Red Dwarf cast interview with James Buckley

Red Dwarf XII guest star James Buckley - also the lead in our fantasy sitcom Zapped - caught up with Chris Barrie (Arnold J. Rimmer), Craig Charles (Dave Lister), Danny John-Jules (The Cat) and Robert Llewellyn (Kryten) to chat about the new series.

Red Dwarf XII interview

James Buckley: Are you looking forward to remembering some anecdotes and funny stories from something you filmed ages ago?

Robert Llewellyn: It's like it was yesterday, we're all absolutely fresh, we know exactly what happened.

Craig Charles: How much did you enjoy being in it?

I did, yeah, it was really good.

Craig: Because you're in the Mechanoid Intergalactic Liberation Front.

Yeah, I would describe it as sort of like a dream come true. Someone said to me would I like to be in an episode of Red Dwarf. I said yeah, that'd be great, with all the cast there. The way it was pitched to me was "you'll be an alien or something, no one'll recognise you, it'll be really cool" so yeah, I liked the idea of that. And then the day before I did a makeup test and they put the Kryten android stuff on me.

Craig: It's uncomfortable mate, innit?

I nearly shit myself, it's so iconic.

Craig: (Robert's) had three books out of wearing that mask.

So Dave has trusted me with some questions -idiots! So number one: assume I've never seen Red Dwarf before. Well I have, I watch it yearly. I watch every episode yearly in February and March. For some reason it's become a routine.

Danny John-Jules: Those are slow months, obviously.

Yes. There's not much on, I need a laugh. So, I've never seen Red Dwarf before (I have). What would you say to me apart from "watch Red Dwarf"? I didn't write these questions. Why should I watch it, and why should I start with Red Dwarf XII?

Robert: I've explained it to a very old relative of mine who'd never seen it, and (then) she watched it. She said "I don't think I'll understand it". Then she watched it and said "I didn't understand it".

Craig: When he says a very old relative he means his younger sister.

Chris Barrie: Some people say they didn't understand it but they enjoyed it.

Robert: My auntie said that. She enjoyed it. She said "you're all very good, I don't know what it's about."

Chris: There are episodes that I quite enjoyed doing but I didn't understand.

Craig: The premise is quite simple, really. It's like The Odd Couple or Porridge. It's about four dysfunctional people and their relationships with each other - who don't necessarily get on, stuck in a room, stuck in a situation, the situation just happens to be space.

Danny: Rising Damp, stuck in one place, Steptoe...

Craig: Instead of being on a couch or some chairs we're in Starbug.

Chris: When I first auditioned for it, it was described as Steptoe & Son in space, which was Rimmer and Lister.

Craig: I was the son.

Danny: The Porridge-esque bunk scenes ... Rimmer's very much like the Rigsby character in Rising Damp, who antagonises the rest of the guys in the house, and all that tradition.

OK, specifically about Red Dwarf XII, what's the biggest difference between this series compared to the last one?

Craig: I think we upgraded the ship. We upgraded Starbug, we got new lights.

Danny: The costumes got more and more outrageous.

Craig: We got some great guest stars. We got Johnny Vegas in it. We got you in it. You're quite funny in it. Well done.

Danny: It was quite disturbing. The thing was we could only see your eyes, which was very scary. That was the scary thing.

Craig: In that episode we all became Krytens, and although we all looked like Krytens you could see our individual facial characterisations in the mask.

They sort of become bespoke, don't they?

Chris: Everyone thinks we just look like Robert, but we don't.

Danny: We ended up in the scenes kind of staring at each other.

Craig: But it was the most uncomfortable thing. Chris got ill wearing it.

Robert: That was the day we were filming with you (James), wasn't it?

Craig: It was so uncomfortable, so hot, I thought I was crying at one point but I wasn't, I was sweating through my eyes!

Danny: The problem was, the sweat sort of collects under the mask but outside it was about minus five degrees, so we'd run out to get fresh air and then nearly die of pneumonia!

Robert: Then you had an ice pack on the back of your head.

It was cold, wasn't it?

Danny: It was freezing.

I remember my nose leaking a lot...

Craig: That's it, because the sweat's coming out of there.

And I thought, have I got a cold or something?

Danny: You don't know where it's coming from.

... and it's just sweat collecting in your head.

Danny: And then going down the back of your neck, down your back, it's nuts!

I assume you guys had a whole new respect for Robert?

Craig: Yeah, I thought just get on with it, you wuss.

Danny: Twenty-eight years of guilt, of calling him a big wuss. We literally went out bowing to Bobby, because it was amazing.

Robert: The time I remember, which was here in the studio, was coming down - we'd all been in makeup, I'd seen them all - but I was later on, and they were actually shooting the scene where they were doing the ironing and the laundry, and it was just the weirdest thing. They were absolutely them, but they were all mechanoid versions of them. There's no way of describing it. That episode is just extraordinary.

Craig: I got to play guitar with Hitler.

Danny: You try telling someone that!

Craig: "What did you do today, daddy? I played guitar with Hitler".

Chris: He was great, wasn't he?

Craig: Not Hitler! Ryan Gage, the guy who played him!

Chris: I mean, Hitler had his moments!

He lost it towards the end, Hitler...

Danny: I was worried about how the episode was going to end, actually.

Chris: But it's the second appearance for Hitler in Red Dwarf, wasn't it?

Danny: Yes. He whacked Winnie the Pooh.

Craig: That was on Waxworld, yeah. When Rimmer went crazy.

Danny: Abraham Lincoln came into the cell. Jack Klaff as Abraham Lincoln.

Robert: See? We can remember episodes from twenty-six years ago.

Craig: Ask me anything about series four!

Chris, does Rimmer change at all this series? I've not seen the series so I assume it's a teaser question.

Chris: The best people to answer that question are my fellow characters.

Danny: I tell you what, he does change because in this series he has an electric vehicle.

Chris: In the presidential election.

Danny: Chris Barrie in an electric vehicle! That is comedy!

Robert: I never thought we'd live to see the day

Chris: I'm just having catalytic converters fitted!

Danny, what's the best thing about being the Cat? Last series he finally got laid.

Craig: What was that episode called?

Danny: Um ... what day is it today?

Craig: Dunno!

Danny: I'm useless at remembering show names, titles, characters.

Yeah, why would you?

Danny: Because I play a self-serving kind of character.

I have a similar job to you guys. I wouldn't like to say I do the same thing, that would be disrespectful on you guys.

Danny: James!

But people are surprised when they say "what, have you not watched every episode of everything you've ever done?" I'm sort of like, well I was there, I did it, it took ages, we did it over and over again, the last thing I want is to be sat there and have it replayed in front of me!

Craig: I've got to be honest, I've watched some episodes of Red Dwarf and I don't remember being in the scene. I've thought "I do not remember doing that."

It's a lovely treat!

Craig: Yeah! Look at that, it's quite funny, isn't it?

Robert: This is the only work on TV I've done that I can watch, I'll sort of go ah, ok, so I'll watch it, and because I enjoy what (the other three) are doing, and as long as I don't hear a really rubbish flat vowel coming out of Kryten's mouth... because it isn't me, it's Kryten, so it's not like watching yourself, it's that one step removed, but every now and then (mimicking) "oh sir, pleeeease!" and I hate that, I scream and throw something at the telly. But other than that I've watched quite a few episodes over the last twenty years.

Craig: My young daughter's recently discovered it, and watched it, and all I get is "Dad, you were so young! Oh Dad, you were quite cute, weren't you?"

Danny: It is scary, seeing the old ones.

Chris: When I watch it with my eldest son he says "Dad, why'd you do it like that?" My younger son glances in and says "still watching that? what happened to you, Dad?" They say how everyone else is really good.

Robert: Your kids are the best reviewers. My daughter, she watched an old episode last year and when it finished she said "um, it's not bad but Kryten used to be quite slim, didn't he Dad?" and walked out on that.

Craig: A lot more software now, Bob.

Upgrades.

Robert: I've had some upgrades and hard drive installation. Massive ones.

Rob, this series you take part in an election against Rimmer (Mechocracy). What was it like being on the campaign trail?

Robert: I did enjoy that episode actually, it was fun. The speeches were basically word for word what we're watching at the moment - you know, vacuous, just use the word powerful a lot, and control, and stable - it had all those rubbish political platitudes in it.

Craig: Are you a Remainer or a Brexiteer, Rob?

Robert: Yeah, let's keep it easy!

Craig: Hope you're enjoying this, four doddery old men talking shite. Welcome to my life! Twenty-nine years!

It is twenty-nine years, isn't it? Do you know how I know that?

Danny: Because you're twenty-nine?

Yeah!

Robert: Oh my God.

So I'm literally a lifelong fan. I was six months old, February '88 I think, when the first episode of Red Dwarf came out. Six months after I was born.

Danny: We're joined at the hip, man.

And I actually can't remember my life before Red Dwarf. I discovered it really, really early and as far as I'm concerned it's always existed and always been there.

Robert: We've been doing it for long enough now to feel it's the same for us. I can't remember life before Red Dwarf.

Chris: We first met in 1986, Craig.

Craig: We did, yeah. We rehearsed in '87 but then there was a strike.

Danny: I went off and cried. Imagine! You get your first TV (job), the BBC, seven storeys of rehearsal rooms, John Gielgud walking around... "by the way guys, we can't film it, there's an electricians' strike." So we rehearsed three episodes and didn't shoot one frame.

Craig: And then we came back the next year. So it should have been '87, shouldn't it?

In the episode M-Corp, Lister gets hijacked by an app that keeps making him upgrade. Are you guys fans of apps and upgrading software?

Craig: I present The Gadget Show at the moment!

Danny: We leave it all to Bobby.

Robert: I do a bit of appage. Mind you, I've got young people that help me. Actually, when I say young people I've just realised they're older than you, James! Only a bit older.

Danny: But that's showbiz, innit? Bobby's the one who knows about gadgets, but Craig gets the gig.

Chris: We covered my luddite credentials I think

Craig: It's all about the ability to communicate complex ideas! In M-Corp, we download and upgrade new software on to Red Dwarf, then all of a sudden we can only see stuff that's made by this particular company, so that idea is really quite cool.

Robert: There was a lovely sequence where Kryten holds things up that we can all see, but Lister can't see some of them because they're not M-Corp products, and actually it's a brilliant play on that whole idea of the Googles, Amazons and everybody, who know everything about you, everything you've bought, know what time you're buying the next thing, all that stuff, and then they only show you what you want.

Danny: You see James, this is why I just come in and say my lines.

Chris: This is quite important stuff, quite relevant stuff.

Craig: One of the good things about Red Dwarf I always find, is like, when we started doing it in the late 80s a lot of what was science fiction has now become science fact. And a lot of stuff that was in series XI and this new series, Red Dwarf XII, is science fiction now but one day will become science fact. It's always nice to be ahead of the curve in that way.

Yes, because those early series of Red Dwarf, things are referred to as a VHS or something like that, but there would be some sort of futuristic take on it, but there would still be the word VHS.

Craig: Total immersion video games, we're kind of virtually there now, things like that, and Better Than Life.

Robert: There's also, every now and then I'll see a weird astronomical observation fact - there was a white hole recently that's spewing time into the universe - and all the astronomers and people all round the world going "just like in Red Dwarf" and you think oh my God, White Hole was one of the ones we did.

It's a gateway for idiots like me. So when they try and explain something like that, then they go "just like on that episode of Red Dwarf", and you go right, yeah, got it, thanks Red Dwarf for explaining it to me.

Craig: That's quite satisfying, that that's worked out like it has. And I do think that a lot of Red Dwarf XII's science fiction will be science fact in the future, you know.

In Timewave the boys come across a ship where criticism is outlawed.

Craig: Johnny Vegas is in that one.

Have you guys ever had a favourite bit of criticism?

Craig: "This is the voyage of the starship Red Dwarf whose mission is to go where many sitcoms have gone before; up its own arsehole. Very at home in this part of the television anatomy is Craig Charles. Where is this man from? Is he from a distant planet called Rent-a-Liverpudlian, or was he spontaneously generated by a TV screen? No matter. Charles and this series are heading for a sticky end..." twenty-nine years!

Chris: I tend to erase bad reviews - the good ones, you sort of get the highlighter out.

Craig: I used to remember the bad ones, they'd burn scar tissue onto my soul.

Chris: But that episode again reflects maybe what's happening today in the world.

Robert: A critique of, in a sense, free speech and political correctness and all those things where you can't say this, or you shouldn't be saying that... and people getting offended at the tiniest little thing.

I don't know why it's suddenly cool to be offended by things and sort of trendy to get wound up over everything.

Craig: Most of the best comedy's offensive, isn't it? The joke's got to be on someone.

Danny: No one wants to be the butt of a joke anymore, that's a fact.

I don't know why that is, it's just a joke.

Craig: That's why God invented Rimmer.

Rumour has it a certain 'super-intelligent' computer will be making a reappearance this year.

Craig: What, HAL?

The question actually has 'super-intelligent' written in quotation marks.

Craig: Yes, Norman (Lovett) is back (as Holly). When he comes back, remember that scene when it was first revealed? I could have gone and had dinner and come back and they would still have been laughing and cheering.

Danny: Mate, I did a full costume change during that applause.

Craig: It went on for ever... and when you're acting just against a screen, and you've got nothing to act to, you've got to kind of act your way through that kind of applause. Don't let him know, but it was the biggest laugh of the series.

Danny: I don't know, Bobby got a few applauses didn't he? The best one, he got a standing ovation backing off set, right, pointing to a button. How do you get a standing ovation by pointing to a button, walking out backwards? Bobby did it.

That's the key we all want. We all want to know that secret.

Robert: It took years of training. I was at RADA for years, button pointing.

Danny: Do you understand how you got a laugh at that? Up to this day I don't know.

Robert: We're doing the scene and I know hopefully where we're going to get laughs. Then it'll go wrong as it does all the time, and we'll do something really inconsequential like a little in-joke or a little look, and it gets this massive laugh, and you just go "oh!" Sometimes you might be trying to do something for the audience to try and get a laugh, but this is literally when I'm walking out and I'm waiting for Chris to get through the door and they laugh, and you check your flies ... but I haven't got flies! So what the hell is it? And then they laugh again!

Now, I've been in your position and I know what it's like to try and promote a TV show you're in, so here's a question. I want to say I have nothing to do with this. And finally, describe Red Dwarf XII in three words.

Robert: It is good.

Craig: It is funny.

Chris: Hilarious and interesting.

Danny: I am funny. Craig is funny. Chris is funny and Bobby is funny.

How many words is that?

Chris: Twelve. Showing off that I'm quite good at maths.

Craig: I can't believe you didn't put your hand up! "Twelve Sir, twelve!"

Chris: I think it's thirteen because you also said "and".

Thank you very much guys, I'm really looking forward to Red Dwarf XII, especially one episode in particular.

Danny: Can I just say that the episode that James is in (Siliconia) is my favourite.

Craig: James is my favourite guest star of all time.

Robert: And mine.

Chris: Definitely.

I think that's a good way to end this. Let's cut that there, shall we? Let's stop now while we're ahead!

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