What's in store for The Promised Land?

We're all excited for the next installment of Red Dwarf, so we thought we'd get a bit of an insider's look on what's in store. See what the cast have revealed in this exclusive interview.

Red Dwarf: The Promised Land


You character becomes a superhero wearing an incredible suit!

You always know when you put on a costume, as soon as you've been to wardrobe and makeup and start walking in to the studio, you can immediately tell by people's reactions what it's going to be like. I think both Vanessa and Howard in the makeup and wardrobe departments respectively did an absolutely A1 job and gave me the base to really enjoy the moment in that outfit and perform this uber Rimmer as it were. I wanted to be in the costume longer!

Did you feel quite reflective once you were all back together? You have a very special relationship...

Oh yes. It's always very easy to switch into character on Red Dwarf because as soon as we get the costumes on and the dialogue going it's like we've never been away. And every time we're there we're always reflecting on the old shows and obviously we can go way back now to 1987 so there's a lot to talk about and recall! And all the characters and people we've met along the way. In this piece we met and worked with another great batch of people. The three cat clerics Tom Bennett, Mandeep Dhillon and Lucy Pearman were great performers. Ray Fearon - what a top performance as the feral king. And Al Roberts his apologetic flunky was brilliant as well. So many great performances and it was fun to see them add another dimension to the show.

Holly is back too and got a very big cheer!

Oh how could I forget! Norman (Lovett) is back, what a great guy and a proper comic with proper timing and delivery. Cynical as ever but brilliant to see him back, and the audience absolutely go nuts when they see him.

Are your working relationships the easiest you've had with anyone?

It's been my main working relationship in my career. I was 27 when we started doing this and now I'm 60 so all my life I've worked with Craig, Danny, Norm and a year or two later Robert. Doug and Rob (Grant) I worked with right from the outset of my career. I've known Doug for 37 years so it is the backbone of my working life. Having said that we had a lovely company on The Brittas Empire for a lovely eight years. I worked on Spitting Image back in the 80s and we had a lovely company on the voice and puppeteering side, so I've been very happy and lucky to have some great working relationships over the years. But obviously Red Dwarf stands in the middle as the longest and probably most successful show in terms of my career. When we all started as youngsters we were different young men; we were 'I must get on, I want more lines' blah blah. But as the years go on you realise that we're a team and we've come through so much from young single men to getting married and having children. And now we're passing through the middle age era and I think we appreciate each other as much as we've ever done, if not more.

How does it feel to have a documentation of you over all those years?

Yeah it's interesting. Obviously when series three crops up every now and then you see yourself as a 30-year-old, you tend to go my God! Or as my son said, 'Dad what happened to you!' But I think it's been a real privilege to be around to do a show for so long. And the fans still love it I hope.

Technology has obviously changed a lot - you have a laugh with that...

Oh yes. To think that back in the old days we had the old flapping sets and some fairly ropey kind of stuff. We used models more and I loved using models, we still use them a little bit these days and of course the quality of those have gone up but we're always making comments on various topical things when we do Red Dwarf - the tech ban in M-Corp in series XII for example. Technology and the use of it and comment on it is never going to be far away from Red Dwarf.


This Red Dwarf special has been a long time coming for fans...

Yeah. It's something slightly different and breaking new ground in many ways because it's like a feature length special but it's filmed in front of a live audience. It's just a new way of doing it. But it's a great story and there are some fantastic performances in it - and I'm not talking about me by the way, I'm talking about other people. I wouldn't write my own reviews! But it was a really nice thing to do. So feature length as well as still being a sitcom - staying true to the traditions of situation comedy.

That's kind of reflected in the storyline because things do get quite deep and emotional at points...

Yeah the way I play Lister is he's quite dissolute at the moment. He's hoarding all this shit and drinking copious amounts of booze and eating wrong, which is fun to play because I play it for real. Basically I just got pissed for five months and ate curry! So no hardship for me to be honest, I really enjoyed doing it! But he's got to that stage in his life, and I play age appropriate because he's 55, where he's been alone in space for all that time and has no lover but a group of characters around him who to be fair you wouldn't choose them! And he's struggling really, which is the way I've tried to play him. Emotionally he's a bit on edge. He's definitely having a midlife crisis!

Then he becomes a god! But doesn't seem to let it go to his head too much...

That's quite cool though isn't it? That story is great and it was fun being a god for a while. The bit when he turns around and says, 'How can they think I'm a god because look at the state of me!' I reckon all gods probably feel like that every now and again.

It's quite a dramatic storyline - would you say it's more serious than other outings?

I think it's more epic. It just felt like an epic story and the special effects, wow. It's like motion picture quality. The big thing was trying to keep it funny because it's a comedy. It might look great but is it funny? That's really important to us.

Who has changed the most since your first outing 32 years ago?

I suppose I have really. I'm very different from when it started. I was 23 when I started playing Dave Lister and I'm 55 now and I came from absolutely nothing, a council estate in Liverpool and I live a completely different life now. So it's probably me but hopefully for the best!

You've known each other throughout so you keep each other grounded...

Oh definitely. To be fair to the guys - no one comes in there giving it Charlie Big Potato or anything like that - they're all very decent human beings. They are a pleasure to hang out with.


This special has been a long time coming...

Yeah but timing is everything because what everybody needs now is a good laugh and we have it. Don't forget for me as well it's the same thing. I'm sitting here thinking what's it going to be like because filming something is one thing but the proof is in the watching. It's nice to see it does have a different feel and I would be very worried if it had the same feel as we had in 1988. The world evolves even in space.

What can people expect from it?

The people that know, the 12-year-old kids who were watching it in 1987 who now have grandchildren, those people don't have to be convinced because they've been on the ride with us from the beginning. We have our core audience that is unshakeable and we're in that fortunate position - they're also the most critical people out there. We have those kinds of conversations with our audiences at forums and places they can address us directly to tell us what they think. It's why we have a head start and have been going for 32 years because it's not only a sitcom but far more social that any show out there with its fans.

What's going on with your character for it?

Well it's a Cat based story. It's all about my character! In fact the title is The Promised Land and that was my line in the first ever episode - when Cat's explaining about The Promised Land. The people who know the show will know that but also Doug has to explain that to the people who've never seen the show before - he's very good at that. Doug's very clever which is why I keep telling everyone I'm in the best show in England, end of story. The joy we have playing the characters and the joy we have watching people enjoy the characters.

Do you fall in to your characters and dynamic filming together very naturally?

Yeah but we didn't make up the rhythm of the show. That's Doug's writing. I can't speak for the other guys but I get a script and my job is to make it move. Do I worry about the content? No because I know it works and that it's going to be good.


This special has been a long time coming...

It has although I think we're quite used to the fact that the gaps between us doing Red Dwarf are quite long! During the '90s it was very regular thing and now every few years we get back together and do some more, which is an extraordinary thing. Doug and the team have made this look amazing. I know it's something that Doug has always wanted to do.

Did it feel quite different making it?

It didn't really because we recorded it in front of an audience - that's our main concern and when Red Dwarf comes alive. That's to do with the kind of shallowness of our show business personalities - we need a load of people to show off to and then we'll actually make an effort! Recording two large chunks of it in front of an audience made it feel like two episodes of a sitcom. We were pre-shooting stuff, then rehearsing stuff to shoot in front of an audience, then camera rehearsals, so that was very normal for us. Then the audience came in and the response we get as performers is brilliant. That makes it for me - it's terrifying and stressful doing it in front of an audience but it makes such a big difference to our performances.

What's going on with your character in it?

Well it was all very apposite in a way to my own life. Kryten is in need of a service (laughs). He's patched up and a bit battered, he's been around for three million years, stuff goes wrong and he's definitely the worse for wear. It ties in with the reality of the performer! I'm still going and can still do it but I'm a little bit battered and knackered! I remember hearing that when I was a kid and it sounded so stupid from all my older relatives: 'Oh the body might be old but the mind is still young!' You'd go "yeah whatever Granddad" but it's true! I'm about 22 right now mentally and emotionally. And then you get up and do something and your knee collapses and your back hurts and you can't. It's so weird.

Do you fall in to your characters and dynamic filming together very naturally?

I try not to do Kryten when I'm not on Red Dwarf but it kind of leaks out every now and then and sometimes I'm genuinely not aware of it. My wife will say why are you doing a Kryten walk; what's wrong with you, you're in the kitchen? Am I? Did I? The weirdest one was being recognised a few years ago in a restaurant having dinner with my wife and the waiter who wasn't serving us was in the bit of the restaurant behind me came over and said, 'I love Red Dwarf can you sign this? He said he recognised me from the way I eat. So I must eat like Kryten - who doesn't eat! The whole thing was completely bizarre. But then my wife said, 'You don't know do you, you move your stupid head like Kryten!'

Are your working relationships the easiest you've had with anyone?

I've worked with a lot of different people but certainly when we all get together I'm instantly in hysterics because they just make me laugh a lot. So there's an enormous joy I find when we're all together and it is the weird in-jokes and stuff that I remember having when you're at school in your little gang. It's the most stupid bloody thing that means nothing to anyone else but Red Dwarf. I'm like the quite well behaved boy that enjoys hanging out with the naughty boys, who always gets in trouble when the naughty boys get away with it. That's always been my role from very early on!

And also of technology about how things have changed...

Yes the transformation in that period which is from 1988 which is when I agreed to get involved. The first episode I did was 1989 and the difference in the technology we used in that period is breath taking. The fact I can sit in my house and talk in to a piece of glass that doesn't have a wire joining anything - you couldn't do that when we first started making it. And I've just been broadcasting television on a computer in my studio so the amount of changes we've seen and the technology we use as well is extraordinary and how much that's changed. The special effects and the CGI in this special are extraordinary. Hollywood couldn't have done that on a $100 million budget back in 1989. It wasn't possible.

Friends of Dave