EW chats with Ricky Gervais about ''Extras.'' New HBO series creator muses on fame, embarrassing Kate Winslet, and having Madonna sweep up
Credit: Ricky Gervais: Ray Burmiston

The Office may be closed for business, but Ricky Gervais, the cocreator and star of the Golden Globe-winning BBC comedy, is ready to humiliate himself all over again — this time as sad-sack wannabe actor Andy Millman on Extras. He sat down with EW to discuss the price — and perks — of fame.

I know you’re probably sick to death of talking about The Office, so let’s start by talking about…The Office. You adamantly state it will never come back. Is that for fear of being too closely identified with that character?
I’ve never been interested in someone who is versatile because they do 30 different voices and have 30 different wigs in their closet. I admire people like Woody Allen. He had one shtick, but it was great. What I was worried about was it getting boring. And I never want to be seen as milking it. Narratively, it would test the show’s credibility if a BBC film crew were hanging around a paper company in Slough for 10 years. Then you’ve got The Truman Show.

What drew you to do Extras, then?
Fame fascinates me. It makes me laugh, the things people are willing to do just to get on telly. There was a show in England where B-list celebrities worked on a farm and one of them masturbated a pig! It fascinates me, this desperation.

So, how do you treat the extras on Extras?
I don’t know. I won’t talk to them. [Laughs]

You have stars like Ben Stiller and Kate Winslet playing themselves in a not-so-flattering light. Were there any problems getting them to sign on as, well, jerks?
Honestly, no. They loved it. And they know that there’s never gonna be confusion. People are gonna say, ”They can’t really be like that.” And they’re not.

He says, winking.
Yes, they were the worst people to work with ever. No, they were great. I remember speaking with Winslet and saying, ”You know, this is the end of your career.” And she went, ”I thought about that.” And I said, ”You’ve got to do it anyway.”

Well, you have her feeling herself up and talking about having someone stick his willy wonka in between her oompa loompas!
We were very proud of that. Not because we got the star of the biggest movie ever to say rude words — but we got her to say it dressed as a nun! Dressed as a nun and saying about a cerebral palsy sufferer, ”You are guaranteed an Oscar if you play a mental.” Now, that doesn’t happen very often.

You once said it was your life’s dream to get a single joke onto The Simpsons. Now that you’ve written an entire episode, which you’ll also be guest-starring in, is it pretty much all downhill from here?
Quite possibly. My two favorite things of all time are This Is Spinäl Tap and The Simpsons. And this year, I’ve written a Simpsons episode and I’ll be in the upcoming Christopher Guest film [For Your Consideration]. Maybe somebody knows I’m going to die.

It’s like the Make-A-Wish Foundation!
Yeah! Everyone’s like, ”He’s such a nice chap — if he wants to do this, let him do it. Don’t worry about the Simpsons episode, he won’t make it till March. You don’t have to air it!”

Madonna called you her ”most favorite, favorite, favorite comedian in the whole world.” Do you feel kinda sorry for her most favorite and most favorite, favorite comedians?
Yeah, poor guys. She came up to me at the Live 8 concert and she went, ”I’m your biggest fan,” and I said, ”And who are you?” And she went, ”I’m Paris Hilton. Listen, I’ll sweep your floor…”

I hope you took her up on that.
Yeah, but she’s 40 grand an hour. She did a good job, but I had to let her go. I couldn’t afford it. One floor — 40 grand, you know. I just said, this is not working out.