Devon star Rik Mayall in Jonathan Creek
by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog
By the Plymouth Herald
28th March 2013
“SO WHY did you cast Rik as Pryke?” the alternative comedian shoots at Jonathan Creek writer David Renwick.
“It would be hard to re-cast after you played him the first time around…” comes Renwick’s reply.
Indeed it would – it’s fair to say that Rik Mayall is one of a kind. And Pryke was the first role he took, after his near-death quad bike accident in April 1998.
Before then, he’d been keeping busy with West End roles and voiceover work, having enjoyed a successful couple of decades in comedy.
Mayall rose to prominence with his stage partner Ade Edmondson at London’s Comedy Store in the early Eighties, then went on to play conceited student and card-carrying Cliff Richard fan Rick in the BBC’s iconic series The Young Ones.
Edmondson and Mayall reunited as barbaric flatmates Richie and Eddie in violence-riddled comedy Bottom – and more recently in The Comic Strip Presents: Five Go To Rehab on Gold.
But Mayall’s accident, which landed him in intensive care, almost ended everything.
“The accident was over Easter and as you know, Jesus our Lord was nailed to the cross on Good Friday,” recounts Mayall, who refers to himself in the third person throughout the interview.
“The day before that is Crap Thursday, and that’s the day Rik Mayall died. And then he was dead on Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday until Bank Holiday Monday.
“I’d been medically dead for all of those days and the doctors said to my wife Barbara, ‘OK we’ve kept him alive for five days now and there’s no sign of any independent life’.
“There’s a little screen next to me with a dead line and the doctor said, ‘If there’s any sign of life within the next hour we’ll keep him plugged up but if not, we’ll take the plugs out and let him die’.
“So Barbara is sitting next to me going, ‘Come on, die you b**tard, I want the money’. But sure enough, during the hour, this line went ‘bleep… bleep’ and he started showing signs of independent life.
“So I came back to life. I was dead for five days over Easter, which means 2000 years later, I beat Jesus Christ 5-3.”
Laughter is never far from Mayall. And even though reprising his Jonathan Creek role brings his horrific mishap back to mind, the Drop Dead Fred actor remains chipper.
“Jonathan Creek was the first job I got after that accident,” he says. “This is why this episode is being shown over Easter – it’s for the public really!”
He enjoys the challenge of playing a good guy. “I tend to always play ego… I’ve been well-known for 32 years and there’s an expectation there and it’s always good to confound that,” Mayall explains.
Pryke, who now uses a mobility scooter to get around, may be temperate but Mayall himself is far from Mr Modest.
“This time around it was interesting that I should have been given a part of someone who is disabled,” he says. “The quad bike only had three wheels, Pryke’s had six wheels, so that’s twice the risk of death, and I risked it.”