It's like we've never been away | Chris Barrie on the return of Red Dwarf © UKTV/Gareth Gatrell

It's like we've never been away

Chris Barrie on the return of Red Dwarf

Red Dwarf returns to our screens  on Thursday, with a feature-length episode entitled The Promised Land. In a one of a series of interviews with the cast, CHRIS BARRIE, who plays Rimmer talks about the comeback…


This special has been a long time coming…

Yes it has. We were talking about a Red Dwarf special way back in the Noughties and then we did Back to Earth and that satisfied the muscle of doing a longer piece. But I think it was always looked upon as a three-parter and it was looked upon as reasonably experimental so then we went back to doing series 10, 11 and 12 in the normal way.

Did it feel quite different making it?

In a sense it did because in a shorter half hour episode you know after one read-through of the script where you are when you’re shooting it. Whereas when you’re doing a film piece it’s an hour and a half so you think, ‘hang on when does this bit happen? Does it happen before that bit or have we done that bit yet?’ 

Although the audience scenes were very similar to what we do for the half-hour episodes, it was quite weird just doing little clumps of the piece in front of an audience.

What can people expect from it? 

We’re not breaking from the tradition of the Red Dwarf posse. The interaction between the characters is as it’s always been; and it’s more of the same within the framework of a fantastic story. 

There’s a scene with Lister where Rimmer does feel lower than maybe he’s ever felt in the last 33 years. You can’t really tell whether Lister’s taking the mick or if he’s actually boosting Rimmsy but I think there’s a lot of good in Lister. It turned out to be a pretty good scene and very exciting to do.   

Did you feel quite reflective once you were all back together? You have a very special relationship…

Oh yes. It’s always very easy to switch into character on Red Dwarf because as soon as we get the costumes on and the dialogue going it’s like we’ve never been away. And every time we’re there we’re always reflecting on the old shows and obviously we can go way back now to 1987 so there’s a lot to talk about and recall. 

Holly is back too, and got a very big cheer!

Oh how could I forget! Norman Lovett is back, what a great guy and a proper comic with proper timing and delivery. Cynical as ever but brilliant to see him back, and the audience absolutely go nuts when they see him. 

Who corpses the most?

I think we all corpse occasionally. I look back on the shows and there are only a few times in 33 years that I’ve managed not to be able to stifle a corpse. Obviously Doug would always try and go for a take that doesn’t have us corpsing in the background but it is a comedy and you like to play it for real. We all love playing in front of an audience and thinking we’re going to get a big laugh. 

Are your working relationships the easiest you’ve had with anyone?

It’s been my main working relationship in my career. I was 27 when we started doing this and now I’m 60 so all my life I’ve worked with Craig, Danny, Norm and a year or two later Robert. [Creators] Doug Naylor and Rob Grant I worked with right from the outset of my career. I’ve known Doug for 37 years so it is the backbone of my working life. 

 Red Dwarf stands as the longest and probably most successful show in terms of my career. When we all started as youngsters we were different young men; we were ‘I must get on, I want more lines’ blah blah. But as the years go on you realise that we’re a team and we’ve come through so much. Now we’re passing through the middle age era and I think we appreciate each other as much as we’ve ever done, if not more. 

How does it feel to have documentation of you over all those years?

Yeah it’s interesting. Obviously when series three crops up every now and then you see yourself as a 30-year-old, you tend to go, ‘My God!’ Or as my son said, ‘Dad what happened to you!’ But I think it’s been a real privilege to be around to do a show for so long. And the fans still love it I hope. 

Especially as there was a long period of time when they didn’t think you’d come back…

Well yes the ‘will there, won’t there’… that’s always been a soap opera in itself at Red Dwarf!  But when we’ve got to the studio, got the script and hit our marks and said our lines, that’s when it all comes to life and when everyone says isn’t it good that we’ve waded through the smeg to get where we are now. 

Are you recognised all the time?

Not these days because I now look quite different from Rimmer. Mainly due to the disappearing barnet but that’s life and in many ways it’s quite good. But a lot of people do still recognise me and go ‘You’re that bloke aren’t you?’ Then they ask where they’ve seen you and it all falls into place. You get recognised just enough to know you’ve done a reasonable job. 

It does have a fan base….

We do and we know that from going to conventions. Even when we’ve been off with no new product in sight we’ve always packed in a good crowd at the conventions. I don’t know when we’ll next be doing that but we’ll see. 

Will there be more specials like this? 

Just as things stand right at the moment with  Covid 19, I don’t know when there’s going to be more of anything and what form that might take. We just have to ride out this storm and go from there. I know that’s a very depressing answer but it’s the way everything is – it’s not just Red Dwarf. 

We’ll see what happens but later this year or early next year if someone asked if we’re going to do another one, I think we’d discuss it and there’d be a strong possibility it would go forward given the health and desire of cast. In the meantime I think we’ll give the fans a good opportunity to sit at home and watch this latest Red Dwarf, which I’m confident they’ll enjoy.

Red Dwarf Promised Land

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Published: 7 Apr 2020

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