Legendary British comedian and writer, Ricky Gervais, has shown a softer side to his usually exclusively sarcastic nature by admitting that he has grown a strong emotional attachment to his new sitcom character, Derek!
Gervais plays 49-year-old Derek Noakes in the new Channel 4 comedy, who is a care worker in a home for the elderly and who likes watching reality television shows and game shows.
He is a kind, helpful, selfless man with good intentions. He is vulnerable because of his childlike naiveté and lack of intelligence, which leaves him open to being ridiculed and ostracised, as well as being marginalised by mainstream society because of his social awkwardness, unattractiveness and lack of inhibitions, with many sources describing him as autistic.
The show, which has proved to be somewhat of a hit, was the subject of much criticism due to its controversial content, with Gervais being in the firing line deemed insensitive.
However, the award-winning stand up has admitted in a recent interview with the Observer that he gets very emotional when thinking about his new character as he has a real affection for him, and that if he were real he would even love him:
“I don’t just mean I love the character like I’d love playing James Bond. I mean that if Derek was real, I would love him as a person. He gets to me. I could well up thinking about how sweet he is.
“He’s us before we get burdened by what other people think of us.’
“He doesn’t have to second guess what the right thing is: he does it intuitively. He has no burden of duty other than asking: “What can I do that will make this person feel better?”‘
The comedian, who was the genius behind the hit shows The Office, Extras and Life’s Too Short, went on to insist that despite all the speculation, Derek is not disabled and that the show was in fact about human kindness, explaining:
“I think our elderly are forgotten sometimes.
“I’ve made the home the sweetest, nicest place to be because I didn’t want it to be a political swipe.
“It’s nothing to do with “care” or “care in the community” – it’s a backdrop rather like selling paper was the backdrop to The Office. But that was about turning 30. This is about turning 80.”
Gervais said that the reason behind society overlooking the elderly is because they don’t want to be reminded about their own mortality, commenting:
“No one cares. There are no Hollywood stars speaking out for the elderly. They’re forgotten, bewildered, and I don’t think it’s because people are cruel or don’t care.”
The first episode of the first series of Derek was screened this week on Channel 4, if you missed it watch the full episode in the clip below: