Robert Llewellyn Interview
We’ve been listening to your audiobook, The Man in the Rubber Mask, about your story and behind the scenes on Red Dwarf, on Audioboo; the first three chapters are there free, but we haven’t been able to buy the rest – am I doing something wrong? It’s so good, we really want to get it!
I think it isn’t working – I need to meet someone who runs it, to sort it out.
When it first came out on there it worked great but something’s happened recently. I will try to sort it out soon, it’s on a long list of things I need to do.
You’ve been doing talks in the southwest on renewable energy – we were planning on coming to your talk in Dartington recently but couldn’t make it. Are you planning on doing any more?
Not in the immediate future, no. I did one in Dartington and one in Falmouth after that. I lecture at universities about media! I don’t know anything about it really, but they seem to like hearing about it. I’ve worked in the entertainment industry for 35 years, but it’s changed so much in that time. I run a You Tube channel now, which is doing very well and they want to know how I do that. I don’t actually know …. But I’m quite good at making it up!
Do you have a favourite Red Dwarf episode?
I really don’t. There are some episodes that stay in your mind as being memorable, but not always for good reasons. The episodes aren’t awful but the process was. Demons and Angels was particularly difficult for all of us but particularly for me. There were a lot of reshoots – you’ve done it and you think ‘thank goodness’ but then you’ve got to do it again! That was a tough one, but the end result was great.
Polymorph with the shrinking boxer shorts was great. When we rehearsed it, we kind of figured it would be good, but ended up being really funny. In the latest series, series XI which goes out in September, though I can’t tell you anything about the plot, there are two moments in that where we got a similar reaction form the audience to Polymorph. We couldn’t do anything for about a minute and a half while the audience screamed and laughed and clapped and …. Went bananas! We were just standing there holding on to the next line for a long, long time. They’ll have to cut it but we had to just wait til it stopped. That has given us a clue that it’s going to be really good.
Does having a live audience feed into your love of stand up?
Yes… I’ve been criticised in the past for saying that none of us are actors – that’s not strictly true. We are actors, but we aren’t from a traditional background, none of us did drama school – we are all from a performance, stand up thing. Chris (Barrie) is an amazing impressionist, Craig (Charles) was a performance poet, I was in stand-up, so we really learned early on when some BBC executives came to watch us rehearsing in costume with no cameras and they were really upset because they thought we were sloppy and unprofessional – we didn’t know our lines and they were really shocked. We didn’t hear this at the time, but they were really angry… going what’s going on, it’s ridiculous, it’s not professional. We were just standing around going ‘whatevahhhhhh…’ like spoilt kids. But then the audience came in and they couldn’t believe the difference – we raised our game completely. Thankfully, Doug Naylor, the writer, and all of the cast love an audience – most people don’t. It’s much harder, more expensive, you have to run it right – the camera crew are under enormous pressure because if they miss a shot, we have to redo it and it’s their fault, not ours. It’s often my fault though… Chris’s or mine. (the famous quote from Craig ‘Get your lines right, Bobby, there’s a bag of chips in it for you’!)
It sounds horrendous having to go through the palaver of getting the mask done. Do you have to go through that each series?
Yes, every series is a new mask. It’s expensive and a lot of hassle. Actually, this most recent one is without question the best one I’ve ever had. It’s made out of silicone rubber rather than foam rubber, which I thought when I first heard, that it might be even hotter but weirdly it’s not. It’s not breathable, we don’t do breathing!… but it must conduct heat better, so the heat can escape more easily.
Do you lose weight from being in the mask?
I don’t like I used to, because the other good thing with this new mask is that I can eat with it on! I couldn’t with the foam one because, apart from messing up the make up on the lips, if you got any food on the foam one, it would stain it but also it made the food taste so disgusting, I can’t tell you, it was so bad it was like a taste from another dimension – you never want to experience it. So I just didn’t eat with it on. But with this new one, I can – I can spill curry down it and it wipes off!
Also, it fits better. I used to have my head cast in alginate, which is what you use for dental moulds, and goes in your mouth and up one nostril. Then you’ve only got one nostril to breathe through… can’t do it if you’ve got a cold or are claustrophobic, you’d freak out. I found it harder and harder as the years went on. This time, though, I had a 3D photograph of my head taken with 97 cameras – I had to sit still for a second, they printed a 3D head and that was it. Also, with the weight of the old cast, your face would be distorted underneath – I’ve seen one that Arnold Schwarzenegger did at the studio and his face was all smooshed – it’s not a good look! Whereas this is absolutely the ugly old bloke that I am… it looks and fits better, right under the eye, and is so much easier. Though it still takes two hours to put on. It’s much better though.
If you ever want us to let the Squad know about anything you’re doing, let us know!
I will! My new book, Gardenia, is a science fiction book, so I will be in touch.
Thank you so much, Robert!