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TV Quickfire: Craig Charles on returning to cult sci-fi Red Dwarf for a special new episode

Craig Charles and the rest of the Red Dwarf gang are back with a feature-length special, Red Dwarf: The Promised Land. We quizzed him to find out more

Craig Charles is back as Dave Lister in a new Red Dwarf special
Gemma Dunn

THIS SPECIAL HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING

Yeah. It's something slightly different and breaking new ground in many ways. It's just a new way of doing it. But it's a great story and there are some fantastic performances in it – and I'm not talking about me by the way!

WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH LISTER IN THE NEW SPECIAL?

He's quite dissolute at the moment. He's hoarding all this s*** and drinking copious amounts of booze and eating wrong, which is fun to play because I play it for real. Basically, I just got p***ed for five months and ate curry! But he's got to that stage in his life where he's been alone in space for all that time and has no lover but a group of characters around him who, to be fair, you wouldn't choose! He's definitely having a mid-life crisis.

DO YOU ALL GET ON?

I've known this group of people longer than I've known my family – these are the longest human relationships that I've ever had with anyone. And they've been with me through thick and thin, stood by me in good times and bad times. They're the kind of people I feel so lucky I got to know. I've hung on to their coat tails and let them be funny while I bask in their reflected glory!

DO YOU ALL FIND IT EASY TO SLIP BACK INTO CHARACTER?

Chris (Barrie, who plays Rimmer in Red Dwarf) will hate me for saying this, but we’re kind of caricatures of our own personalities in many ways. So there’s an awful lot of Dave Lister about me and there’s an awful lot of Arnold Rimmer about Chris. Robert Llewellyn (Kryten) is full of that middle-class guilt and Danny (John-Jules, who plays Cat) is the vainest man I’ve ever met without any reason to be. None of us are really stretching that much for our characters.

WHO'S CHANGED THE MOST SINCE YOUR FIRST OUTING 32 YEARS AGO?

I suppose I have, really. I was 23 when I started playing Dave Lister and I'm 55 now. I came from absolutely nothing, a council estate in Liverpool, and I live a completely different life now.

YOU'VE WORKED ON MANY SHOWS. DOES THIS FEEL LIKE HOME TO YOU?

Dave Lister is my career-defining role. You're going to get typecast and I don't mind being typecast as Dave Lister, he's such a pleasure to play. I did 10 years of Coronation Street and Robot Wars for years, and Takeshi's Castle and all these things that have been iconic TV shows, but people still call me 'Smeg-head' in the street.

WILL THERE BE MORE RED DWARF?

I don't know. On this one there was a sense of, 'Is this the last one? 'Is this the last time we're all going to be in a room together?' Robert is so old and decrepit; he's breaking down that lad. I'm the only one with hair now!

I'd love to do more; it's one of those things that you don't want to let go but you don't want to outstay your welcome. And it would be a shame to mess up the legacy of what we've done by turning out inferior work. But I think we're on our game.

If Robert wants to get in the mask, if Doug wants to write and direct more, if the budget is there, I'm certainly willing. There's so much to look at and so much fun to be had – and let's face it the whole world is going to hell in a handcart, so everyone needs a laugh!

:: Red Dwarf: The Promised Land airs on Dave on Thursday April 9

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