Mr Flibble Talks To... Call Me Legion
Nigel Williams was the voice and the body - but, luckily for him, not the face - offour and a half chainsaw-rated psycho Legion. A hideous Andrew/Flibble gestalt entity gets the story from behind the green Lycra.
12 October, 2001
Nigel Williams
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

The gestalt Andrew/Flibble interrupted an argument with itself to ask Nigel when he first began ACTING...

That goes back to when I was 8 - I was going to be a singer. Then I made a career move when I was 12 to be an actor, and that was that. The only reason for staying on for A-levels was to do another two school plays! (Laughs)

You went to RADA...

I was 6 foot 2 when I was 18, and you don't get employed when you're 6 foot 2 and 18. Jonathan Price was a year below us, and Robert Lindsay was a year above us - actually his name then was Robert L. Stevenson! (Laughs) I think that's his real name! Everyone was changing their names there. There was a guy called Robert Lloyd Ormsby who changed his name to Trader Selkirk! A bit of a difference...

You were never tempted to do the same?

Oh no. I'd get too confused. (Laughs)

Do you approach COMEDY in a particular way?

It depends how well written it is. The very well written stuff usually requires a more serious approach than serious parts. There's nothing worse than seeing 'nudge nudge' comedy performances. Case in point is Evolution; there's an awful lot of sparkle in the eyes going on during that. It's like it didn't quite believe itself. And if it doesn't, why would anyone else? Whereas Lake Placid is a wonderful film; a wonderful screenplay and wonderful performances. It's one of my favourite films. A comedy thriller is, I think, the hardest thing to put together.

The Flibble/Andrew beast polished its glasses with a flipper. There is a certain variety in your CV, are you keen to keep doing different things?

Oh yes - that's why I joined. You get asked to 'act' less and less, it seems, as the business progresses. I don't think I'd like to be starting out now, because you're asked to play 'yourself' in Eastenders, or one of the other soaps, that chews you up and spits you out after a couple of years. I don't know what you do after that.

Launch a pop career!

Yes - if you're really desperate... (Laughs)

Of course you do sing yourself...

I've always had the singing up my sleeve, but I like straight acting. It's only in the last ten, fifteen years or so that I've been grown up enough [to] tick all the boxes so I can do all of [the things I want to do] when I want to.

Is there one thing that you prefer to do?

You usually like doing the other thing! When you're doing a musical then you long for a bit of depth and intensity. And when you're doing a play you long for a bit of frivolity and lightness. When you're doing any theatre you long for the money, and when you're doing any telly you long for a holiday! (Laughs)

Andrew/Flibble began an anecdote about its time in repertory theatre, whilst simultaneously discussing the merits of film studies. Nigel, remarkably, remained unphased. How did you get the RED DWARF gig?

It just came through the agent. I went along, met them - it was more of a reading than an audition because the character was head-to-toe in Lycra. What I looked like! My own mother didn't recognise me! (Laughs) They were interested (does Legion voice) in the voice.

When did it become clear that it was a 'faceless' role?

That was apparent from the script, and it was explained, so it didn't come as a horrible surprise. (Mock indignation) "Oh, I'm not going to be seen!" It was a... sustained voiceover. A lot of it was pre-filmed, so I sat back in the studio and watched them replay it. [I] had to revoice the stuff in the studio - and the stuff on location, if I remember rightly - because of the costume. It sounded like I was talking through a blanket, so a lot of it had to be revoiced later on. I did my actual performance six months after I'd [filmed] it!

It was very speedy - because there was no lip-synch. There was a bit of Lycra-movement-synch... (Laughs)

Tell us/me about the COSTUME...

[I] froze to death in a Lycra swimming costume, (laughs) which is essentially what it was. I remember location filming - back in the old days of steam! - had nice big lamps. No matter what you were wearing you'd cook. And this was one of these little hand-held, mini-cam jobs with, you know, a small torch for lighting! (Laughs) All in a freezing building, a very wonderful edifice, south of Chelsea bridge [the Marco Polo building]. There was one point where we had to stop a take because my hand was going like that. (His hand quivers.)

Apparently you had to be sewn in to the outfit!

It was always built small, and I was relying on the good taste of the director and the cameraman to avoid the lumpy bits. But there's always someone with a continuity Polaroid camera to compromise the sanity! (Laughs) You went to the loo, got stitched in, and got out eight hours later. I'm an actor - (actory voice) self control! (Laughs)

A mate of mine called Robin Sachs played the baddie in Galaxy Quest. [He also plays Ethan Rayne in Buffy.] Poor chap - that took six hours to be glued into every day. It weighed a ton, and he had about six people working different bits of him!

How did you find the filming of the famous anti-matter chopsticks scene?

It was a pain in the arse because everything had to be shot backwards. You just do it and trust that they're going to stitch it together in the editing. It's not a question of 'getting your character right' - it's 'getting your fork in shot'. (Laughs)

Legion tried to entrap the Dwarfers. Do you like villainous parts?

Yeah - you don't have to be in a good mood to play them, it's lovely! (Laughs) Sometimes the goodie parts can be bland, whereas the baddies tend to [have] stronger colours and you can do what you like with them. Also, kids are very perverse - they'll always root for the villain.

Did you watch the episode when it was broadcast?

Yeah. Oh yes. It was fun. I particularly wanted to see what they'd done with that meal scene. And also the appendectomy...

The Legion smeg-up of a squeaking door has become very familiar from the out-takes tapes...

I think they're genuine out-takes. I've done stuff before where they've asked for out-takes to be... put in. There was an advert I did and they wanted a 'Spoonerism' put into one of the takes which would have made it very filthy - so they could show it at salesmen conventions! (Laughs)

Would you ever like to return?

I think I'd like looser Lycra! (Laughs) The nice thing is that it doesn't matter that I've aged...

Finally, what do you have COMING UP?

A national tour of Spend, Spend, Spend, dates around the country. It's the story of Viv Nicholson, who won the pools in the 60's and decided to blow it all. It's got great music, a great script, and I play an unpleasant drunken bully of a father... typecasting again! (Laughs)

Mr Ellard/Flibble enjoyed talking to Nigel, and now that it's over... Mr Flibble is very cross.