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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Ricky Gervais says 'Derek' his 'favourite character'; considering special

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TORONTO - Ricky Gervais says third seasons are not his cup of tea.

"The Office" and "Extras" came to bittersweet endings after just two years, and Gervais says he can't promise fans any more episodes of Netflix comedy-drama "Derek."

But he called Derek his favourite character yet and said he hopes to do more with the simple, kind-hearted care home worker — likely in the form of an hour-long special.

"When I've got a story to tell and it's all in my head and I'm excited about it and I think it needs to be told, that's when I'll call Netflix and say, 'I've got an hour special.' But I've never made TV for the sake of it. I think that's often a problem with TV," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"But I do love Derek. I think he's my favourite character I've created. I love being him. I love writing for him, playing him, and directing the show. I would like to do a bit more, if I'm honest. But it's got to deserve it."

A six-episode second season of "Derek" landed on Netflix last month. The earnest mockumentary centres on the employees of a home for the elderly: sweet Derek, tough working-class Hannah (Kerry Godliman) and drunk pervert Kev (David Earl).

The show appears to be Gervais's most sincere offering yet. Derek often talks about how kindness is the most important virtue, and his experiences with life and death in the home lead to many heartwarming moments.

"I think most of my other work has been sort of steeped in irony," said Gervais. "I've explored the blind spot with characters. With David Brent (on 'The Office') for example, we were sort of laughing at the blind spot, i.e. the difference between how Brent saw himself and how we saw him.

"Derek, he's sort of wise. He knows the only shortcut you can take is kindness, so I think that's what makes it more sincere. That's what makes it feel more of a drama than a comedy."

Asked about early criticism that the character of Derek was somehow mocking people with learning disabilities, Gervais sighed. He said Derek doesn't have a disability, and more importantly, he's the heart of the show.

"It's ridiculous. They levelled that before they'd seen it. I even had time to write something in to the first episode. That's how premature they were with their assumptions," he said with a laugh.

"I didn't write Derek as autistic or having Down's syndrome or anything like that, but he is meant to be different. We're all different. I don't see that he's disabled in any way. That should be the end of it. It's my character. I invented him. It shouldn't even be in question."

But he added he often hears from families with autistic children or people on the spectrum who say they identify with Derek. "That's lovely," he said.

Gervais, 53, grew up working-class in Reading, England, and both his mother and sister have been care workers. He said the character of Hannah, the home's selfless director, is inspired by the strong women in his family.

"I've always noticed that women characters often in comedy were props for men. They're either sort of humourless and telling the men off ... or if they were slightly ambitious, they were sort of cold and heartless and needed a man with fall in love with.

"That's just not the case in my family. They were lionesses. They were caring and nurturing, but they were lionesses. They would take a baseball bat to you if you hurt their children ... That's always been very important to me, to make women characters as strong as men or as interesting as men."

The second season opens with the surprise departure of downtrodden janitor Dougie, played by Karl Pilkington. A longtime collaborator with Gervais, Pilkington has said that he wasn't confident in his own acting abilities.

Asked whether it was hard to see Pilkington go, Gervais said it made sense to the story.

"Dougie, people like that, they leave. They get fed up. They have a bad day. People come and go. The first series was about beginnings and endings. I wanted Dougie to leave and devastate Derek but his dad to move in that day," he said.

"It started with a phrase. I wanted Derek to say, 'This is my best day ever and my worst day ever.' It all came from that. Again, that's life. You get bad news on Christmas. You get bad news on your birthday. People go, 'Why now?' Because that's life, that's why now."

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