Mr Flibble Talks To... Talia Everything
The Captain's 'bit on the side' steps over from the mirror universe in the splendid form of actress Heidi Monsen.
7 February, 2003
Heidi Monson
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble had brought chocolates for the delectable Heidi - which, unsurprisingly, she paid little attention to, seeing as the penguin had eaten all but the walnut whip. Andrew, meanwhile, asked how she got the role in ONLY THE GOOD...

My agent rang me up to go and see [Casting Director] Linda [Glover], and she was so nice, she gave me so many tries at my four or five lines. Then I found out I'd got the gig - and I've got to say it's probably the most terrifying thing I've ever done in my life. I'd done lots of theatre, lots of telly, but I've never done studio audience [sitcom]. Everybody seemed so together, and I just felt like the amateur.

It's the first and only time I've done it. The warm-up guy was introducing people, and they came out and bowed, or after their bit gave a little 'hi' to the audience - well I missed my bit, because I was so thrilled to have done my line that I ran off!

It's sometimes hard to join a group who have been together for so long...

Where they're so established - it's water off a duck's back for them. Which doesn't mean they were complacent, or that anyone had an attitude - far from it. Everyone was quite, quite charming.

You had to flirt with Mac - and with Chris Barrie...

Yeah - that wasn't too hard! (Laughs) A girlfriend of mine was very jealous.

Mr Flibble was jealous of Chris, and started to sulk. What kind of direction did you get from Doug and Ed?

They're a little double-act aren't they. (Laughs) They were very free, actually. "Let us see what you're doing," so I did, and they said, "Fine, just tweak it a little." I mean, at the end of the day I had to kiss Chris, and that was pretty damn easy. (Laughs) There were no tongues...

Did you like the outfit they put you in?

I loved my costume! Bought from a market stall for something like a tenner. I asked him [Howard Burden]. I said, "I like that." He said, "It was dead cheap. Do you want it?" I said, "Yes please!" (Laughs) It was very slim-fitting, but with a lot of stretch. I wore it when I was pregnant.

How did you get on with an AUDIENCE full of fans?

They did warn me that there were a lot of fans, "So when the show's finished, don't go outside to find your husband. Let him find you." I just smiled - I'd had four blooming lines, what are they talking about? So I went out to find my husband and I was mobbed! The first time in my life. I found it so peculiar, so funny. "Can we get your autograph... and by the way, can you just go in and get everybody else's?" (Laughs)

Somehow I ended up with six autograph books - everyone was throwing them at me. I went up to make-up with these books, and I remember someone turned to me and said, "Ah-ha - you've been outside, haven't you?" I have to say, all the cast who were in the room at the time duly signed the books.

There's a big question-mark over Talia's character. If she's a spiritual adviser in a mirror universe, what might she be in our own? What's the opposite of a nun? (At this point Mr Flibble began listing the possibilities, but was thankfully ignored by all concerned.)

I think you're going to have to take that one higher! (Laughs) Maybe we should go for a re-shoot - I'm happy to do that. (Lofty voice) I think the beauty of that episode is what you see in it.

This is the fantastic thing about Red Dwarf, like all good things - and one of my favourite films is The Wizard of Oz - people will sit and argue about the sets, the costumes, the this, the that. I'm sure they're often decisions made on the spur of the moment, but by God they bother the fans!

The studios are actually very CLOSE TO HOME for you, aren't they?

It was great to be working five minutes away. They offered me a car, and I was too embarrassed. [Driving myself] meant that in rehearsals I could just nip in and out. Even on the shoot day, again this car was proffered. "No, no, I can drive myself."

And you live close to an old Grant/Naylor writing hole...

They wrote next door! When I first moved here, I got talking to a chap and he asked what I was doing. I said I'd got a Red Dwarf gig, and he said, "Oh, they ensconced themselves in that house for one summer." [For Series VI.] He said the one thing he did remember - and it was summer, really hot - was they had the heating on full-blast and all the windows and doors open. It stuck him as really peculiar, and he thought maybe it was a writing thing. (Laughs) Or maybe they couldn't work the heating...

Did you watch the episode go out?

I always do. I'm not one of those actors who doesn't watch their stuff - I believe most of them are liars. (Laughs)

We were on holiday in the Maldives, so it must have come out in January. The group we were with found out I was an actress and were ribbing me. I do quite a lot, but I'm an advert queen. I crop up regularly flogging some sort of...whatever. "Okay, I'll tell you, actually I'm in Red Dwarf." So when it came out I did get about five phone calls from people I was on holiday with saying, "Okay, you win." (Laughs)

I thought it was watched by 'men of a certain age', but when it went out I suddenly found that my mother's friends watched it. And my Nan and people in their community centre! So it wasn't half as limited as I thought. I've had a lot of fan mail, which surprised me. It's all very sweet - "I really enjoyed your performance as Talia". I've done Nora in a Dolls House, that is a performance. Do you get any fan mail? No. You do four lines on Red Dwarf and you're inundated! (Laughs)

Any weird ones?

Not from Red Dwarf, from other things. I've only had a couple. The weirdest one was when somebody sent a photograph of himself. He claimed to be an actor, and he wanted me to write back, wanted us to hook up so maybe we could act some scenes together. That came out of Thieftakers, where I did a lesbian Jacuzzi scene - so I don't think his intentions were entirely honourable.

Mr Flibble said he could understand that, and fluttered his eyelashes at Heidi. Except penguins don't have eyelashes - so he just looked like he was having some kind of seizure. Tell us about some of the adverts you've done.

I did one for Peugeot last week, so that'll be out soon. The last one was with [West Ham soccer player] Paulo Di Canio in a bath for Imperial Leather! That was a funny one, because they phoned me up and said it would be with a footballer. I don't know anything about football, but my husband's a real footie fan. They said it's with Paulo Di Canio - didn't have a clue. Of course, my husband and his friends were like, 'Can you get his autograph?'

I'm detecting a very strong BATHTUB THEME! (At this point Mr Flibble's head exploded.)

I have done three bath scenes in my life. The worst has to be the last, which was 10 hours. I did one in Germany for a mobile phone company - that was cold. But the Jacuzzi in Thieftakers was a nightmare.

I complained to the props guy that we didn't have enough bubbles covering our modesty, so he duly put in half a pint of Fairy Liquid, turned on the Jacuzzi as the camera was on the chap speaking his lines, and the froth was getting higher and higher...

I was bathing with a very sweet lady, but she had discoidal eczema and they had to put a lot of make-up on her to cover the eczema. We had a lot of froth, and as the day progressed the froth was getting browner and browner, all the skin was dropping off. Lovely girl. You ended up with a tide mark! (Laughs)

Finally, you also took a part in TENTH KINGDOM...

That was another fantastic job. Sci-fi jobs are full of weird, wonderful people. They get the cream of the crop - they're absolutely barking, but very nice. (Laughs) I've never looked around to see so many dwarves, giants, disfigured, deformed, prosthetic-laden people in my life!

I thought it was a very beautiful show. I remember they were filming a ballroom scene on another soundstage and I gatecrashed that, peeking through the curtains in between doing my scene, and feeling...very privileged. Like you're peeking into this fantasy world.

Mr Flibble enjoyed drooling over Heidi Monsen, and now that it's over...Mr Flibble is very cross.