The Extra Special Interview
By Bill Keith
On December 16th, HBO concludes the second and final season of Extras, the show that earned its star and creator, Ricky Gervais, the Best Actor Emmy. Out sat down with the former Office worker to discuss his latest series finale, the intoxication of being 'famous' and his parade of guest stars.
Out: Like The Office before it, Extras ran for two seasons plus a holiday special and then you called it quits. Is that a steadfast rule for your series?
Ricky Gervais: [Creative partner] Stephen Merchant and I don't make television for television's sake. The next thing we do might be 22 episodes. It might be a saga. You don't make the carrying case before you know what you're carrying. There's no formula. I just don't want to do an unwanted encore. Or worse still, do a wanted encore that's not as good.
In the series finale, your character, Andy Millman, is now a major TV star on a regrettable sitcom and he's miserable with his fame. Who are worse fame whores, Americans or Brits?
The British, no? Our culture seems to be promoting all the worst bits. We don't see the difference between George Clooney and a Big Brother winner. There are people that would be more impressed with someone on a soap opera than a bloke who discovered the cure for AIDS. 'I don't recognize him. Is he the one with the teeth? I guess he's always in the lab or something.'
Well, Americans are doing their best to catch up.
I know! Did Andy Warhol even know what he was saying? It's just incredible. A British university conducted a survey amongst 10-year-old children and they were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up and [most of them] said 'famous.'
Yeah, not even a footballer, not a pop star. Not even something that was frivolous and trivial to make them famous -- just 'famous.' People don't care what they're on telly for. People who really are bordering on the mentally ill are wheeled out on stage to laugh at them, and I don't know where it's going to end. Are we going to wheel out people with severe disabilities and laugh at them?
When did that start happening?
I don't know. Maybe it's been a gradual process. There's also this constant craving to have your photo taken over and over again. We don't need another photo of the Beckhams. We don't need that in the world. We just don't.