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Steve Carell talks about following in the footsteps of Ricky Gervais in The Office



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Did you avoid watching the UK version of The Office when preparing for the role?
A.
I did, I only watched the first episode of the British version because I was trying not to do an impersonation of Ricky Gervais.
He was so perfect in the role. He has so many specific tics and character traits and rhythms and patterns that I felt the more I watched the more I’d be inclined to do an impersonation of him. And I really didn’t want to do that, because there was no way I could improve upon what he did or even match what he did with that character.
So I felt that my best bet was try a new character based on similar character traits that he has: very little self awareness, and a huge emotional blind spot. So those sort of things stayed attached, but the actual guy I tried to make a different person.

Q. Have you seen Extras?
A.
No, I hear it’s great. He’s been very sweet and very supportive of our show from the get-go. I feel lucky to have him in our camp.

Q. Are there any comedians you’d particularly love to work with?
A.
I’ve already worked with Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell so that’s pretty neat. I don’t know really where you go from there. And I’ve just worked with Alan Arkin, I’m a huge fan of his. There’s no-one in particular who springs to mind. I don’t dream like that because I think it completely sets you up for disappointment.
If I’d thought ‘if I could just work with Jim Carrey, that would make my life complete’ I couldn’t even dream that I would ever be working with him. Or Will. And then lo and behold it comes to pass. I feel like I’ve been really, really lucky the last couple of years.
I’d love to work with Ben Stiller, with any of that gang of people. I’d love to work with Ricky Gervais, I think he’s hilarious.
He’s frighteningly good. The new word is that he is a ‘fierce performer’, in the best sense of the word. It’s like he is so riveting.

Q. Have you actually met Ricky?
A.
I’ve met him a few times. But I haven’t talked to him about working together. But I would be honoured.

Q. What did you mean by fierce?
A.
The way I’ve heard it described is that a fierce performer means someone who is so riveting and so engaging, that’s how I think it’s meant. In the absolute best sense of the word.

Q. Were you nervous of taking on Ricky’s character?
A.
You know, I didn’t get nervous until I saw the BBC version. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into, and I didn’t know how great it was before I saw it.
So sure, any time you’re held up to that sort of scrutiny, critically, it is a bit nerve wracking. But we got into it thinking that all we wanted to do as a cast and as a production team was to make it funny, and to try to make it good. And to try not to necessarily live up to anybody else’s expectations.
The BBC show is iconic and you can’t set that as a goal. All we tried to do was make a funny show based on the template, which is hilarious. And that was really our only goal.

Q. Is there going to be another series of the US show?
A.
We’ve shot two episodes and I’m going back to shoot a third. We just shot six in the first series and they aired some of those over here.

Q. What do you think about the concept of remaking TV projects for cinema?
A.
It’s very delicate. That is a real tightrope to walk. It’s like doing The Office, you’re trying to re-tell something that has been embraced and loved by a group of people prior to you attempting it. I think the trick with it is to sort of re-invent it, to make it different but pay homage to the original. It’s hard, it’s a very difficult thing to do and do well.
Things like Mission: Impossible turned into a great franchise based on a TV show.
The Fugitive was a marvellous rendition of a tv show, so it definitely can be done. Those two almost make you forget about the original tv show, and if you can do that it’s beyond any expectations.
So I think it can be done, it just takes the right people to be involved and it takes the right tone. But again it’s an incredibly delicate balance to strike.

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