Shaun Williamson - "We'll see how people receive the special and take it from there."
Shaun Williamson was a postie, worked on a supermarket wines and spirits aisle before breaking into the entertainment business. Most remember him as the lovable yet hapless Barry Evan’s in EastEnders who met his fate a decade ago. Other television roles have included the likes of the detective series Inspector Morse and the BBC sitcom Waiting for God but what flung him back into the limelight was his appearance as a washed out, unemployable version of himself in the BBC sitcom Extras. His role on Extra’s certainly won Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant over as they asked him to recur his role in their follow-up series Life’s Too Short with Warwick Davis. Tonight sees Shaun back on our screens again, this time accompanied by the other two members of the “Twat Pack” so laughs are guaranteed. Here’s what Shaun had to say about his hopes and expectations for the Easter Special and beyond.
Did you make it to the screening the other night with the rest of the cast and crew? What did you think of the final cut?
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it down but Les and Keith texted me afterwards and told me how proud they were of it so I’m really looking forward to seeing it on Saturday night.
Well I didn’t know them personally but I had always been a big fan of The Office and then one day I was in the garden when the phone went and it was Ricky Gervais. He never tends to go through agents and prefers to contact people directly. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. I mean, when the same happened to Keith Chegwin, Keith though it was a wind up. He thought it was John Culshaw having a laugh. Basically Ricky just said to me that he’d like me to be in his new series and I went “Ooh er, yes please.”
I went from appearing briefly in the first series to go on to even have scenes with David Bowie in the second series so it’s been great.
As you play a comical version of yourself how much input do you have regarding your lines or is it all Ricky and Stephen?
Well Ricky and Stephen have their script all written up but they are very willing to hear everyone’s input but then again it’s hard to come up with something better than Ricky and Stephen really. But there is such a wonderful world of freedom working with them which is really great.
Speaking with Cheggers, he told me that Ricky likes to put everyone to the test. An example he gave me was when he sent the three of you up on stage and said “Right! Tell some gags.”
Definitely. I mean Ricky is well aware that we’re all experienced at cabaret. I’ve done loads, Les comes from that background and Keith is absolutely brilliant at thinking on his feet. We’re all very good at being able to do stuff on the spur of the moment.
Given that your gag telling went down so well would you consider taking this spoof roadshow on tour? I read you’d love to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe.
Well it’s definitely an idea. We’ll see how people receive the special and take it from there. It’d be great to work with them again and to do Edinburgh would be amazing. Obviously, in the special it’s a delightfully naff version and if we did tour it we’d have to prepare something good as people would be paying good money to come and see us.
And if they offered you a spin-off series?
Well funnily enough someone did come up to me with a script for a pilot for the three of us before Ricky and Stephen had even come up with the idea but it wasn’t quite strong enough. I think if the script was well written then I’d definitely consider it.
What about in the US? Obviously before Extras no one there would have known you, Keith or Les. How have your character’s gone down?
Well I don’t really know but I imagine it’s something a bit like us watching something like the Larry Sanders Show. We don’t really know who the characters are but we cotton on and pick up the plot quite quickly.
And what have you got planned after the show on Saturday?
Well I often get offered stage work. I’ve been offered four plays but I’ve turned them all down as I’m just waiting to see what comes out of this really.
I’m also writing a comedy drama at the moment set in my part of the world, Kent, in World War Two. It’s about a few families from London who come to Kent and one of their children goes missing in one of the villages. It’s with production at the moment but we’re in the process of trying to sell it to a big network if possible.
I’ve also got a film out soon called The One Hit Wonder which I co-wrote with a guy called Mark Noyce. I’m literally driving up to do a bit of publicity for that right now. I also did Celebrity Juice a couple of days ago and I’m filming Celebrity Pointless next week so I’m really happy that there’s so much coming in.
The Life’s Too Short Easter Special will air tonight, 30th March, at 10 pm. We’ll leave you with the recently released trailer for the show.