In Ricky Gervais’ latest series, Derek, he plays a man who works in a nursing home who speaks with an impediment and seems slow. It will premiere on Netflix in the late spring or early summer, but ever since it first premiered in the U.K. earlier this year, it’s been engulfed in controversy over its portrayal of people with intellectual disabilities. Gervais was on hand for a press conference Wednesday and when the comedian was asked about the risk and reward of tackling potentially sensitive material, he said that “the risk in my work is being missed.”
Gervais said he made the pilot available to critics earlier this week “because there were so many assumptions … that it was cruel.” The comedian has already gone on record to explain that Derek is different but not disabled, explaining to reporters at TCA that “Derek is innocent. He’s child-like in his view of the world.” As for the show itself, he said it retains many of the hallmarks of his other shows. “There are still characters being daft, silly, or nice. There are existential moments like in The Office and Extras,” Gervais said. There will also be more dramatic moments, he says, in part because of the setting. “It’s an old people’s home. They die sometimes,” he said.
When asked if he’d be sticking around for Sunday’s Golden Globe awards, Gervais said he was flying out immediately to shoot the new Muppets film. But he added: “I sort of want to leave the media behind.” Before Derek, Gervais, once a media darling, found himself having to defend his other series projects Life’s Too Short, in which little person Warwick Davis was a hapless has-been actor, and An Idiot Abroad, inspired by his podcasts in which he and Stephen Merchant laugh at sidekick Karl Pilkington. And then on his second Golden Globes hosting job, some said he was too mean, and it’s a subject he’s tired of talking about. “I treated it literally like three hours of work,” he said. “Usually you have to murder someone to get that many column inches.”