Leaving a party
early, only to find out things got going after you left
really stinks. For Norman Lovett, substitute
"party" for sci-fi series Red Dwarf and you
have what is known in the trade as a
But luckily for
52-year-old Norman, if we continue the party theme, he
remembered he'd forgotten his denim jacket when he got
as far as the bus stop and went back for it. That is to
say, having left Red Dwarf after series two, he was
allowed back with his jacket between his legs for the
eighth series to reclaim his part as ship's computer
Holly. And he'll tell you he's all the better person for
it. Despite missing out on the International Emmy award
"I have always
felt part of Red Dwarf," he says. "It was my
decision to leave, but looking back I shouldn't have
gone. I felt there was so much more that could be done
with Holly, and who knows what would have happened to
the character if I had stayed?" Who knows indeed.
It certainly would have changed RD history forever.
There would have been no Hattie Hayridge to stand in for
him, and no storyline involving the mining ship going
missing - with Holly on board.
But to many fans,
Hayridge was the original Holly as the first series
without Lovett, series three, was the one which got
mainstream comedy fans interested. "The support I
had from hardcore fans was phenomenal," he says.
"The people that had seen the early shows never
forgot and that was important to me. The audience
cheered when I appeared in the last episode of series
seven." Indeed his reappearance came with the
classic line: "I never forget a face. Sorry, you
reminded that the show took off after I left," he
says only slightly bitterly. "There were problems
and frustrations when I left, and in what came
afterwards. I had done two series with Ruby Wax on
Channel 4 (Don't Miss Wax), then done two of Red Dwarf.
I thought the time was right to try my own show."
The show was I, Lovett,
written by and starring Norman as an eccentric inventor
in 1993. He and his talking dog, Dirk, got into several
forgettable scrapes. The run was short-lived. "It
wasn't as easy as all that though," he says.
"I tried it, and it bombed."
Things got worse.
Norman had relocated to Edinburgh for a new look at
life. He was now away from the ready-made work in
London. And at Red Dwarf HQ, the garden was far from
rosey. Writer Rob Grant had gone, and star Craig Charles
was tried - and cleared - of rape. For three years,
nothing happened to the show, which of course meant
Norman had no "home" to go back to.
But the move to
Scotland saw happier times too. Norman met his wife
Fiona, and had two children, Lily, eight, and Kitty,
six. Now happily moved back down to West London, the
rebuilding process is well underway. The new series of
Red Dwarf, plus the spin-off movie projects will keep
him ticking over nicely. "The films are going to be
great. I haven't heard much about them as yet," he
says, "Except that I'm going to be in the first one
So was the eighth RD a
resurrection of his career? "The key word of the
series was ceratinly resurrection," he says.
"There are a lot of new characters, but it's also a
resurrection for me off the screen. Yeah, I like that
idea. I hadn't thought of that until just now."
"Craig (Charles -
who plays Dave Lister), Chris (Barrie - as Arnold
Rimmer) and Danny (John-Jules - The Cat) were just as I
remembered when I came back. We all picked on Chloe
(Annett - Lister's love interest Chrissy Kochanski), but
not just because she was the new girl. Just because she
was a girl."
Red Dwarf fans can
verge on obsessive, as Norman has learned. "It can
be scary to think there are people, and not just one or
two. We are talking a lot of people, who know more about
me than I do." The fan-base has now spread across
Europe, the unpredictable America, and the Far East.
"I went to a Red Dwarf fan convention in
Chicago," Norman laughs. "They really go for
it over there. They are happy to walk up to you and ask
how you are. In Britain people are more nervous. I love
the attention of course, but some of them you look at
and think, crikey! Is there nothing else in your
It's not always easy to
be patient with fans, but Norman is always grateful for
their support - even when they clearly piss him off. He
says: "I really try not to be rude, but just the
other day a father with his two kids came up to me in
Oxford Circus and said, 'You're in Red Dwarf aren't
you?'. He started to follow me with these two confused
kids, and I was really afraid he was going to grab me
and hug me. His kids looked so concerned because daddy
had clearly lost it. You want to tell fans that you're
in a hurry, but they can't accept that off-camera you're
a normal person who needs to catch buses and