'Derek' Premiere Spoilers: Ricky Gervais Channels Sensitive Side; 'I Want It To Be an Emotional Journey' [VIDEO]
Ricky Gervais came out for the premiere event of his show and the Netflix Original Series Derek at the MoMA in New York on Sept. 5. The comedian, actor, writer, and director spoke about the making of the show, his new collaboration with Karl Pilkington, and the shared profession of all the Gervais family women.
Dressed in all black -- a black t-shirt (tucked-in) and a pinstripe suit -- with his hair slicked back, Gervais chose episodes 5 and 6 of the first season to screen at the event. Gervais wasn't generous with his acerbic wit, he kept the abrasiveness in check (save a few snide remarks), and channelled his sensitive side, which his new show, Derek, is chock-full of. The show releases on Netflix on Sept. 12.
The mockumentary-styled comedic drama is set in the fictional Broadhill retirement home and revolves around the lives of Derek Noakes (Gervais) and his make-shift family of fellow caretakers Hannah (Kerry Godliman), Dougie (Karl Pilkington), and Kevin (David Earl).
"Karl is like the father of the household, Derek's the sweet, caring, good boy, Kevin's the wayward kid or the lodger, I think it makes a nice dynamic, cause we root for them," Gervais said of the core characters.
The show's themes -- sacrifice, care taking, mortality and illness -- hit close to home for Gervais. At the post-screening discussion, Gervais said that care taking was a family trade of the Gervais women. His mother, sister, sister-in-law, and his nieces have all worked or are working at care taking or Alzheimer's homes.
In the show, Derek is a 50-year-old caretaker at the home, with issues of his own. He can be comically irksome due to his harebrained suggestions coupled with his nagging inquisitiveness like that of a five-year-old. Derek constantly fidgets with the fringe on his forehead, pushes out his lower jaw, is usually hunched over, and wears his pants well above his waist. "Usually characters are flawed, but the flaws are their own fault, ego, vanity, all those things. But the flaws in this [character] are more superficial, things you can't help. I made him like that, look a bit weird and scruffy, and not be too bright because I wanted kindness to come along and trump that," Gervais said, speaking about his character.
Dougie -- a cynical simpleton who is also the most responsible of the lot -- is played by Pilkington (An Idiot Abroad), Gervais' long-time collaborator and friend. While Pilkington has also made appearances on Gervais' sitcoms, this is his first time playing a prominent role in a show of his. Gervais revealed that Dougie's character was written keeping Pilkington in mind. "I wrote it for Karl, only Karl could have done it quite like that. And after we filmed the whole series, I told him, 'I based Dougie on you, if you'd never met me,' and that really annoyed him. He was like, 'You cheeky f***ing bast**d!'" Gervais laughed.
Addressing another prominent theme, that of mortality and aging, in the show, Gervais brought out the Yoda in him: "It's going to happen to all of us if we are lucky. It's inevitable if we are lucky and there seems to be a sort of arrogance, that they were born later so they're cocky about it. We all go through that I suppose."
A bit of irony played up when Gervais suggested that "everybody was very judgmental" nowadays considering passing judgement has served him well with his comedic routine, especially when he hosted the Golden Globes. But he seemed to take issue with new media: "With social media, there seems to be a spate of everybody getting everything off their chest."
Gervais also spoke about a bit of a detour he is taking, comparing Derek with his last two sitcoms, The Office and Extras:
"The departure is probably that it's more sincere. I've sort of left behind the bale of irony and inhabiting it. I think most comedies have that, which I think is the big difference between this and some other comedies. I think that's slightly more dramatic. We were laughing at David Brent [The Office] because of this blind spot; laughing because of how he saw himself and how we saw him, whereas there isn't that with this. They say what they mean and they mean what they say and we believe them."
With this show it seems like Gervais is onto a new chapter of his comedic profession. He suggested that he wanted the show to be an emotional journey and that he was way more interested in investing in the dramatic elements over just working on getting laughs out of the audience:
"I don't think there is any point in setting up such realistic characters with a backdrop of such gravitas as being old and dying, and then throw it away with laughs, laughs are brilliant, but they are sort of easy, comedy comedy, people laugh at anything, you know what I mean by that, it's so easy to make people laugh, I was always proud of the dramatic edge of the Office and Extras than possibly the comedy."
Gervais also confirmed that work on the second season of the series had already begun. The first season of the show aired earlier this year on Channel 4 in the UK.
Derek premieres on Netflix on Sept. 12.
Watch a trailer of the show: