Mr Flibble Talks To... Our Rob Or Ross?
It's our Gary Bleasdale - actor, writer, and the man who retrieved Lister's cardboard box from beneath that pool table in the Aigburth Arms, Liverpool so many years ago...
18 January, 2002
Gary Bleasdale
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble whispered his first question to Andrew: How did you begin ACTING?

I was 16 and I was decorating my uncle's cousin's house. I told him I wanted to be an actor, and the following week he heard [about] a director [who] was doing an episode of Z Cars - this was in 1978, it was the last series. He couldn't find anyone to do this part, this lead thug called Shane Doolan. I went down without any idea of how to behave, but I was quite... I suppose [it was] the confidence of ignorance! (Laughs) I wasn't really frightened, and I changed the words around and told them that it wasn't good writing. I just did my own thing, and he was impressed enough to give me the part.

I think, doing small parts, it has to be as smooth as possible. You have to be good enough not to cause any problems, just do the job without f**king it up. A lot of people think it's easy to turn up on the day, having learnt your lines, and do it. But a lot of people can't. It's essential that you get it right, because they've got not time - they can't f**k around with the small parts!

The same year [as Z Cars] I got a BBC TV film called The Blackstuff, which then became The Boys from the Blackstuff. That's really how it started - I started at the top and have been working my way down ever since! We did Boys from the Blackstuff in 1982, but we did the original film in 1978.

Despite missing one of the country's best penguin performers, that was a great company of actors to be involved with...

Certainly at a young age. I learned a lot. How to act... or not. It was a great group of people, really good professionals. Taught me a lot... how to drink and have a joint was the main thing! (Laughs) It was a great time for British drama. A great cast.

You are, of course, related to Blackstuff writer Alan Bleasdale...

Officially he's my second cousin, but he's always been like my Uncle Alan. It's difficult sometimes to be related to someone who's written something, because people will accuse you of nepotism. We haven't done that at all, and I like to think I got on there on merit. With writing it's completely different - I feel more confident, because if the work doesn't stand up then it doesn't make any difference who you know. So I'm quite pleased about the fact that I'm writing instead of acting.

Acting I can take or leave, but I love writing. Especially theatre, there's nothing like it. It's just the best feeling I've ever had. I'm not good enough to be in my own plays! One play last year was called Stone Circles, it was about the breakdown of a marriage. From that first play I got a theatre attachment.

Mr Flibble asked about HARRY ENFIELD - why didn't Red Dwarf fans recognise you from The Scousers do you think?

Probably because I wasn't wearing a wig and a moustache in Red Dwarf! Every job I've done since Harry Enfield has been wearing a wig and a moustache! Very strange...

How was working on that show?

It was very easy. We did the first series, improvised in the rehearsal rooms, came up with all the catchphrases. Turn up once a year, just to act like a madman. That was it - very easy.

A lot of the stuff came from improvisation?

That did - all the "calm down" stuff did, yeah. Got it from my house when I was a kid. I've got three brothers, so they used to argue a lot - I used to say "calm down".

Mr Flibble likes improvisation - acting's so much easier if you never have to learn any lines! Do you get recognised on the street?

No, I don't - which is great. I hate it now, I'd never do another one because of what it's done to the image of Liverpool. I've been living in London for so long, but I feel a bit guilty that every time people want to take the piss out of Scousers, they use that phrase. It's my fault - and I'd like to say sorry to my old city!

How did you get involved with RED DWARF?

I just got a call through from the casting director, Linda Glover, went for it and got it. That simple. I was known as a Liverpool actor, so it was quite easy, really. Straightforward.

I think we did it in Croydon. Shot it in this rollerblade arcade. The shoot lasted a morning - that was it. We were finished by lunchtime. It was some weird place where people do paintballing and kind of futuristic games, that kind of stuff. [The cage] was part of the bar; it was all there. 1997 - it seems like a long time ago.

I remember doing it three times. The first time was an attempt to be funnier, and the second was an attempt to be more serious, then we went for the medium ground and got it right third time. Finished at lunchtime, home, feet in front of the telly.

Did you meet up with the rest of the cast?

Craig Charles was there, because he was doing a scene after ours. I know Craig from Liverpool, years ago. It was nice to see him. I think we did one day as well in... no we didn't! I was thinking of another job where the Red Dwarf cast were there. I was doing a thing called Roger Roger for the BBC at Shepperton, and they were all there as well.

Without Frank, Lister wouldn't have been discovered and the whole saga might never have happened. You're the man responsible for Red Dwarf!

I know that now! I realise that now! I had no idea. It was more hysterical at the time, never mind historical. I learnt my line eventually...

"Thicker than a ticket tout's wad."

That was it! We a had another girl on it [Juliet Griffiths], she was quite sexy. She had boots on. She wasn't from Liverpool, but she had a Liverpool accent, a very good one.

Mr Flibble has heard enough about the role of Frank - a part he could have got if only they'd called him to audition. (To prove it, he whispered in a Liverpool accent - impressing no-one.) He next asked about Candyman director Bernard Rose who also directed Gary in PAPERHOUSE...

I remember that job. I've never seen it - I saw my bits, but never watched the film. I remember [Rose] being very professional, sharp, precise about what he wanted. He was good.

The one thing I remember about that job is when the storm happened, October of '89 I think it was. I had to get up at four in the morning to get to the set in Kensington. I slept through the storm, woke up and everywhere was flooded. I got there without any problem, just thought it was a normal day, and everyone else was... no busses, no trains. The weather was glorious after - [at] ten o'clock in the morning.

You were playing a policeman...

In the 80's I played soldiers or police officers! I had short hair, I think that's what it was. You get typecast - Scouse police officer, Scouse solider, Scouse thug.

You also did an episode of Casualty - what did you play?

A Liverpool thug! (Laughs) Turned full circle. I was an angry brother of a guy who was in a hospital bed and out of prison. I think my character in Casualty was the same character as in Z Cars in 1978 - he'd just grown older! (Laughs)

Finally, you've done a fair number of ADVERTS...

When I was younger I used to find it very embarrassing. You'd turn up, and you're on a street, and they'd say, 'You're being chased by a bar of chocolate. Show us.' What do you do? You run around like a d**khead as if there's a big bar of Galaxy after you. And they ask you to do it again! 'You don't look frightened enough of this bar of Galaxy... ' (Laughs)

You can always be in disguise. I did one for Nescafé with Ian Wright as an Arsenal fan and they gave me a skinhead. I'm a Liverpool fan with thick hair... and a thick head! (Laughs) They could have gone for a London guy - why they chose me I'll never know. All I had to say was, "Ian Wright?" Easy money... (Laughs)

Mr Flibble enjoyed talking to Gary Bleasdale, and now that it's over... Mr Flibble is very cross.