The Robert Llewellyn Interview

I emailed him, he agreed, I emailed the questions, he emailed me the answers. And so is the process that let to this interview. Not quite as good as being sat in front of him with a Dictaphone and a notepad but what the hey, this is still an interview with Robert Llewellyn! Enjoy.

You mention in your autobiography, Thin he was and Filthy Haired, that you left school after attaining an Art O Level. Was there any other subject you particularly enjoyed? Did you ever pursue your love for drawing after the events in the book?
I still do a lot of drawing, some of it I animate and have done a half hour pilot for Channel 4, but so far this hasn’t been broadcast. Other subjects I enjoyed were history and English, I was just rubbish at maths which I think is a shame because I have now met people for whom maths is a joy and I envy them. I do love drawing though and computers have made animation within my grasp.

Your two autobiographical books, Thin he was and Filthy Haired and The Man in the Rubber Mask charter your life during your mid teens and the start of your time working on Red Dwarf respectively. What, if any, key moments would you pick out from the time in-between those two books? What was it that started you on the road to performing that eventually lead you to working on Red Dwarf III?
I am under pressure from agents and publishers to write more autobiographical books, and I hope one day I will, yes, there certainly are times in my life I would love to explore in a book. I spent 2 years living in the back of a 3 ton furniture truck, that was a very key period in my life, when I finally learned how to look after myself and become semi adult.

Did you enjoy your time in the band The Joeys, if so do you have any outstanding memories of this spell in your career?
Being in The Joeys totally changed my life, mostly for the better, and it’s a period I’ll never forget. I have so many outstanding memories, but one of the best has to be the time I went for a walk outside the Manchester Royal Exchange theatre just before we were due on stage. There was a massive queue reaching all around the building, I was amazed. None of the people in the queue gave me a second look, we’d never been on telly, they’d never seen us before. Once I got back inside the building, the stage manager told me the theatre was full, the people outside were queuing for returns!

When you first began working on Red Dwarf III did you realise you would still be working on this show over a decade later?
I had not the slightest notion that could be the case. After the recording of the last episode of series 3 we had a huge party in Manchester. That was it, 3 series, successful series, and that?s the end of it as far as everyone seemed concerned.

How did you like working with your partner, Judy Pascoe, in the episode Camille and would it be something you would like to do again?
It was great working with Judy but I don’t think either of us would consider it again. At least she understands what it was like to have the mask on.

The Episode Beyond a Joke from Series VII was co-written by yourself and Doug Naylor. How did you enjoy this brief foray into sit-com writing and is it something you will want to repeat in the future?
It was a brief foray into writing Red Dwarf. I have written a great many sit coms, only one was ever made and that was pre- Dwarf, It wasn’t funny. I would, in some ways love to write one and maybe direct one, but not with me appearing in it.

We have heard that Red Dwarf: The Movie is due to start filming towards the end of the year in Australia. Can you confirm any more information about this?
There is a movie in the pipeline, but as to exactly when and where we will shoot it, it is very much in the lap of the bankers.

If the Movie is a success how would you feel about a 9th series or even a second Movie? Do you feel there will ever be a time when you will want to call it day with Red Dwarf?
There won’t be a 9th series, but if the movie is a success, I’m sure there will be more movies.

How do you enjoy the Red Dwarf fan conventions and do you have any lasting memories from these weekends?
They have been amazing, surprising in the US because we didn’t know how many people enjoyed the show, but we do now.

How did you enjoy your experience with recording commentary for Series III and IV and would you ever contribute to some extra bonus material for future DVDs if the opportunity was presented to you?
Doing the commentaries was great, it’s so rare that we’re all together in one room. It also brought back a lot of memories for all of us, most of them good, all of them funny. I think it’s one of the few times I’ve ever sat down and watched through a whole series. I thought it was great.

How does writing and performing in a stage production such as Mammon, Robot Born of Woman or WomanWizard compare to on screen acting or presenting. And which, if any, do your prefer?
The shows I’ve done on stage have been very much ‘my own’. You feel much more connected to them and therefore if they go well, it’s wonderful, if they fail, it’s particularly painful and takes a long time to get over. I can’t say I prefer any one of the experiences over the other, they are all very different. I love doing RD because of the scripts, the rest of the cast, and the small family that is the production crew. I hate the ludicrously long hours, the make up, the lack of sleep, not being able to eat for 15 hours, so it all balances out.

Would you ever consider writing and performing in more plays, such as Mammon or do you think your future lies with stand up?
I would prefer to write plays I wasn’t in. I’ve tried to do this on numerous occasions, and never managed, I always end up in the damn things.

How did you enjoy being back on stage with your recent run of WomanWizard performances?
It was great, I enjoyed doing the shows but it was harder work than I remembered. I hadn?t done a tour like that for 12 years, I’ve got kids now, I’m an old bloke, I shouldn’t be doing that sort of thing, it’s almost rude. I should have a proper job and stay at home. I wouldn’t do it again, that’s for sure. I drove over 4500 miles in 3 months, that’s enough.

Can you tell us more about your new production, iSpin? Will it be a DVD only release or will it be the basis for another stand up show?
I was very high about iSpin, and I am working on it, but it won’t be a tour, it will just be either a DVD or a very clever web page that does stuff.

How did you get involved making website based productions through BwebB and Llew.tv and do you have future plans for some of the more loved characters such as Proff. Vivian Alice and The Happy Farmer?
I would love to do more, it is just a question of time, and annoyingly, money. I got involved because it became technically possible to make little TV shows and effectively broadcast them on the internet. At least that’s what we thought. It’s just the problem of paying all these multinationals to be allowed to use their cables and servers means for you to watch a 3 minute Happy Farmer sketch ends up costing me money. Every time someone downloads a movie from my site I pay bandwidth charges. You only have to consider that for a few seconds and it stops making any sense at all.

Besides your current online book, Blue Helmet, do you have any other books waiting in the wings for us?
Yes, I am working on my 5th novel at this very moment, at least I am supposed to be.

News was flitting about recently about The Man on Platform 5 being commissioned for a movie release. Do we have any more details as to if, when, where this will happen?
The Man on Platform 5 was bought by Newline Cinema (people who made Lord of the Rings) in 1998, ever since then it has been ‘in development’ which means different people have been hired to write the screenplay. Don’t hold your breath, but this will be a movie one day, I guarantee it.

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