Monday, March 04, 2013

Richard Briers, 1934-2013

Richard Briers has been making me laugh for as long as I can remember. I first became aware of him through his distinctive voice. When I was a kid, I loved watching Roobarb, and a large part of that was his narration. Later, when I started watching The Good Life, I was surprised to discover that the voice from Roobarb was actually a real, flesh and blood person. It was like having an imaginary friend become real.

And he stayed a friend, a TV friend, as I followed him from The Good Life, to Ever Decreasing Circles, anything he appeared in. As an adult, I was stunned by his amazing performance in If You See God, Tell Him - it was a world away from the cuddly sitcoms of my childhood, so gloriously dark and twisted, anchored by his central role. He did several other serious roles in TV and movies, proving to be a great dramatic actor.

When I worked on the 2nd series of Torchwood, I was delighted to hear he would be in one of the episodes - but couldn't help feeling envious that I hadn't got to work with him. He was perfect in the episode, as always, so I was happy enough that he was in the same universe I was writing for.

When we were looking for someone to play Hamish in Cockneys Vs Zombies, it never occurred to me that he'd be available, or even interested in such a small role. The producers mentioned that they were going to approach him, but I didn't think he'd want to do it. I was so happy when he said yes. I immediately did a polish on the script to give him some extra lines, knowing that he'd be brilliant and wanting to make it worth his while.

In a movie filled with veteran, expert scene stealers, he zimmer-walks away with the whole thing. I knew *that* scene would be good, but he brought it to life even better than I could have hoped. And my favourite line in the movie was ad libbed by him - "that was really sad" (it makes sense when you watch it). It cracks me up every time.

I got to meet him on set, made a beeline for him as soon as I got there. I shook his hand, told him how great he was, and thanked him profusely for doing our silly movie. He was charming, gracious, and thankful for the role. I'm really glad that he enjoyed the movie too, and feel hugely honoured that I was able to make him laugh, to repay him for just a few of the many, many laughs that he'd given me through the years. Later, I tweeted: "I met Richard Briers. Richard. Briers. I met him. He’s in my movie. Speaking my words. Richard Briers. Richard. Briers." I still can't believe it. And I still can't believe he's gone.

He was a lovely man, a wonderful actor, and when I think of him, I automatically smile - even though the thought is now tinged with sadness for his loss. He'll be greatly missed, he already is. But his work will live on, and he will continue to make people laugh, forever.

That's a pretty damn good legacy.