TV personality Robert Llewellyn (actor, presenter, writer and all-round interesting bloke!), has recently become a feral supporter, so it was a great joy and honour when he agreed to take part in a very feral interview with our very own Feral Captain and author, Bronwen Winter Phoenix.
Perhaps best-known for playing Kryten in Red Dwarf (not forgetting Scrapheap Challenge), Robert now presents a weekly show called Carpool, where he interviews some very interesting people – and this is the interesting bit – in a car! You can check it out here: http://www.llewtube.com
Below he talks about Carpool, Scrapheap Challenge, Red Dwarf, ‘groinal attachments’ and feral-related issues.
Capt: Hi Robert, supporter of ferals! First of all, thanks for agreeing to the interview. How are you?
Robert: I’m a bit frazzled but really enjoying myself at the moment thanks.
Capt: So, I’ll start off by asking my trademark question. What do you know? Tell me one thing.
Robert: I know that stuff changes and anything you are used to and rely on at the moment will either not exist in a few years or will have changed so much you won’t recognise it. Don’t fret, go with it, stay true to yourself but be prepared for constant radical, disturbing change.
Capt: Is that like an extension on the scout’s motto: be prepared? The ferals are loving Carpool at the moment (available to watch on http://www.llewtube.com ) – pity I didn’t find out about it sooner! Your episode last Friday (#FeralFriday) with Sir Patrick Stewart was brilliant. My question is; who has been your favourite guest so far (can you say?)? And the funniest?
Robert: Truly couldn’t say who’s the best/funniest, seriously, how can you compare one human being with another, they are all very different, and so far everyone has been totally up for it, filling in the gaps when I run out of questions or I’m concentrating on not running anyone over or crashing.
Capt: How did you come up with the concept? It is certainly different, after all, filming yourself talking to various celebrities in a car! I mean, what if you get distracted and have a bit of a crash – or have you?
Robert: It’s a weird idea I’d had for a couple of years before I did it. Kind of started when comedian David Baddiel gave me a lift many years ago, I had a camera with me and we recorded our journey. The conversation was very amusing and quite filthy, never to be seen in public. But that was 10 years before I started Carpool. I’m quite slow really.
Capt: Just out of curiosity, is it your own car?
The original car I used was mine, but then some young fellow drove into me at 50 miles an hour and tore the car in half, so the lovely people at Toyota who have been really supportive gave me a new car, which is what I use now.
Capt: Must have been scary!
I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but we recently had an interview with Brent Spiner AKA Data from Star Trek: TNG. I was wondering if you’d ever consider doing a Carpool with him? I personally think that’d be great – you could both discuss playing fictional androids on the telly! What say you?
Robert: I would dearly love to get Brent in the car. I’m shooting eps in the US later this year, maybe you can suggest it to him?
Capt: Certainly will! I’ll let you know what he says!
Apart from Carpool, can you tell us else what you’re up to at the moment? Any other projects currently on the cards? What should we be looking out for?
Robert: Doing some stuff for Discovery and the BBC, but also developing new video podcast series called ‘Gearless’ which will be about electric cars and the challenges they will create for all of us. Where the power comes from as well as ‘how far they will go on one charge’ and ‘what happens when the batteries run out on the motorway.’
Capt: Sounds interesting. Also, you’ve got a lot of fans from Scrapheap Challenge. What was your favourite machine/challenge and why?
Robert: Again, hard to pick, but the flight special we did in 2002 stays in the memory, 3 teams had 2 days to build a flying machine, and they did, and one of them flew! That was an amazing sight.
Capt: Did anyone ever get hurt when testing out their contraptions? (I seem to like asking questions about things going wrong, don’t I?!)
Robert: We were incredibly lucky, some of the machines were truly dangerous, but apart from cut fingers, scratches and the odd bashed head (that was me) no one was ever seriously hurt.
Capt: With the show recording its 11th series, how do you feel about the new series and its new presenters/format?
Robert: I think the cast/crew did amazingly well with an incredibly small budget. I love Dick Strawbridge and think he did a great job but it wasn’t fair to compare it with the old Scrapheap, which had something like four times the budget.
Capt: About the American spin-off: do you think it’s any better than the American spin-off of Red Dwarf?
Robert: If you mean Junkyard Wars, the US spin off of Scrapheap, I think it was great, the American teams were brilliant, some truly talented engineers. I know a lot of people had reservations about the presentation style etc, but for me, the show has always been about the engineers.
Capt: As it should be, really. Now we’re on the subject of Red Dwarf, I used to love that show (still watch it from time-to-time on Dave)! Will there ever be any more episodes? I know your profile on Twitter says ‘and every 11 years Kryten on Red Dwarf’ – does that mean we have to wait another 10 years or so?
Robert: All I can say at the moment is that Dave has commissioned Doug Naylor to write the scripts for six new episodes, which he is doing at the moment.
Now, the sets in the earlier series seemed small; as the program progressed, do you feel it lost some of its ‘cult’ following with the bigger budgets?
Robert: I don’t, but you should also watch the recently recorded CarPool with Rob Grant who exposes a lot of the myths about the ‘increasing budget’ in latter series of Red Dwarf. I’m not sure if it lost its cult following, but it certainly moved beyond a mere cult show to become fairly mainstream. It is still the most watched series that BBC 2 has ever made, and yes, that includes Top Gear.
Capt: What was it like wearing the Kryten costume – was it comfortable? I loved the fact that he had a vacuum attachment!
Robert: Very hot, very uncomfortable, but when we were working I was totally unaware of it. I did of course love having the groinal attachment fitted.
Capt: Who/what, in your opinion, was the scariest ‘baddie’?
Robert: Mmmm, scariest Baddie on Red Dwarf, the Inquisitoooooor,
Capt: What’s your funniest moment/memory from Red Dwarf (there must be many)?
Robert: There are very many, shrinking boxer shorts, those naughty little nanobots, Jake Bullet, Dwayne Dibley, Ace Rimmer, hat a guy, no, can’t really pick one out. We did have enormous fun making the series.
Capt: Was it fun linking back up with Danny John Jules in MI High?
Robert: It was great, although we do all see each other fairly regularly.
Capt: Yes, my next question was: are you all still good friends and do you meet up regularly?
Robert: Oops, I’ve just answered that. Okay, I’ll try a different answer. We avoid each other like the plague…. Not true. We do all get on really well, it was great to get back together last year, felt like we’d never stopped.
Capt: Your website http://www.llew.co.uk <http://www.llew.co.uk/> looks great! I started to read your online novel ‘Blue Helmet’ on there and so far I’m really enjoying it. I didn’t know you had written anything like that! Do you plan to write more?
Robert: The story that started life as Blue Helmet has kind of grown into another project that’s sort of in the works at the moment, actually it’s been in the works for years, hopefully one day it will come out of the works and be something.
Capt: How did you come up with the idea for ‘Blue Helmet’?
Robert: A very long story, but I met a lot of soldiers who were sent to Bosnia during the conflict there, they were very inspiring and I am a great supporter of the idea of the UN, I think it’s a really important institution that needs our interest and support.
Capt: Tell us about your show ‘WomanWizard’ (DVD priced £15 on the website). I’m intrigued. I understand it’s a show you recorded over two nights in Brighton?
Robert: WomanWizard was a show based around a kind of mock software launch. I once saw an Apple Keynote with Steve Jobs so it was a kind of tribute to that, WomanWizard was a software package designed to help men understand woman more completely and so enhance their user experience. It also has some cheap knob gags.
Capt: Sounds like something I’ll be buying then! What’s the most feral thing you’ve ever done?
The summer of 1974 I lived fairly wild, only eating hedgerow fruits, wild mushrooms and animals I hunted with a bow and arrow. I lived in old trucks, derelict houses, Tee Pees and benders. I wish I was making this up, but I was a fairly feral teenager, I had dreadlocks with herbs woven into them to combat chronic head lice. I wore a red and green striped pixie hat with a bell on the end which used to mash me in the face when I turned my head quickly. I visited my parents but my mother wouldn’t let me into the house until I had washed with a bucket of warm water in the outhouse. She said I ‘smelled a bit goaty.’
Capt: You sounded charming! And lastly, do you have a message for the Feral Nation?
Robert: Don’t be cheap, keep your dignity and remember, to live outside the law, you must be honest.
Robert also has a rather nice website, which you can have a gander at here: http://www.llew.co.uk