David Brent doesn’t represent evil, or nastiness or even ignorance. He’s just a little out of place. Out of time. His worst crime is that he confused respect with popularity. He wanted both but concentrated on the wrong one. He didn’t really know what people wanted of him. He shouldn’t really have worried about that at all. He just tried a little too hard. He wasn’t a bad man. In fact he was quite a nice man and I have a real affection for him. I like all my characters I play or create, to be honest. I don’t think you should ever feel above the role or sneery towards them. Comedy is above all about empathy in my opinion and I think as an actor, the more you empathize with a character, the more engaging he will be to an audience. It doesn’t mean he has to be perfect or squeaky-clean, but he must have his foibles planted somewhere in humanity. And at some level he has to be vulnerable. David Brent was certainly that. Insecure, eager to please, and needing constant positive feedback.
The original BBC Office premiered 10 years ago tomorrow. 10 years! In that time, it’s become one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, spinning off a number of localized versions around the world, including the super-popular American version on NBC. In honor of this anniversary, Ricky Gervais penned an essay on the show and how he developed the characters for Entertainment Weekly. Here’s a taste:There’s a lot more where that came from, and it’s all worth a read.