The idea for the Netflix series “After Life” came from Ricky Gervais imagining what would happen “if you lost everything, and you thought about killing yourself, but then you didn’t. Everything else is a bonus. So you could suddenly do and say what you wanted, because you’ve always got suicide to fall back on. It’s like a superpower.” Losing everything, he thought, meant losing “the love of your life, and everything came from that.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Gervais above.
Initially, Gervais thought the concept of a grieving widower taking his pain out on the world would make for a terrific comedy. “As an audience, we laugh for two reasons,” he explains. “One, we live vicariously through this man going around saying exactly what he wants because we all wish we could do that a little bit.” Secondly, we laugh at “a normal guy trying to do something he’s not equipped to do.” His character, Tony, is “trying to become a psychopath so he won’t feel anymore, and he can’t do it, because he’s burdened with conscience.”
This premise also allowed Gervais to explore deeper, more dramatic themes in his work. “Over the past few years I’ve realized” that if you’re trying to reflect the real world, “there’s no real tangible difference between comedy and drama. Real life is a mixture of everything.” So “fiction is like that.”
The show turned out to be a giant artistic challenge for Gervais, who also wrote and directed all six episodes. “You do change, and you do want to tackle more serious subjects, and darker subjects because you want to challenge yourself and the audience,” he says. He has “always been a bit defiant, but as I get older I don’t want to get bigger or richer or win more awards. I want to be braver. I want to be less compromised, more honest,” and “patronize the audience less.”
Gervais is already a two-time Emmy winner, once as a producer on the US version of “The Office” and once for his lead performance in “Extras.” He has earned 21 additional nominations throughout the acting, writing, directing, and program categories for his various shows and specials. His starring role on the original UK version of “The Office” brought him a Golden Globe in 2004, and he won six BAFTAs for the series (three for performing, three for producing). He won yet another BAFTA for acting in “Extras.”
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