The co-creator of ''The Office'' and ''Extras,'' 38, puts his experiences as a ''socially hopeless'' single guy to comedic use for his new (semi)autobiographical HBO series, ''Hello Ladies''
On Hello Ladies you play a stingy, socially awkward Brit named Stuart, who is trying to get laid in Los Angeles. Is the show very autobiographical, or very, very autobiographical?
It’s autobiographical to a degree. But the person I am now is not quite as socially hopeless as the person I was when I was 16 or 19 or 23 or 27. I don’t want you to confuse me with the character. His glasses are a little bit more square than mine.
The first episode starts with a joke about Roe v. Wade. Did anyone at HBO say, ”You know what would be even funnier? Not starting with a joke about Roe v. Wade”?
HBO don’t have any qualms. In fact, I handed in the first cut and they said, “Stuart’s too nice. Could you make him meaner?” Which is never done on American TV. HBO have their thoughts, but none of them are crazy.
So — and I say this as a British person myself — at no point did anybody say, ”Now, Stephen, about your teeth…”?
I resent that accusation. I think my teeth are okay for a British person. I mean, everything else is falling apart. The eyes aren’t working, I’m too tall, I’m weird-looking. I’ve got enough going against me. Jesus, give me the teeth at least!
Are you currently single in real life?
Oh, I’m living the life. I’ve got the convertible. I’m hitting the clubs. It’s all about models and bottles.
I’m assuming you’re being sarcastic.
I’m only being partly sarcastic. I am single, but I’m not chasing only models and bottles. Although if models are around, then great.
What’s the biggest difference between dating in the U.K. and the U.S.?
To me the distinction has less to do with American and English dating — it’s to do with L.A. dating, which is particularly unique. You could be with someone who could say “I love you,” but they’re looking over your shoulder for someone better.
I guess the good thing about being 6 feet 7 inches tall is that…
They can’t look over my shoulder! They just look around me.
Aren’t there Office and Extras groupies?
Most of the people who come up to me are men. It turns out a lot of Playboy models are not watching Extras, which is a constant frustration for me. People look at Russell Brand and they know that guy’s going to give them an exciting night. But they’re not thinking that of me. They’re thinking, “Maybe he’ll be able to clean up my laptop.”
Earlier this year you appeared in the sketch film Movie 43, which wasn’t a success. Any regrets?
[Codirector] Peter Farrelly said, “Do you want to do a sketch where you’re on a blind date with Halle Berry?” He’d barely finished the word “Berry” and I’d agreed to it. Are you kidding me? I get to spend a couple of days staring at the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in the flesh? It was so much fun. This will surprise you, but I’m not in comedy for your amusement, I’m doing this to entertain myself.