Interview: Stephen Merchant on BBC One's Click and Collect.
Stephen Merchant (The Office, Extras, Hello Ladies) and Asim Chaudhry (People Just Do Nothing) star as two mismatched neighbours driving across the country to pick up the one toy that will make a little girl’s Christmas dreams come true.
But will they get there before the shops shut for the festive season? Can they make it back in time for Christmas? And will they manage to avoid driving each other crazy along the way?
It's Christmas Eve and Andrew Bennett (Merchant) has somehow failed to buy the one present his six-year-old daughter really wants - Sparklehoof the Unicorn Princess. Unfortunately, it also happens to be the must-have toy of the season, and he can’t track one down in London for love nor money. Step forward his irritating, over-friendly neighbour Dev D’Cruz (Chaudhry), who reveals he’s managed to track down the last one in the whole of the UK. The only problem? It’s 300 miles away, up in Carlisle. And it’s click and collect on Dev’s credit card.
Andrew has little choice but to set off with his annoying neighbour on a long-haul drive as he desperately tries to save his daughter's Christmas and redeem himself as a dad. For Andrew, it's a nerve-fraying nightmare; for Dev, it's the best road-trip of his life.
Throw in a whole load of unexpected obstacles along the way, and if they want to make it back in time with the toy in hand, it’s going to take a proper Christmas miracle.
What is Click & Collect all about?
It’s a one-off comedy film in which my character, Andrew, and his overbearing neighbour, Dev, have to take a road-trip on Christmas Eve to collect a toy unicorn for my young daughter. Everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. It’s very funny, but sweet too. Asim Chaudhry and I have a great rapport.
Describe your character, Andrew
I play an uptight middle-aged man with glasses - it’s a real stretch for me.
Are there any similarities between you and Andrew?
I’m a bit like Andrew, in that I can be intolerant if someone rubs me up the wrong way. I like meeting new people, but I don’t want to be stuck with someone unless I’ve vetted them first, and know I like them. I dread the idea of being stuck on a long journey with a bore.
Andrew doesn’t appear to be the biggest fan of Christmas. Do you share the same feelings about Christmas?
Andrew gets antagonised by Christmas - whereas I like this time of year. Andrew is sick of the same old songs on the radio, whereas I love hearing Stop The Cavalry for the hundredth time. (I really do). He thinks we should just wait until the New Year sales to buy gifts, when they’re cheaper, whereas I understand it’s just not the same. I like seeing my niece and nephew excited about what Santa has bought them on Christmas morning.
What about Dev? What’s he like?
Dev means well, but he is exhausting company. He is so child-like and over-excited.
What was it like working with Asim Chaudhry on Click & Collect?
I was excited to work with Asim because I suspected he and I would have a great rapport, and we do. He’s hilarious. I love his show People Just Do Nothing. Of all the The Office rip-offs, it’s one of the best.
Would you ever go to extreme lengths to get a present for someone?
I find the secretive nature of gift-buying very stressful. Wracking your brains trying to guess what someone might want, then surreptitiously buying and hiding it from them, then waiting nervously to find out if they actually like it when they open it. And if they don’t, they then have to hide the fact from you. So much lying and deceit involved in gift giving. I much prefer it when people tell you what they want. Even better if they buy it for themselves and just ask for the money.
What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?
I received a Lego airport when I was a kid and played with it for years. I loved creating entire stories surrounding that airport. There were hijackings, crash landings and pay disputes among ground staff. It was very exciting.
What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever given?
It’s not for me to say what the best gifts were that I’ve given, but I think I’ve been surprisingly thoughtful over the years. I once got my dad a flight in a Spitfire, which he was thrilled about.
Have you ever been on a crazy road trip?
I was acting in a film being shot in Atlanta, in the US. One night, me and few other actors weren’t needed, so we went out to dinner. I had a Georgia guidebook with me, and on the cover was a picture of a beautiful, leafy avenue of trees. I happened to ask the waitress where it was, she guessed it was somewhere in Savannah, so on a whim the other actors and I borrowed a car and set off on an impromptu road trip to find that exact avenue of trees. We drove through the night, got pulled over for speeding by a traffic cop, sweet-talked our way out of a ticket, arrived in Savannah, found the one hotel with rooms, then next morning kept asking locals until we tracked down the exact avenue of trees. We took a picture just like the one on the cover of the guidebook, drove all the way back to the same restaurant, and showed it to our same waitress from the night before. She didn’t seem that excited. But we were very pleased with ourselves.
What are your plans for Christmas this year?
I’ll spend Christmas with family. I love cooking, so I’ll probably collaborate with my mum on the Christmas lunch. Maybe I’ll brine the turkey. I feel that’s what Nigella would do.
Have you ever had a disastrous Christmas?
I’ve been very lucky. No disasters at Christmas. Although I do remember one year my family were having Christmas dinner, and my sister and I started arguing about whether Jesus is really the son of God. My mum got cross and said: “Stop talking about Jesus! Christmas Day is not the time for it!”
Catch Click and Collect on BBC One this Christmas.