In HBO's new comedy series "Life's Too Short," dwarf actor Warwick Davis plays a dwarf actor named Warwick Davis, but that's where their similarities end. The real Davis is charming and sweet, while the fictionalized Davis is a conniving, egotistical horror who is desperate to be back in the spotlight.
Comedic geniuses Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are behind the faux documentary, which follows in the tradition of "The Office" and "Extras" and will likely make viewers simultaneously squirm and splutter with laughter.
Gervais and Davis talked to The Huffington Post about their latest project and how everyone just loves comedians -- except for Gervais, of course.
How did the idea for "Life's Too Short" come about?
Gervais: It was an evolution. I first met Warwick when I invited him to do "Extras," and I said, "How'd you like to be kicked in the face." Then, as I remember, Warwick came to me for a quote for his autobiography. I gave him a whimsical one, which feeds into the show. I said, "Pound for pound Warwick, is one of the funniest people I know." And then, it was Warwick's idea to do something about his experiences, or the experiences of little people in society, and that excited me.
I love dealing with taboo subjects, excruciating social faux pas, the minutiae of human behavior, and when Warwick told me these stories, like how he can tell people are trying to avoid saying the word "small"... he wants to say, "Just chill out, you're not a bad person, you're uncomfortable around differences." When a mother pulls away a kid in a supermarket for staring, Warwick wants to go, "What does he want to know? I'll talk to him," and that's exactly my attitude with everything. I think no harm can come from talking about a taboo subject. It's what I've dealt in for all my life: making people laugh when they think they shouldn't, as long as it comes down on the right side. Warwick, have I missed anything?
Warwick: No, not really.
Gervais: Tell some stories. About the Japanese and Irish people -- that really made me laugh.
Davis: Yeah, my world is quite rich with amusing things that happen to me. Ricky and Stephen [Merchant] certainly picked up on a lot of that stuff. They came up with loads of new stuff and I wondered why those things hadn't actually happened to me as well. I've traveled around the world and I've met all different types of cultures, and within some cultures, little people are considered to be lucky. Japanese tourists, in particular, want to get very close and touch me and I don't mind that. I try and see it from their perspectives. I don't take offense. It's very hard to offend me or get me upset about anything. It all just feeds into the show.
Gervais: Warwick isn't affected by anything. He's got a great sense of humor. He's probably the most grounded, stable person I've ever met. His kids are just amazing; he's made them bulletproof by giving them a sense of humor, as opposed to hiding them away from this big bad world. Because Warwick is so drenched in this humanity and so likable, we had to make him into a little Hitler [type of character] so people knew what they were laughing at.
They're not laughing at him because he's small; they're laughing at him because he's obnoxious or because he deserves it. They're laughing when he falls out of the car, not because he's small but because he shouldn't have bought a car that was way too big for him.
Anyone who says, "Ooh, you shouldn't use a dwarf for slapstick" -- well, shame on you. Why shouldn't you? He's brilliant at it. Here's the other thing about Warwick: he's indestructible. You can drop him, throw him, stretch him -- I want to bring out a Warwick toy. He's my favorite person I've ever directed.
Warwick, don't you think what's great about "Life's Too Short" is that it shows that little people can be mean, just like everybody else?
Davis: Oh, absolutely. That's what's refreshing about it. Usually when you see someone [on TV] with a disability, it's a sympathetic character ... except this guy. He's like everybody else; he's an asshole. I've certainly never played anyone like him before. He shares my career, but that's kind of where the similarities finish.
Did you practice looking uncomfortable while looking into a camera?
Davis: It's what comes to you at the moment, but it's so liberating.
Gervais: It is, and I warned you. Remember? The first time, I said, "Once you do one, it will ruin you as an actor, because it's so addictive." I can't resist it now. I want to do it in everything. If I did "Schindler's List 2," I'd want to do a little look in the camera.
Warwick, what kind of a reaction have you had from the show?
Davis: I've had an amazing reaction. I'm going to sound like the character now [laughs] but I've been in a lot of big movies, and you get recognized from these things. It's always lovely, but now I go out and I'm bombarded. I sort of get a hero's welcome and I think that's the difference when you do comedy. You sort of make a connection with people.
Gervais: There is a warmer connection to a comedy actor. You want to hug your favorite comedian. Not me, of course -- everyone, apart from me.
"Life's Too Short" premieres on HBO on Feb. 19 at 10:30 p.m.