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7 Questions with… After Life star Tony Way: ‘Ricky Gervais is a big softie at heart’
Comedian Tony Way, who plays local newspaper photographer Lenny in Ricky Gervais’ Netflix series After Life, talks exclusively to BT TV about the new series and its creator.
Ricky Gervais’ After Life is back for series two on Netflix, bringing with it plenty of tears and laughter in equal measure.
Joining Gervais in the fictional town of Tambury is Tony Way, the comic actor who openly jokes on Twitter about being that ‘Bloke off the telly’.
Way, who plays Tambury Gazette photographer Lenny, is being modest - in fact he's a familiar face to millions having previously worked on classic TV comedy series such as Bang Bang, It’s Reeves and Mortimer, Extras, Spaced, Shooting Stars, Zapped and Derek.
He’s also popped up in movies such as Ali G Indahouse, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and played Ser Dontos Hollard in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
BT TV caught up with Way to talk about series two of After Life and find out what it’s really like to work with Ricky Gervais…
1. After Life looks like it must be lots of fun to film. How much messing around is there on set?
Sometimes it feels like making a TV programme gets in the way of us having a laugh. That’s not to say we’re unprofessional… well, it sort of is.
Everyone comes prepared, everyone has their lines, everyone knows what they’re doing, everyone has got their character sorted, so I think if you have all those things you can have fun. Ricky definitely encourages it. The comedy doesn’t work if you’re too serious.
To be honest, we muck about quite a lot. That’s what I’m getting at.
2. We see a different side to Ricky in After Life. Do you think he’s quite soft side under the bravado?
Definitely. He's definitely a big softie at heart. I don’t think he even hides it. When he is ribbing people and doing the Golden Globes, he’s observing people. It’s well-written comedy. It’s never at somebody who can’t take it.
He’s always ribbing me, but he knows I’m up for it. I’ll give back a couple of jokes too and it’s fun. I think if he thought he was telling a joke at someone who didn’t enjoy it, he’d be mortified.
It’s rare that people get offended in person. The offence tends to come at a distance.
3. How do you get through the local news story scenes without cracking up?
There are a few this series, where it was genuinely amazing. We rehearse quite a lot a week before filming and we talk through the scripts for a year, building up to it with Ricky. But those guest spots [which this series include Annette Crosbie, above], they only tend to be in for an hour. So you really don’t know what they’re going to do and you certainly don’t know what they’ll look like.
This year we have Steve Spiers, who plays a man who has been confusing a post box for something else for a year and his look and the way he did it… Ricky and I couldn’t get through it.
It was very similar with Holli Dempsey, who plays someone who is addicted to plastic surgery. Ricky and I have both worked with Holli, but she is unrecognisable and it was just weird. We do laugh a lot in those scenes. You have to look in the eyes of the sound man and the crew behind the camera to see if you’re having too much fun and you should just get on with it.
4. What are your favourite moments in series 2?
Anything where Brian Gittins (played by David Earl) turns up is a treat. David [Earl] will turn up on days where there is a scene, everyone has their lines ready and someone will ask him ‘David, are you in this scene?’ and he’ll say, ‘Uh, I don’t know’. Ricky will then just place him somewhere.
There is a scene involving a cake with David, which definitely wasn’t in the script. It is very funny. I think there is hours of footage with this cake and it’s unbroadcastable. When you’re two feet away from that and it’s in your face, it’s impossible not to laugh. That was good fun that scene.
5. You get an unforgettably hilarious sex scene this year. What was it like to film?
We couldn’t get through it. That scene was in the script very early. That was always going to be in it and Ricky was determined. And it was so hard to film.
Getting over the fact that I’m laying on top of Jo [Hartley, who plays Lenny's girlfriend June] in the least sexy scene ever, you eventually get over that laughter and then [her son] Ethan comes in looking for his juggling balls. Of course it had to be balls.
I’m amazed we got through it. Ricky is the worst at times like that. You think you’re at the point where you’ve got it and nobody has laughed and then you’ll hear Ricky from the other side of the room doing his trademark cackle. And that’s it, you’re screwed and you have to do it again. I swear sometimes he does it just because he wants you to go through it all again. It makes it even more awkward and then it becomes even funnier.
I really enjoyed that scene, despite the awkwardness and how horrific it was.
6. We all know how much Ricky loves the dog in the show. Is the dog treated like royalty on set?
When the dog is in the scene, nobody else might as well be there as far as Ricky is concerned. Once the dog is in the room, that’s where his attention is. He half directs and the rest of the time he’s patting a dog and walking it around.
7. Have you heard anything about series 3?
I’d love to do more and Ricky seems keen. Nothing is written down or set in stone yet, it’s quite movable. But he has some ideas there. We’ll have to wait and see. I’d love to do more.
There are some great characters introduced in series two, it would be great to see more of them. We could have a wedding, all sorts.
I’d do 10 more series, but it might be scraping the barrel by series 10. Series 3 would be great though.
Watch all episodes of After Life series 1 and 2 on Netflix now.