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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Graham Linehan talks Count Arthur Strong

BAFTA-winning writer Graham Linehan (Father Ted and The IT Crowd) has joined forces with Sony Gold Comedy Award-winner Steve Delaney and Olivier Award-winner Rory Kinnear for a brand-new comedy series for BBC Two, Count Arthur Strong.


The 6x30-minute series will air this summer and follows the world of Count Arthur Strong (Delaney), a bumbling faded variety act, prone to delusions of grandeur, selective memory loss and the blurting out of malapropisms. He was never as famous as he thinks he was... or still thinks he is. Now Arthur’s days are all about opportunity with another great entertainment triumph only a phone call away. But until that call comes, Arthur spends his day making the most of what comes along, creating chaos and confusion wherever he goes – blissfully unaware that he has done so. The BBC have released an interview with Linehan to give viewers a taste of the brand new series.

What attracted you to get involved in Count Arthur Strong?

I first saw Arthur in his 'Forgotten Egypt' show and I was just blown away. Steve totally inhabited the character and you could tell there was a massive intelligence behind it. He allowed these hilariously awkward pauses and trusted the audience to keep up. I like working with people who respect the intelligence of their audience.

Were you a fan of the Radio 4 show?

I was but we knew we had to change it for TV. It had to be more rounded, more realistic, and we had to make some definite decisions about how Arthur would fit into the real world. This meant moving away from some of the larger-than-life relationships created in the radio show and trying to ground it a bit more. I would tell our audiences that it was a reboot, which still seems to me the best way of describing it.

How was it writing with Steve Delaney who’s been playing the character for so long?

Great! You'd say a line as one of the other characters and Steve would come back with the perfect Arthur response. Steve's very quiet and thoughtful, so the first part of the process was very serious, with us assembling all the various storylines and worrying whether we were on the right track, but then when we were on the second or third draft it was a lot more fun. Arthur would be in the room a lot more, so we were laughing a lot.



What trait, above all, do you most admire in Arthur?

In our original treatment, we described him as thinking of everyone else in the café as 'a bunch of no-hopers', but as we wrote it, we realised that Arthur cares a lot for these people and didn't feel that way at all. His humanity, his decency started coming out. So that's what I admire most about him. He's quite near the bottom of the heap and he still has time for people.

How does Count Arthur Strong compare to other shows you have worked on?

It was very, very easy compared to everything else I've done. Steve is an incredibly hard worker, and he trusted me and my producer to take care of things behind the camera, so I could relax knowing he (and the rest of our brilliant cast) had everything in hand in front of it. It was a breeze.

Is there more pressure that comes with adapting a much-loved show with a cult following or do you see it as an opportunity to share the character with a wider audience?

I just didn't want to let Steve down. He's been touring out of his car for 15 years and it would be nice if this resulted in, at the very least, a nicer car.

How do you hope BBC Two viewers will react to the character of Count Arthur?

I hope they come to love him as I do.

How difficult was it to get inside the mind of Count Arthur?

Very easy, with Steve sitting there, breaking into character from time to time. Also, I'm a big fan of misunderstanding in comedy so it was a good match from the start. The two teas confusion (episode one)... we were so excited as we saw things like that escalate. It was joyful, at times.

What were your main inspirations when writing the situations Count Arthur finds himself in?

We were always on the lookout for things Arthur could get wrong. Any possibility of a misunderstanding, we'd jump on it.

        Count Arthur Strong begins at 8.30pm on Monday 15th July on BBC Two

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