Mr Flibble Talks To... Missing Rimmer
Mr Flibble talks to Genevieve Swallow, the one girl at the captain's table Rimmer didn't 'get coffee' with...
20 September, 2002
Genevieve Swallow
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble whispered his first question into Andrew's ear. Genevieve tried to listen in, so Mr F batted her away with his flipper: "How did you become an ACTRESS in the first place?"

It all started when I was four - I went to a pantomime and I was hooked! You know how they have Buttons ask children if they want to come up? I ran down and stood there in this land of magic and lights and makeup and it was like a fairytale. Apparently I was dreadful - I just stood there, wouldn't say my name, wouldn't smile. After I went home, apparently, I was telling the bus driver and everybody that I'd met Aladdin and Buttons. A bit sad, really.

Then I got involved in school plays, and my Mum enjoys the theatre and used to take me a lot. My first professional job was on The BFG, as understudy and ASM [Assistant Stage Manager]. I was understudying a giant, which I wasn't very sure about at the audition, being very petite. But they said I'd be wearing a big head.

How did you get the part on RED DWARF?

I applied to drama school and did one year post-graduate training at Guildford. That's how started with Red Dwarf. [Casting Director] Linda [Glover] had seen me at my end of year showcase, and apparently she thought some of the things I did were quite funny. I had no idea she was there, and I'd been told this, so I looked for her name on the credits of Red Dwarf and wrote off to her saying, "Are you the lady? If so - give me a job!"

I had two auditions - it was all taken very seriously! (Laughs) They asked me in to audition for the woman on the panel who was trying to assess whether Kryten was do-lally or not. They sent the script to me and, fresh out of drama school, I thought. "I'm a bit too young for this. But what the hell, I'll give it a go." So I went to Shepperton, met Linda, did a test in front of a camera... and gurned a lot! (Laughs) I remember pulling lots of faces. I'm not sure it was very good, but it didn't seem to matter because they asked me back!

They asked me to do the Doctor as well, and again I thought, "Oh dear, these are maybe for more mature ladies. I don't know if I'll get away with this. But I'll go along with it, do my best." So I did, and as I suspected I didn't get those parts, but I got 'Last Woman Officer', right on the end! (Laughs) Pulling my faces and being turned down by Rimmer - which was unfortunate.

But you got quite a few cutaways to the faces you were pulling...

This was the thing. I'd never done professional TV before, I only had two and a half day's training. I shouldn't say this - oh, it's too late now, they gave me the job! (Laughs) - bit it was a very theatre-based course. So I felt a bit at sea, and I thought I'd better phone someone up for advice. I called a mate who I'd just done a show with, and he'd done a couple of TV bits and pieces. He said, "Well, the important thing is to just give them lots of reactions. Give them as much as you can - that's what they're going to want to cut with. Don't just act when you're doing your line."

So I went in there really keen, and for three hours I pulled faces. I remember very clearly there was a moment when they thought they weren't getting enough reactions. "Can we just pan round and - all the women - can you look like you really fancy Rimmer?" And we all had to do our bits for the camera.

Mr Flibble pointed out that he isn't adverse to putting on a dress for a role. It's at times like this Andrew becomes glad that only he can hear him. Were your scenes ON-SET done live, or pre-recorded?

I didn't have the live audience, I've never had to do that and it's something I'm really looking forward to doing one day. I've had more 'film' experience since Red Dwarf, but I like the extra energy you can get from a live audience. It's great to play off.

What was it like to be on those amazing Mel Bibby sets?

The sets were great, seeing it properly. A lot is not as you imagined it - you realise that there aren't acres and acres of corridor, that often things are shot again and again in the same place. You turn another corner... and it's the same corner.

I was a fan of the show. I'd grown up with it. I remember seeing the first episodes and going into school the next day, going on about it to friends. So it was quite surreal having seen those interiors - though obviously they'd changed by the time I was there - but seeing Starbug, seeing bits and pieces, it was surreal. I'd arrived very early and I remember sitting in the big studio lot, just me at this tiny table, surrounded by this huge set. And I actually felt a bit of a banana. (Laughs)

How did you get on with the cast and crew?

What I will say is that everyone was really nice, really friendly - from the production team through to the actors. Kika [Mirylees] - one of the gust actresses, she was the Doctor - was very kind, and Mac [McDonald] was a real gem. He talked me through bits of it, showed me around. Norman Lovett as well - they were all really nice.

Didn't you ask Chris Barrie for an autograph?

My brother is a big Dwarf fan. At the end of shooting that day I felt a bit stupid going up and asking for an autograph, but I did for him - sisterly love. (Laughs) I said to Chris, "I remember seeing this when I was 13!" And his face just dropped! (Laughs) Not necessarily the most tactful thing to say...

Did you have to deal with any SCRIPT CHANGES?

My lines got changed just before they filmed them - and no-one had told me, which was a bit scary! (Laughs) I was just checking with someone, I remember I wanted to check at what point I got up for continuity purposes, and they showed me the script. "Oh no, that's not what I've been told to say." She said, "Oh no, has no-one told you? There's been a change." But that's what happens.

The original line was something like , "Please can I come with you?" And, being me, I had put as much dirty subtext into that [as I could]: "Can I come with you?" I think that line was changed due to me... accenting it a bit. (Laughs)

Did you watch the show get broadcast?

I did. It went out during the week, then a repeat went out on the Sunday, and I didn't really tell many people I was in it. On the page I didn't have much to say, but when I saw the show they used me more than I thought they would. By no means was I huge in it, but I thought it'd be 'blink and you miss me'. I remember seeing it - and noticing the lip-licking occur - and then I did phone a few friends and say, "If you happen to be in Sunday night..." (Laughs) I almost wanted to check it before I told anybody.

Mr Flibble's eyes glazed over - ah, the lip-licking...

And my Grandparents were so proud of me... (Laughs)

Tell us about Newsrevue, the topical comedy show you appeared in...

It's a fantastic show - the longest running Fringe show - and it's a political satirical show where they have the standard two girl, two boy performers. You have to be able to sing, do silly voices and impressions, musical numbers. What I found interesting was that Chris, Rob and Doug were all from Spitting Image, because this was like a Spitting Image on stage, if you can imagine that!

A lot of it's quite near the knuckle, very funny. What was exciting was that a new story might break that day, and you'll be doing a piece about it that evening. The show changes every week.

You also appeared on stage in I Am Star Trek...

That was an Edinburgh Fringe show. It was the story of Gene Rodenbury's life, done through the film and TV episodes. Star Trek fans did come along, but we got very positive feedback because we lampooned them as well. It was a really fun show to do, and the cast doubled-up - so you're always running off and changing. My main character was DC Fontana, one of the scriptwriters, who Gene was very close to, then allegedly did the dirty on her at the end - so it is said.

I had the best costume I think I've ever had - I had to play a Talosian, these butt-headed aliens. I did this whole scene as a stern Talosian, and then turn to the 'director' and say (American accent), "Robert, Robert - is this make-up really necessary? I feel like I'm wearing a giant asshole on my head."

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