Ricky Gervais nabbed an acting Emmy for Extras and won another for producing the long-running comedy series The Office. Now he’s hoping to catch voters’ eyes and hearts with Derek, the nuanced and bittersweet series that stars Gervais as a naive caretaker in nursing home whose optimism buoys the spirits of the elderly residents and fellow workers around him. Or not. The melancholic dramedy falls outside the comedian’s more mainstream hits and has drawn mixed reviews, although Gervais says it’s the selective viewer and not a broad audience that he was hoping to capture with Derek. The show’s second season is vying in the Comedy category after debuting on Netflix in May (Season 1 was ineligible for Emmys consideration last year). As Gervais tells Deadline, this will likely be the last full season viewers see of Derek Noakes, who may appear in his own special once Gervais’ Office alter ego David Brent gets his own spin-off film.
DEADLINE: The second season of Derek is competing in the Comedy category, but it’s really more bittersweet and deeply emotional than most comedies.
RICKY GERVAIS: Well, it’s nice to try and evoke any emotion. I’ve never thought comedy just had to be knee-jerk laughs every 30 seconds, you know? But I think that’s probably why it’s slightly different than most sitcoms – it’s slightly more sincere. I think comedy, in general, is a much more intellectual pursuit as opposed to an emotional one and possibly drama is probably more emotional. But they’re all branches of the same tree. It’s a workout for your emotions. That’s what fiction is: it’s role-play for the soul.
DEADLINE: The idea that shows or content or art has to be one or the other, comedy or drama, is rather reductive and only comes up during awards season, doesn’t it?
GERVAIS: Yes, it does. “What category is it in?” and that. But some people need to pigeonhole so they can sit down and enjoy it. It’s very strange. And it’s funny. I’ve had it with everything I’ve ever done. People decide what it is and then they complain that it’s not what they said it would be. It’s the same with when people try to retell a joke. They say the joke that I told, totally different, and then they say, “Isn’t that horrendous?” And I want to say, “Yes, that is horrendous. That’s not the joke I told. You at least have to say the joke I told to criticize me for it. You at least have to get every single word and comma and pacing and nuance before you can criticize it. Because in a joke, everything matters. It’s a piece of poetry, a good joke, and everything counts. So you can’t miss out a bit. You just can’t. You’re not allowed.” (more…)