by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog
Manchester Online, July 2002
Rik Mayall reckons he’s typecast in his latest part as the world’s brainiest man who women can’t resist. “What could I do? the role is perfect for me,” grins the former Young One and star of new ITV1 comedy, Believe Nothing. Set in Queen Edward’s College, Oxford, the Manchester University graduate plays Professor Adonis Cnut. He may be the cleverest man alive, but he’s bored and looking for a new challenge.
“It was written for me and I have to say I’ve really enjoyed playing him. He’s intelligent, charming and arrogant. In fact, as we filmed the series, I found myself growing more and more like him.”
Rik played right-wing Tory MP Alan B’stard in The New Statesman, which ended in 1992. Believe Nothing, also written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, is seen as a bold follow-up for the same trio. “This is my first sitcom for a few years and what I liked about it is that Adonis makes me laugh so much,” says Rik.
“I haven’t had this much fun in ages. It mocks the way this country is run by Oxbridge people – that’s the one thing I don’t have in common with Adonis. I went to Manchester and I only got a 2.2 degree.”
Screened from 10pm on Sunday, July 14, Michael Maloney co-stars as the professor’s faithful manservant, Albumen. On the evidence of a very funny first episode, he could soon be rivalling Blackadder’s Baldrick as a cult sidekick hero.
Actress Emily Bruni – last seen as posh Sarah, who seduced Oz in Auf Wiedersen Pet – is Dr Hannah Awkward. Hoping to be appointed to the new Chair of Pedantics, she appears to be the only woman capable of resisting the professor’s charms.
In a wonderfully bizarre plot, the young female academic displays an encyclopaedic knowledge of Coronation Street when Prof – “they must be talking working class” – Cnut is asked an eliminating phone question while trying to get his manservant into the chair on the TV quiz, “Get Rich Quick”.
Metropolis star Emily’s first role after leaving drama school at 20 was as Rik’s daughter in the Channel 4 film, Remember Me.
“I was really nervous. It was a big deal for me and Rik was so sweet,” she recalls. “I remember him telling me that, as an actor, it’s OK to feel fear, but that you should never, ever, be embarrassed.”
There’s a long list of guest stars sprinkled throughout the series, including Rory Bremner as President Shrub and Melvyn Bragg as himself, with Mayall’s character filling a vacant seat at a shadowy underground organisation that manipulates everything that goes on in the world.
Fresh from the recent controversy over his portrayal of Hitler in an anti-euro cinema commercial, Rik, 44, explains: “There’s so much to the series. Global warming is explained away as a hoax, Tony Blair is in it, so is David Blunkett. We see President Nixon, too. Anything is possible and you can’t be sure of what is real, hence the title – Believe Nothing.
“I think I know something about good writing and drama – my father was head of a drama department, I grew up with it. When I read the script for this, I was staggered by how masterful it was.” It’s now four years since the Essex-born actor almost lost his life in a quad bike accident. He suffered serious head injuries when he fell off the vehicle at his farm in Devon.
He was flown unconscious to hospital and doctors feared Rik would either die or suffer permanent brain damage.
He says: “My life hung in the balance. The slightest increase in pressure on the brain from either swelling or bleeding and that would have been it.
“Although I am fully recovered, I don’t want to make any mistakes. I’ve proved I can still do the job – I did a three-month tour playing at 3,000-seaters and that was enough proof for me. But I’m probably more careful than I was. I had no doubts about Believe Nothing.”