Red Dwarf’s Robert Llewellyn: ‘As soon as I got that stuff on, I’m Kryten’
Best-known for playing robot Kryten in the cult science fiction comedy show ‘Red Dwarf’, Robert Llewellyn talked to Neela Debnath at the Entertainment Media Show about reuniting with his co-stars for series X, the show’s enduring popularity and his new book ‘News from Gardenia’. Craig Charles also made a guest appearance.
What’s it been like coming back to Red Dwarf?
It’s been a mixture of things. It’s been great fun, enormous fun. I love my fellow performers, we get on really well, it’s such a privilege to work with them. So that was all good and the scripts were brilliant and the experience of doing it was all fun. The actual day-to-day grind of being covered in rubber and plastic is less fun but it’s outweighed by the fact that it’s such great fun to be in the show.
Did you forget what it was like being in the rubber mask?
No, not really because we had done Back to Earth a few years ago and there was a long gap between that and the last series we did which was 1998 and 2009. It was 11 years that I hadn’t been covered in rubber which was a great relief but it also came back instantly. Also, on the first day we were filming, I thought ‘I don’t know how to do this’ because I don’t do other acting. I don’t really do acting, I shouldn’t be allowed anyway. But it was instant, it’s just part of my DNA – I can’t help it. As soon as I got that stuff on I’m Kryten, so it was very quick. We all got back into the roles instantly really.
What was it like returning to the show?
It felt like we’d had a week off, it wasn’t really hard. It wasn’t all a surprise. When I see Craig [Charles] with his locks, Chris [Barrie] with an ‘H’ on and Danny [John-Jules] with his teeth in and his big pompadour hair, it’s like how I think of them. It’s actually weirder to see them in the street.
Why do you think that the show was brought back now?
The TV industry’s been through such a huge change in the last few years, so I think it’s a lot to do with the way people watch television, and the fact that the repeats that have been shown on Dave have been such a success for Dave. They get such huge figures, I’m guessing they’ve looked at the figures and gone: ‘see that show there, a lot of people watch that, shall we make another one?’. I think that’s part of their overall strategy to start making their own programmes. This is their thing. They’ve done a few other shows but this is their first really big production that they’ve done and they’re thrilled to bits with it. The figures from last Thursday justified their decision.
What reception have you had from fans who have seen the new episode?
It’s only been a couple of days, it’s been uniformly extraordinary. I’ve had to two tweets that have said: ‘I think the laughter track is too loud’. That’s as critical as I’ve had. I’ve had something around 10-15 thousand messages from people, so I haven’t read them all. There could be one in there which goes: ‘I think you’re rubbish, it’s awful, I hate you’, I’m sure there’s some. But I haven’t seen those.
Do you think 2009’s miniseries Back to Earth helped to renew interest in Red Dwarf?
I would have assumed so, except what I think now is that interest never waned and I think it’s the combination of a lot of young kids. We’ve met so many of them who’d found their dad’s DVD collection when they were 12, 13, 14, who weren’t even born when we were doing most of Red Dwarf, let alone old enough to see it and they’ve seen it. There’s this new generation that have kept it going which is extraordinary and then it’s been repeated so much on Dave that a lot of people have seen it. So, Back to Earth was kind of an experiment to see if we could make something that they could show and we had a very small budget to do that and that confirmed it enough to go: ‘well let’s do a proper series’.
Co-star Craig Charles who is sitting next to Llewellyn while they are signing at the convention chips in.
Craig: Talk and talk and talk!
Robert: Well, I’m doing an interview. I’m doing an interview with a major national newspaper, actually.
Craig: Well, there you go.
Robert: They said they don’t want to talk to you.
Craig: Which newspaper?
Robert: You’re not middleclass enough.
Craig: Oh well, there you go.
Red Dwarf fan: Is it a highbrow weekly?
Robert: It’s a highbrow daily, actually.
Why do you think there’s been a massive resurgence in science fiction and fantasy now?
I don’t know if there’s a socio-political reason behind it, in an escapist type of thing. I think it allows people to explore a lot of often complex ideas, particularly about science and physics which Red Dwarf does but in a light way. But there’s a lot of genuine science backbone behind the stories of Red Dwarf because [writer] Doug [Naylor] is primarily a scientist, he didn’t go to art school. He did physics at university, so he’s got that type of brain. I think that appeals to people when it isn’t us just going: ‘oh, it’s the flu-maj-ja-did that did that’, no it’s this, this and this. It’s a logical progression of scientific theory that has caused this strange anomaly in the fabric of time and space.
But why generally why it’s popular, I’m not really sure and I worry that whenever anything’s popular, there’s only one thing it can be in the future and that’s unpopular. So I’m not sure what it is. I certainly read science fiction more, I’m not really good with superhero movies, I’ve tried but I can’t really get into that genre. But I’m fascinated by the ideas that can be explored, including in my own book, not that I want to plug that…
Tell me about your new book News from Gardenia.
Well, it’s a science fiction book. It’s a utopian vision of the future, a very technological vision of the future in 200 years time where it’s better. Where people are nice and they’re not horrible to each other and there’s no war, we haven’t been invaded by zombies. We have to produce all our own food because we don’t import or export anything. It was really inspired by a book called News from Nowhere by William Morris which was written about 150 years ago and that was what inspired it originally. But I made mine 200 years in the future because if I gave it 100 years it would probably be rubbish then, they wouldn’t laugh they would be crying.
What other projects are you working on?
Doing a television series about renewable energy, electric vehicles. I’ve worked with a lot of electric vehicles. I drive them, I have been horrifyingly fast in them but I’ve been screaming at the same time. I’m doing another series about engineering for the BBC next year.
‘Red Dwarf X’ is on channel Dave
For more information about The Entertainment Media Show visit www.collectormania.comTagged in: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, dave, Doug Naylor, Red Dwarf, Robert Llewellyn, science fiction
Recent Posts on Arts
- Friday Book Design Blog: The Ariel Poems, and other seasonal pamphlets
- Children’s book blog – Ask the illustrator: Rebecca Cobb
- Piggott's post: Jacobson, Heller and reflections on "real life"
- Ric Blackshaw tells us Scrawl about his street art enterprise
- Children’s books for November: The Something, The Imaginary and Eren
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter