Things seem to be looking up for Warwick. How has he changed since we last saw him?
He's looked back and realized that he comes across as not a particularly nice person. He's starting to see the errors of his ways a little bit; he's trying to do the right things. Also, his relationship with Amy is going quite well, and she's starting to be an influence in his life. One bit of advice she's given him is that if you're nicer to people then you get that back as well. It becomes self-perpetuating. He's set out to do that, and that's where we pick him up.
Why continue the story in a one-off special?
A lot of it has to do with time, to be honest. Making a series is a long process that lasts well beyond the filming of it. On either side, there are several months of writing or editing. It becomes quite a big time commitment for [executive producers] Ricky [Gervais] and Stephen [Merchant]. This way, it was nice and finite. We also all enjoyed having the time to tell the story. It's almost like making a mini-film, in a way.
And why center the story around three somewhat random personalities—Keith Chegwin, Les Dennis and Shaun Williamson?
It is fairly random, but one thing they all have in common is that they've all worked with Ricky and Stephen before in 'Extras.' They're drawing on the backstory of their own personal lives and careers. There was once huge success for these guys, and now they're in the twilight of their careers. In the U.K., they're legendary figures in a cult hero type of way. We like to celebrate the underdogs, and that's what we're doing with these guys. With Warwick helping to resurrect their careers, their backstory feeds very nicely into the show. And what's lovely about people having a backstory already is that you don't have waste time explaining or creating all that. It already exists.
Did you think there was a need to explain who they were?
There is a brief synopsis of them in the show, since you mustn't presume everybody's seen everything. Ricky once said to me, in any humor you do, don't make it too topical. Otherwise, in years to come people won't have any clue what it's about. It's like how comedians do a joke about the pope. Universally, everyone knows the pope, and in 20 years, the pope will still mean something to people.
It does at times feel very British. Do you worry at all about leaving American audiences in the dark?
We do sometimes shoot alternative versions of a scene, because we understand that there are some references that don't carry through. There was a bit with my psychic advisor in the last series, where he named one of his other clients. Then we shot another version of it for the American audience where he named somebody else.
One of the Americans in this special, Val Kilmer, is something of a foil. How did he get involved?
Val had mentioned to Stephen that he wanted get involved with one of his projects. He and Ricky get that all the time; there are celebrities queuing up to have fun poked at them. But with Val, it worked well with the story. The fact that ‘Willow' is discussed quite a lot in the first series, it seemed like a natural cameo. He wasn't just in it for the sake of it.
Was there ever really any talk about doing a ‘Willow 2?'
There's all sorts of talk about it. Not just the fans, but Ron Howard and George Lucas have spoken about it too. Val and I spoke about it quite a lot while we were filming, which became life imitating art because I wasn't sure if he was serious or not. You look now at what's being made, and there are so many reboots and sequels to films from the '80s, which is when many of the best films were made.