Alex Casey assembles her favourite celebrity appearances from the BBC comedy Extras, created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
Forever shadowed by The Office, and more recently Ricky Gervais’ atrociously long pre-recorded intro to the NZ Comedy Festival, Extras is the wondrous second TV comedy masterpiece from Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais. I love Extras. I love everything about it it – the wig, the glasses, the catchphrase – all of it. In a whispered voice, I’d even tell you that sometimes I love it more than The Office. And not just because of this scene.
Following Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais), a film extra trying to make it to the big time, Extras is a cutting examination of the way that fame and fortune can come with oodles of creative compromise. After getting his sitcom idea (a workplace comedy based around a bumbling boss – The Office, anyone?) off the ground with the BBC, Millman is faced with the reality that he must pander his vision to suit the broadest possible audience.
The genius of the show comes not only through exploring the tension between sticking to your guns and selling out – as I’m sure was experienced by Merchant and Gervais themselves – but in the bevvy of celebrity guests that grace each episode. As Andy finds himself on a new set every week, there’s ample opportunity to bring in some amazing celebrity talent to play the worst possible version of themselves imaginable.
I’m proud to announce that, after many sleepless nights, I have mercilessly ranked my favourites.
10) Orlando Bloom
Bloom arrives to Extras in a flurry of screaming fangirls, hellbent on proving his objective handsomeness to Maggie. I’m particularly fond of his spitting remarks about Johnny Depp, and can’t help but think of “Willy Wonka? Johnny Wanker” anytime him or his dogs are in the news.
9) Barry from Eastenders
8) Samuel L Jackson
Samuel L Jackson lends himself to one of the most awkward moments of the entire series, when Maggie confuses him for Lawrence Fishburne and vehemently maintains that he was in The Matrix. To enhance the experience, consider that he was only on set for one afternoon, and somehow managed to maintain this extraordinary silence without laughing once. Truly the Oracle.
7) Robert de Niro
What piques the interest of one of the greatest living actors of modern times? A rude pen with a naked lady on it, of course.
6) Sir Ian McKellen
Referring to himself as Sir Ian throughout the entire episode, Ian McKellen appears as the director of some po-faced theatre called A Month of Summers. With Andy stepping into the lead role, Sir Ian reveals his deepest secrets of acting wizardry, including his patented method:
“How do I act so well? What I do is I pretend to be the person in the film or play.”
You shall not pass until you enjoy his ferocious three seconds as Gandalf.
5) Daniel Radcliffe
Everyone’s favourite student wizard is back in Extras – and this time as a boy scout wizard. Determined to break away from his famous character, Radcliffe goes to extreme lengths to prove his maturity. “Oh, fags” he says casually, waggling a packet of Marlboro Lights around before barking for some bourbon. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Harry Potter produce an unwrapped condom from his pocket, and then slingshot it away.
4) Chris Martin
Chris Martin shoehorns his way into Millman’s waning sitcom When the Whistle Blows, under the condition that he is still allowed to wear a Coldplay tshirt. The line “Gwyneth’s making drumsticks” becomes all the more poignant in this post conscious-uncoupling world, and he gets extra points for this horrid ‘Fix You’ duet with Andy Millman’s character Ray Stokes. Ricky Gervais literally sounds like a mosquito and I can’t handle it.
3) Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart’s screenplay in Extras is the greatest screenplay ever written, and I’m not going to say any more than that. In his own immortal words, “it’s too late – I’ve already seen everything.”
2) Kate Winslet
“I’m doing it because I’ve noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust – guaranteed Oscar”
Consumed by her desire to secure an Academy Award – which she still hadn’t won IRL at the time of filming – Kate Winslet manages to say almost every offensive thing under the sun. From being sick of Holocaust films to her career goal of “playing a mental” – there’s really something to make everyone cringe until their teeth shatter.
If you make it through all of that unscathed, I guarantee the phone sex scene will get you.
1) David Bowie
When David Bowie died, I’m not ashamed to admit that this scene was the first thing I thought of. After being approached by Andy in the VIP area of a bar, Bowie leans over intently to hear his tale of sitcom woe. It’s all going well, until Bowie furrows his brow and interrupts with the opening bars of what I would call his most underrated song…
“Little fat man who sold his soul,
little fat man who sold his dreams”
If there was any doubt in your mind that Bowie wasn’t true and pure a comedy genius, please enjoy this enduring golden nugget from the DVD extras of Extras:
Impressed by the star power? Want more acting tips from Sir Ian? Click below to watch Extras on Lightbox