Man Down creator Greg Davies: we never considered replacing the great Rik Mayall

The Channel 4 comedy's writer and actor pays tribute to his late co-star and reveals The Young Ones legend was the first comedian to speak to him when he was growing up

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Man Down writer and star Greg Davies has said that he hopes his Channel 4 comedy’s Christmas special and second series will reflect the spirit of the late Rik Mayall.

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Mayall, who played the sadistic father to Davies’ character Dan in the first series, died in June when the new material was still being written.

However, Davies adds that none of the production team ever considered abandoning the show in which the Inbetweeners actor stars as Dan – a hapless drama teacher who was frequently the victim of nasty practical jokes played by Mayall’s character.

“I hope I am right in thinking he would have wanted us to crack on and one decision that was easy to make is you don’t replace Rik Mayall,” Davies told RadioTimes.com. “There was no thought of recasting a Dad or having a similar character coming in who attacks me.

“I don’t know if any of us for a second thought of not carrying on and I don’t think for a second that Rik would have wanted us to have stopped, so we’re not stopping. And I hope we have dealt with the sad loss in a way that would have made him smile.

“Most of series [two] was mapped out and scripts were half written when poor Rik left us. As well as being incredibly sad it was a challenge afterwards. We didn’t want to stop the show but at the same time he was such a big part of it. 

“Of course it won’t be the same show without Rik. How could it be? But I hope fans think the show has carried on in the same spirit. I think it has.”

When the action resumes in the Christmas special, Mayall’s on-screen alter ego has been dead for a long time – although the causes are not explained.

“Laying the father character to rest was the only sensible thing to do really,” adds Davies, who has created a new antagonist in the form of Nesta (played by Stephanie Cole) – Dan’s long lost aunt and sister to Rik’s Dad.

“I didn’t want it to be his brother who turns up. It’s his sister. You can’t replace Rik Mayall. So it’s a woman, his estranged sister.

“It’s all linked in to what the Dad has left behind him. There is a sort of pranking. Put it this way, the Dad has not had his last influence on Dan.”

Davies also recalls the difficulty of filming when the cast reconvened to shoot new material without their late co-star.

“It was very sad. The time that it got to us all the most was when we got back to the house where we filmed the Christmas tree incident.

“We felt his loss, all of us did, particularly in the stuff we filmed in the house because we associate that particularly with him. He had a couple of cracking scenes there.

“It’s really difficult and I was so thrilled to have him a part of it because he was such a larger-than-life character.”

Paying tribute to Mayall’s whole career, Davies adds:  “The Young Ones, for me, was a comedy awakening. That was so different, so shocking at the time and I saw a mate of mine this weekend who I have known since I was 11. We were talking about how we ran into school – no exaggeration – and I remember where we met, it was just at the bottom of the stairs before we had to go off to our tutor group, just to quote it at each other.

“It was an incredibly exciting show. It was the first time for me that I felt as though a show was written for me not for my parents who were liberally-minded but mildly disapproving of it. I thought that was wonderful. It was a genuinely original and shocking thing. We spent all day quoting the character of Rik.”

As for his own hapless character, Davies assures us that his misfortunes are “worse if anything” in Man Down.

“I think it’s more bonkers than the last series,” said Davies.

Mayall really would be proud.

The Man Down Christmas Special airs on Channel 4 on Tuesday 23rd December at 10pm. The full second series is due to air in early 2015. 

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A BBC2 tribute show Rik Mayall: Lord of Misrule airs on Saturday 20th December at 10.05pm