He’s lighting up our TV screens as Mount Pleasant’s Fergus on Friday nights but did you know Neil Fitzmaurice was one of the first characters we saw on screen in Ricky Gervais comedy The Office?
Or that the cult classic’s fork truck driver very nearly had a much bigger role in the series?
“I auditioned for The Office and I got right down to the wire for Gareth and thank goodness I lost the job because Mackenzie Crook was a genius in it” laughs Fitzmaurice.
“I’m in the very first scene of the very first episode being hired and then I was fired and had this conversation with Ricky” he says.
“If you ever saw that first scene of the episode again, every now and again you see my shoulder rocking because it was shot over my shoulder so you don’t see me getting hired. I couldn’t stop laughing because I think I was one of the first outside the rehearsal rooms to witness the birth of David Brent.”
The actor – and former Phoenix Nights star – says it didn’t take him long to realise that something very special was about to happen on television screens.
“When we started rolling and he started doing all the tie adjustment and the vis a vis and all this pulling his faces, well I just went to pieces. I was just laughing my head off and I think then I got this first inkling. Before we shot it and you were reading the script, it didn’t leap off the page like, in any different way than any other, but when I saw him do Brent, I got this tingle and I just got the feeling that I was witnessing the birth of a real legendary character.”
What was it about Gervais that made him believe that, though?
“It was just the way he did it, the social awkwardness he could put into it whenever he wanted and he made me feel awkard and make me laugh and I thought oh, this could be something very special. That was the first time I think, sitting on the set opposite Ricky Gervais when he did it.”
Mount Pleasant continues on Sky1 on Friday nights at 9pm