“People I Met” – Red Dwarf Panel at MCM Birmingham Comic Con


In Autumn last year, the first full series of Red Dwarf since 1999 was broadcast on Dave, the preceding hiatus having been broken only by a brief, three-episode mini-series in 2009. This year, the MCM Birmingham Comic Con saw the stars of the show reunited once more to answer questions and share their memories of the show with fans.

Featured on MCM’s Red Dwarf panel were Robert Llewellyn, Chris Barrie, Hattie Hayridge and Danny John-Jules, who play Kryten, Arnold Rimmer, Holly and the Cat, respectively. When asked what it had been like to return after the long gap, the panel replied that it felt as if there’d been no break at all: standing on set together again, it seemed like they could have been there last weekend.

The first question from the audience was about how the actors had been chosen for their parts. Judging from the replies, the cast’s auditions were almost as haphazard as the characters’ antics on the show itself, with Danny John-Jules arriving half an hour late for his without realising, while Hattie Hayridge managed to show up half an hour early for hers. After she left to get a coffee, the audition panel were told that she’d “gone for a drink”, and assumed this meant she’d disappeared to the pub! Having arrived in good time for his audition, meanwhile, Robert Llewellyn managed to make a true, sitcom-worthy faux pas, trying out a variety of silly “robot” walks before discovering that one of the show’s creators, Doug Naylor, has a prosthetic leg. As such, the actors were pretty surprised when their auditions turned out to have been successful.

Asked which cast member was is most distracting on set, Robert Llewellyn replied that all of them had their moments. According to him, Danny John-Jules can pirouette in the most confined space imaginable, Craig Charles has a tendency to smoke indoors, right next to non-smoking signs, while Chris Barrie and Robert himself often get distracted discussing classic car layouts. Though Hattie remembered that Craig used to pull silly faces in a deliberate attempt to distract his fellow actors, Chris pointed out that since purchasing an iPad, he’s become a changed man, distracting no one so much as himself while downloading new apps. “It’s turned him into a tech geek,” he joked. “I’ve now received an email from Craig which he actually typed up himself.”

1468605_634126046637463_619571191_nNext, the cast talked about their favourite memories of making the show. For Robert Llewellyn, one of the funniest moments was in Season 3, Episode 3, The Polymorph, when Kryten had to pull a pair of shrinking boxer shorts off Lister. Chris Barrie claimed the moment was even more extraordinary for him, since he had to walk in on the scene and shout, “You’ll bonk anything, won’t you Lister,” over the audience’s hysterical laughing. According to Hattie Hayridge, it was the only instance where laughter actually had to be removed from the recording. For her though, the best part of it all has been getting to see the fans at conventions like this and realising how much love people have for the show. Danny John-Jules added that it’s especially exciting to go abroad and meet with huge crowds of fans in other countries as well as at home.

Talking more specifically about the most memorable episodes, Robert Llewellyn picked out Lemons as “one of the nicest smelling episodes”, full of aromatic herbs and spices, in comparison to most of the others which typically smelled of burning rubber. He also joked that, as a relatively recent episode, it classed as memorable because they hadn’t had as long to forget about it yet. For Chris Barrie, Dimension Jump was particularly memorable, but he nevertheless felt that the whole series had been so enjoyable, it would be much harder to think of a “least memorable episode”, though, he added, he is still trying to figure out what on earth Time Slide was all about.

Discussing the biggest challenges they faced on Red Dwarf, both Chris and Robert agreed that scripts had often been a problem. For Robert, the most difficult part of making the show was trying to learn his script before Craig Charles set it on fire. According to him, “Craig has a photographic memory,” and has only to read a script once before he knows it all by heart. Because of this, he had a tendency to entertain himself by tricking Robert into handing over his script, and burning it once he had possession of it. Chris Barrie spoke about the constant and often last-minute changes that were made to scripts, reminding Robert of a time when his dialogue in a particular episode was literally being rewritten onto an autocue! For the others, however, it was costumes that threw up the biggest difficulties, with Hattie Hayridge having to make sure she got her polo-neck on before her hair was done, while Danny John-Jules said he struggled to remember which outfit he was meant to be wearing at any given time. Asked whether he’d ever been presented with a costume that he’d refused to wear, he said that he’d come pretty close with the tight, bright purple diving bell outfit he sported in Back to Earth.

Referring to Craig Charles’s long-running part in Coronation Street, an audience member asked whether any of the panelists would consider working on a soap opera. The response was profoundly negative all round: the panelists’ expressions alone were enough to answer the question. Chris Barrie described soap parts as “the nearest thing our profession has to a 9-5 job”, and said that, while he had once arrived at an audition for Hollyoaks, he realised it wasn’t for him pretty much as soon as he arrived. In a comment which met with a round of applause, he also called Eastenders one of the most depressing shows he’d ever watched, with Danny John-Jules adding that it’s actually nothing like the East End. Robert Llewellyn similarly baulked at the idea, saying that he’s always wanted to be in a pantomime with ex-soap actors, just so that he can have the chance to list all the shows he hasn’t been in in the programme.

The next question had the panelists choosing which other Red Dwarf character they’d like to play, if they had to pick one. According to the actors, this is something they’ve experimented with in the past, on one particular occasion when the rest of the cast decided to dress up like Kryten. Apparently, the possibility of making an actual episode where everyone is mechanoid except for Kryten was also discussed. Chris Barrie said that he’d originally auditioned to play Lister, claiming that he’s more like him than Rimmer in real life, at least in as much as he’s “messy”. These days, though, he thinks he’d rather have a go at Kryten, even if the android does get all the long, difficult speeches. Hearing this, Robert Llewellyn worried that Chris would actually play the part better, to which Chris responded, in his best Kryten voice, “Oh, I don’t think so, sir, but I do try, sir,” before going on to try out all the other characters’ voices.

1470368_634125916637476_970633622_nTurning specifically to Chris Barrie, a member of the audience asked what it had been like to film Quarantine and whether or not he’d got to keep Mr Flibble. He replied that sadly, he hadn’t, and that he didn’t remember very much about the episode, having spent most of it in quarantine. Hattie Hayridge then chipped in with a rumour that the president of a certain television company to this day carries an additional business card saying “King of the Potato People” along with his real one.

Finally, asked about their favourite lines from the show, the panel agreed that they could go on listing these forever. They did, however, pick out a few of their best:

The Cat: “What? You’re gonna go with one of my plans? Are you nuts?”

Rimmer: “Step up to red alert!”
Kryten: “Sir, are you absolutely sure? It does mean changing the bulb.”

Ace Rimmer: “Smoke me a kipper. I’ll be back for breakfast.”

Rimmer: “Over the years I have come to regard you as… people… I met.”


Photographs by John Shek.

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