The comic actor and writer on his new sitcom about community service, sharing Christopher Walken’s omelette and portraying a serial killer
Stephen Merchant, 46, is a writer, producer, director and comic actor who rose to fame in 2001 with The Office, about life at a paper supply company in Slough. Created by Merchant and his former XFM co-presenter Ricky Gervais, the awards-festooned series spawned a US version starring Steve Carell, and is credited with prompting a new wave of comedy series that dispensed with laughter tracks and punchlines in favour of a mockumentary style. The pair followed up The Office with Extras, in which Merchant played incompetent agent to Gervais’s struggling actor, amid a feast of celebrity cameos. In 2013 he wrote and starred in the HBO sitcom Hello Ladies, a series based on his standup routine and which followed an Englishman in Los Angeles and his failed attempts at dating. Elsewhere, he has worked variously as a DJ on BBC 6 Music, a podcaster and voiceover artist, and has appeared in films including Hot Fuzz and Jojo Rabbit.
Merchant’s new six-part series, The Outlaws, co-created with Elgin James, follows the fortunes of seven strangers doing community service in Merchant’s former hometown of Bristol. Characters include Darren Boyd’s reactionary businessman, Clare Perkins’ diehard activist, Eleanor Tomlinson’s spoilt influencer, Merchant’s sad-sack solicitor – and Christopher Walken in his first role in a British comedy, as a career criminal fresh out of prison.