Bottom’s Up

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

Ny Shoba Vazirani for OK!, 28th September 2001

From The New Statesman via Bottom to The Knock, Mayall has always loved surprising people. As a brutish policeman in Murder Rooms, he’s sure to…

Think of the name Rik Mayall and you can’t help but smile. The zany actor is synonymous with comedy performances, and with a career spanning two decades, there have been plenty of them. After shooting to fame at the tender age of 24 as Rick in The Young Ones, there has been one series after another, including Filthy, Rich and Catflap, Bottom and The New Statesman, specialising in repulsive and slimy characters.

As a natural show-off, making people laugh is definitely what Rik, 43, does best, but he does have his serious side. He has already proved to be pretty convincing in such dramas as The Knock and Jonathan Creek and now he’s back as a guest star in crime thriller Murder Rooms.

He was particularly pleased to clinch the role of a Victorian police officer and enjoyed working with one of his long-time heroes, Ian Richardson, who stars as forensic genius Dr Joseph Bell, Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.

Rik, who lives in London and Devon with wife Barbara and their three children, says he loves keeping audiences guessing and he hopes this role will show yet another side to his talents. Freetime caught up with the madcap star on the set of the BBC drama and tried to get some serious answers!

Rik, tell us about your character

His name’s Daniel Blaney and he’s a police lieutenant. In Victorian times where this is set, there was a resistance from traditional policing for the newfangled methods of policing. It was much simpler to beat the confession out of the suspect. Blaney’s like that: he doesn’t see the point of finger-printing and methodically searching far clues; he reckons he can sense whether someone’s guilty or not.

As a comedy star, what made you take on such a serious role?

I like to show a different side to myself now and again! I took the job because I just adore Ian and I wanted to play his screen enemy. There’s been a murder and we’re trying to find out who did it but of course we’re on opposing sides, which is brilliant. I love making Bell hate Blaney! Also the costumes are great and I get to ponce around looking handsome.

Which do you prefer, comedy or straight?

I inhabit this world in the middle realty, which is nice because no one knows what I’m doing. I’ll be Ritchie from Bottom, Alan B’Stard or whatever and then it’s: ‘Oh, he’s doing that funny person!’ I’m also doing something at the National. I like that feeling of wrong-footing the audience slightly. Rather than coming to see something they know and they’ve seen before, a surprise is good.

You seem to work constantly…

My work is my greatest love, apart from my family. That’s what I do. It’s all I ever wanted to do ever since I was little.

So what we can expect next?

Ade (Edmondson) and I are going on the road with Bottom 2001, which is a joke in itself because there have been so many episodes of Bottom, this probably really is the 2001st! It’s actually called Bottom 2001; An Arse Oddity. We’ve decided to do it because we haven’t done a live show in a while. We tend to do a big operation every two years, which this is. The tickets are on sale now…

Do you get much family time?

I’ve always — and this is true for once — tended not to speak about my family because I don’t think it’s fair to them. But I will tell you that they’re fine and happy. I always take the summer off to spend with the kids, who are brilliant.

Has your 1998 quad bike accident, where you incurred severe head injuries, changed you?

I don’t know, is the honest answer, because I can’t remember what I was like before. I was always happy before and I’m happy now. I like working more than ever. Maybe when something like that happens to you, you don’t have to worry about being perfect any more, so I don’t worry about getting old, having grey hairs and all that. Yeah, maybe it’s made me less worried about getting old because I’d rather get old than not.

How do you feel about fame and stardom?

I’ve always found it embarrassing and uncool to be famous. I come from a generation who thought being starry was stupid. It’s a slightly socialist tradition of the 70s, so we’ve never really been fame hungry. I like what it does for you in as much as it gives you the opportunity to work, which I love.