Ricky Gervais on How Much It Hurt to Play His ‘Office’ Character Again

EmmyWrap magazine: “Just standing like Brent ached after a while,” actor tells TheWrap about “David Brent: Life on the Road”

This story about Ricky Gervais first appeared in the Miniseries/Movies issue of TheWrap Emmy magazine.

When the original British version of the mock documentary “The Office” ended in 2003, creator and star Ricky Gervais didn’t plan to ever bring back his character of David Brent, the office manager with a craving for fame and a knack for being humiliated.

But after an “Office” anniversary celebration and a charity gig, Gervais realized that the time might be right for a sad-sack character who so desperately wanted to be famous — hence “David Brent: Life on the Road,” a TV movie in which bathroom-product sales rep/aspiring rock star Brent self-finances a humbling series of gigs around London.

“When I did ‘The Office,’ I thought that would be the peak of reality TV,” Gervais said. “Little did I realize it was nowhere near the peak. Since then we’ve had things like ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘X-Factor’ and ‘American Idol’ and YouTube — and that’s exactly what David Brent would be doing. He’d think, ‘I can do that,’ but the world is harsher and crueler and more media savvy.”

As in “The Office,” Brent’s every move is documented by a film crew. “We laugh at these reality stars,” Gervais said. “People think that fame will sort their life out, and it won’t. Even ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ — how many times have we heard that a celebrity had a fall from grace, and they say they want to show the public a different side of themselves? And I’m shouting at the TV, ‘F— the public! They just want to see you fail again!’ This is not good for these people, and I wanted to give David Brent a spark of self-awareness and make people who are laughing at him feel a little bad.”

Gervais said he slipped into the character “like putting on an old pair of slippers that I found in a wardrobe — except that maybe that’s not the best analogy. Just standing like Brent ached after a while,” he said. “He likes to wear shoes that aren’t very comfortable, so that wasn’t fun.” He paused.

“I literally play and get paid ridiculously, and I’m moaning that the shoes aren’t what I’d wear in my normal life,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think you can get more spoiled and lovey than that. I’m sure that somewhere there’s a soldier sitting behind a wall being shot at, and he’s feeling sorry for me.”

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