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Ricky Gervais: It’s a wrap for `Extras’
NEW YORK – It feels like an actual scene from HBO’s “Extras.”
Ricky Gervais, the writer-director-star of the critically acclaimed showbiz lampoon, is sitting on the set of “Ghost Town,” a 2008 release and his first feature film as a leading man. A few feet away, a group of real-world extras are stationed on the other side of a flimsy retractable rope line.
“They’re not allowed to mix with me. That’s electrified,” he boasts, not breaking from the signature deadpan that helped him win a best actor Emmy for “Extras” earlier this year. “If they get anywhere near me, 40,000 volts go through them. It’s true.”
He’s kidding. Right?
Either way, Gervais’ transition to the big screen is leaving no room for Andy Millman on the small one.
The movie-extra-turned-sitcom-star character will soon join embarrassing boss David Brent from the British triumph “The Office” in retirement. Gervais and comedy partner Stephen Merchant, who also plays Millman’s hilariously amateurish agent, are ending “Extras” with an 80-minute Christmas special, just like they did with “The Office” four years ago.
“It probably won’t capture the zeitgeist like `The Office’ did, but I think this is the best work we’ve ever done,” Gervais told The Associated Press during an interview on the “Ghost Town” set.
In the surprisingly emotional finale, airing Dec. 16 at 9 p.m. EST, Millman quits his silly sitcom “When the Whistle Blows” in hopes of working on more meaningful projects. Of course, in the forlorn fashion of “Extras,” Millman instead fades further into obscurity, forced to accept such bit parts as an alien slug on an episode of “Doctor Who” and appear as a contestant on a particularly washed-up edition of “Celebrity Big Brother.”
Don’t expect a happy ending for Millman. Do expect to “be havin’ a laff.”
“We wanted it to be a standalone movie,” Gervais says. “It was practice for my possible future career. I did want it to be more filmic, not just another episode. I wanted it to properly end the series. Most of all, if you’ve never seen `Extras,’ I wanted you to be able to watch it and know what’s going on. It has a beginning, middle and end.”
It also has some shrewd cameos from George Michael, Gordon Ramsay and Clive Owen as themselves.
Since its debut on the BBC in 2005, “Extras” has attracted a cadre of A-list celebrities willing to unabashedly defame themselves in the name of comedy. Looking back, Gervais counts David Bowie, Samuel L. Jackson, Kate Winslet and Robert De Niro among the series’ most memorable guest stars.
Gervais says a pivotal scene in the finale, in which Clive Owen petitions perennial background actress Maggie Jacobs (played by Ashley Jensen) to smear the nastiest of special effects cocktails on her face, is the series’ funniest.
“I think the sketch with Clive Owen is the most perfect comedy sketch ever,” Gervais says. “He’s brilliant in it.”
HBO is billing the “Extras” Christmas special as the series finale. However, unlike “The Office,” Gervais could envision returning for more. He already knows what he wants Millman to do next: come to America.
“I can imagine it,” Gervais reasons. “With `The Office,’ I couldn’t imagine it. I’ve never gone back to it, and I never will. If we ever did another `Extras,’ which we almost certainly won’t, I think it would be about Andy trying to make it in Hollywood and failing miserably. Obviously.”
Perhaps, by then, Gervais will be A-list enough to cameo as himself.