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    5. Tony Robinson: 'I feel sorry for the other Baldrick, he ..


    Tony Robinson: 'I feel sorry for the other Baldrick, he wasn't so lucky'

    'I've had a wonderful life, thanks entirely to Baldrick' Tony Robinson says Photo: Matt Frost

    It was during a trip to Alton Towers with his daughter Laura 35 years ago that Tony Robinson realized that things would never be the same again. Just a few years ago, he was working as an actor in a Greek tragedy at the National Theatre. But suddenly, having embodied the image of Blackadder's goofy canine body, Baldrick is so good that people are still screaming: “I have a cunning plan!” him on the street, he had to be escorted out of the theme park due to health and safety risks.

    “It was during the second series reruns,” explains Robinson, who was 38, married and had two children, when he was offered the role. “There were rumors that this famous person was there, and my presence completely destroyed the whole place. In the end we had to go back home to Bristol – we couldn't get on any rides, it was chaos. At that moment, I realized that my life had changed.”

    For Robinson, things could have been different. As part of Gold's celebration of the 40th anniversary of Blackadder's first-ever episode on June 15, a new documentary, The Lost Pilot, reveals that there was in fact an earlier alternate pilot episode in which Baldrick is played by an actor named Philip Fox. . At the end of the documentary, this pilot will be televised for the first time.

    Actor Philip Fox played Baldrick in the Blackadder pilot; it was never aired and Robinson was cast in the role after it was booked for TV

    Written by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson and set in 1582, this is an unfinished, overly complicated novel. But in it, Atkinson instantly overshadows Tim McInnerny and Fox as his clueless buddies Percy and Baldrick with his brutal, caustic wit that would define series two and beyond (not to mention “damn good” swordsmanship, Robinson adds). , John Savident as the King (a role later played by gunslinger Brian Blessed) and Robert Bathurst as his brother Prince Henry. Robinson was originally supposed to play Baldrick, but due to a strike, filming was delayed and he took a job at the National instead. However, when producer John Lloyd was brought in to take Blackadder off the blocks for the BBC, he made a few changes – one of which was the return of Robinson as Baldrick.

    So, what was it like for Robinson to watch this pilot when someone else was playing his most famous role to date? “It's strange, but interesting,” he muses. “It brings out the different traits of Rowan's character; Philip and Rowan worked together in a completely different way. He has a very different personality than me and was much more direct.

    “Everything could have been like this, but it didn’t happen, which was incredibly lucky for me and not very lucky for Philip. I think he wanted to stay. I know what it's like. I remember getting fired three days later in a Dennis Potter play called Memories of the Blue Hills and I was devastated. I had a wonderful life solely because of Baldrick, so I sympathize with him very much.”

    Robinson took four O-levels at Wanstead County Secondary Grammar School in east London and skipped the A-levels to go straight to the Central School of Speech and Drama. As such, his upbringing contrasted sharply with that of his Oxbridge-educated Blackadder co-stars. But, unlike Baldrick, Robinson could more than intellectually hold his own among them.

    Robinson (right) with Rowan Atkinson. Photo: BBC

    “I've always liked what I thought was Oxbridge comedy,” Robinson smiles. “I was 15 when That Was the Week That Was came out and I thought it was made for me! I thought the same about Monty Python and Not the Nine O'Clock News. But I knew that I would never participate in these shows, because I never studied at the university, so I was not part of this vicious circle. So when everyone started talking on the first day of rehearsals, I knew I was at home.”

    His life was changed, he says, by the proximity of these “smart boys”. “I felt such ease in their wit, amused by their intellectual competition, interested in their conversation. But they were all 10 years younger than me, so experience was on my side. Stephen Fry [aka Lord Melchett] used to say to me, “The card you keep playing is someone who went to the University of the Streets.” And it is true. I would say “I can't use the language you use to describe how I feel, but I'm actually right about this or that or that.” everyone knew each other and everyone had the same girlfriends, mostly at different times. It was very Brideshead! It could have been pretty scary, but I was so deceived that I didn't notice.”

    The extended line-up is, of course, on top. Blessed, Fry, Peter Cook, Rick Mayall (“the only actor I know who asked “Did I win?” at the end of a scene”), Miriam Margolis, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Patsy Byrne, and countless others have offered invaluable support. But there was no corpse. “We were all paranoid perfectionists,” Robinson admits. “We laughed when the wording was finally right, but then we moved on to scrutinizing the next line. Hugh would have been ready to commit suicide, thinking that everything he said was not funny. He was the most sensitive, but we all felt it to one degree or another. By the time we said the phrases, we were making fun of them from the window.”

    It's understandable why Robinson was brought back as Baldrick. He and Atkinson work so well together; his deadpan humor (inspired, he says, by Stan Laurel, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin) pairs perfectly with Atkinson's facial gymnastics and constant sarcasm.

    “We had phenomenal chemistry,” Robinson confirms, adding that the physical torture Baldrick endured was bearable because Atkinson was such a “pussy.” “We are good friends, but from the moment I was in his shadow, I just understood him and what he did. When he stopped to think, I knew why he thought that. He would know how to cut my hair, so I would get a gag. He was never paranoid about being laughed at. Many other actors in his place would feel too insecure. Rowan is an engineer and is always interested in making things work better. It's very hard for him, so I think he doesn't do that anymore.”

    Like Blackadder: The Lost Pilot, Robinson is featured on a set of stamps for the special issue, which inevitably enthused the former philatelist. He also made Blackadder: A Cunning Story, a collection of interviews with those involved and influenced by the sitcom. But all the actors have been asked so many times if they're going to bring the show back that they now refuse to answer the question.

    “They get so annoyed when they are asked that they become even louder in their denial,” says Robinson. “I think we have to accept that this is not coming back. I would return it because I want to work with these people again. We all remained friends. I never made a lot of money, and in a year when Blackadder videos flew off the shelves at the same time as Time Team videos, I was able to buy both of my kids an apartment. I do not understand how I could live another life that would give me the fruit that this life gave me. And it's great to be able to say it.”

    Boom, boom: Robinson and company in a heartbreakingly funny ending Credit & Copyright: BBC Worldwide Tony of Blackadder highlights

    “Oh, the 'Boom-Boom-Boom-Boom' scene [when Baldrick recites his war verses in Blackadder Goes On”). It was so good to deliver. And I loved it when they asked me what irony was, and I said, “It looks like gold or silver, but it's made of iron.”

    Also the scene where Blackadder gives Baldrick a math lesson while counting beans . . At the end of Blackadder Goes On, I overdid it too, although I didn't feel it at the time. Considering everyone's reaction to it, it was just perfect.

    There's a shot of me and Tim McInnerney standing outside Alnwick Castle on the very first day of filming, and it was so cold that we counted eight different kinds of snow in the morning. Every time I see this frame, I remember how terrible it was. And I loved the costumes, especially for Goes Forth. Mine took an hour to put on, but that was the way out of it; the legendary BBC bar closed at 10:30 pm and at 10:20 pm I was still scrubbing the warts off my face.”

    Gold's tribute is that all the shows strip down on weekday evenings: The Lost Pilot airs June 15, and “Cunning” Plot from June 16. The Blackadder box set is available on Sky, Virgin and Now.

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