MTV: Is there a third series that you’re considering?
Gervais: Well, I’m pretty busy through this year. I’m in the middle of shooting the movie “Ghost Town,” my first lead in a Hollywood film.
MTV: It’s a big deal that you’ve chosen this film in which to star. You had shied away from leading roles in films before this.
Gervais: When I read the script, it looked great, everything a Hollywood film should have. It was funny and clever. It wasn’t dumbed down. It wasn’t goofy. It wasn’t wacky. It really appealed to me.
MTV: And would you describe it as a supernatural comedy?
Gervais: It is indeed. I play a dentist called Bertram Pinkus, who’s very grumpy and lonely. He’s very smart and acerbic, but he needs a hug. He’s not a social character. Everyone annoys him, and he dies for a minute on the operating table, and when he comes back, he can see dead people, and they annoy him. It doesn’t matter whether you’re alive or dead — you’ll annoy him.
MTV: Getting annoyed by things seems to be a constant in your characters.
Gervais: Andy Millman in “Extras” is a bit like that. He’s a bit antisocial and grumpy and acerbic, but David Brent loved the world. It just didn’t treat him very well.
MTV: Is “This Side of the Truth” something that you’re going to direct soon?
Gervais: Yeah, that’s something I’ve written a guy called Matt Robinson. They’ve already paid me in advance and they can’t take the money back. I’m so excited about that. That’s my baby.
MTV: It’s got a great concept.
Gervais: It’s one of those things where you think that must have been done. I play a guy who’s a bit of a loser. He’s got a dead-end job. He’s a bit of a joke at work. He’s got no love life. He’s got rubbish friends. He’s like most people. It’s in a world where the human race hasn’t evolved. There’s no gene for lying, so everyone tells the absolute truth. It’s a cold, logical place, without art, film, imagination — just truth. And I discover I can lie and people believe everything I say and I become superman. I can do anything I want. We’re shooting that next spring.
MTV: What’s the next project for you and “Office”/”Extras” collaborator Stephen Merchant?
Gervais: We don’t know whether to do a TV project or a film, but we’ve got one idea we’ve had since before “Extras” actually which is about a group of 20-somethings. I’d be playing one of their dads in a seaside town in England set in 1970s. It’s a place where the sexual revolution didn’t hit. These people, they come of age and then they die. It sounds depressing, but then “The Office” sounds depressing on paper, and it probably was.
MTV: But it needs that under current of drama to feed the comedy.
Gervais: I think so. For me, comedy without the drama is decapitated. We’re trying to cross “Billy Liar” with “Diner.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Ghost Town.”
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