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Peter Serafinowicz talks Star Wars, Shaun of the Dead and 're-embracing' his roots

Peter Serafinowicz looks back at the highs and lows of his career with Yahoo. (LucasFilm/Prime Video/StudioCanal)
Peter Serafinowicz looks back at the highs and lows of his career with Yahoo. (LucasFilm/Prime Video/StudioCanal)

Peter Serafinowicz has more acting credits than most, his is a face you've undoubtedly seen multiple times whether in a British comedy series or a superhero blockbuster — even his voice will be familiar to many.

The actor is as busy as ever, preparing to star in Prime Video's trippy crime drama Dead Hot and Guy Ritchie's new TV series The Gentlemen on Netflix, as well as preparing for a new UK tour as his sketch show character Brian Butterfield. All this comes as he films the How to Train Your Dragon live-action film, which he excitedly assures Yahoo is "really, really good".

As well as looking ahead to his new projects, Serafinowicz takes the time to look back at some of the highlights of his career as well with Yahoo for Role Recall.

Peter Serafinowicz rang Simon Pegg to tell him The Phantom Menace was 'a load of s**t'

<p>The actor/comedian lent his sultry tones to the tattooed Sith in ‘Phantom Menace’ around the same time he was appearing in Edgar Wright’s sitcom ‘Spaced’ opposite Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. He only had a few lines and says it was one of the worst-paying jobs he’d ever done. </p>
Peter Serafinowicz famously voiced Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, around the same time he was in Spaced. He told Yahoo UK how disappointed he was by the final project. (Channel 4/LucasFilm)

The Star Wars franchise is one of those blockbuster franchises actors dream of being a part of, but when Serafinowicz had the chance to do so by voicing Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace he quickly realised it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.

Describing the original Star Wars movie as his "favourite film" of all time, the actor conveyed his initial excitement and the crushing disappointment he felt after making the prequel: "To be involved with the making and [working with] George [Lucas] who's making a new one, that would have been the most exciting thing of that time for me, when I was in my early 20s.

"To audition for this role and then to get this part, I just wanted to faint and black out all the time. Every time I remembered it I would just swoon and collapse. But going to see that movie was the biggest disappointment I think I've ever had in my life."

He adds: "I think the trailer has become the template for big movies, everyone still uses it, with the whole tempo, it's got a fake end... it looked like Star Wars directed by [Federico] Fellini, it looked incredible. But then seeing the film, [I thought] 'dude, this is no good.'"

Ray Park As Darth Maul Film: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (USA 1999)   Director: George Lucas 19 May 1999   **WARNING** This Photograph is for editorial use only and is the copyright of LUCASFILM and/or the Photographer assigned by the Film or Production Company and can only be reproduced by publications in conjunction with the promotion of the above Film. A Mandatory Credit To LUCASFILM is required. The Photographer should also be credited when known. No commercial use can be granted without written authority from the Film Company.
After seeing the film, Peter Serafinowicz 'had to ring Simon Pegg... he was desperate to know as he was going to see it in a couple of days, and I was like, "dude, it's a load of s**t."' (LucasFilm)

The actor and his friend Lewis MacLeod both starred in the film, and after going to the premiere alone —which he had to pay to attend— Serafinowicz felt obliged to break the bad news to MacLeod and to his friend, and fellow Star Wars fanatic, Simon Pegg that the movie was terrible.

"I had to get some quarters and call them from a phone box in Manhattan, and I said to Lewis: 'I'm so sorry, but it's rubbish, it's really bad,'" he reflects. "I had to ring Simon Pegg as well, we'd just become friends and I was working with him on Spaced, he was desperate to know as he was going to see it in a couple of days, and I was like, 'dude, it's a load of s**t.'"

Reflecting on the current state of the franchise, Serafinowicz adds: "It's been amazing to be part of that world. I did like The Last Jedi, I really liked it, I mean it was flawed but they were kind of good.

"I'm doing this film, How to Train Your Dragon, it's the funnest thing I've ever done. I think it's amazing, if you're a fan of that [animated] film it's really f*****g great, and on the crew I've noticed two people have got jackets from Star Wars shows, two new ones I didn't even know anything about [and] they've been completed. There's more stuff coming out, like come on, let's think of something new for f***s sake."

Peter Serafinowicz was amazed Edgar Wright made Crouch End 'look cinematic' for Shaun of the Dead

Peter Serafinowicz in Shaun of the Dead (StudioCanal)
Peter Serafinowicz in Shaun of the Dead, the actor said when he arrived on his first day he was blown away by director Edgar Wright's abilities as a director. (StudioCanal)

Serafinowicz has worked with many prolific directors over the years, and one of them is Edgar Wright who he joined forces with on his debut feature Shaun of the Dead, the zombie comedy that put the filmmaker on the map and kick-started the cornetto trilogy with Pegg and Nick Frost.

The actor portrayed Pete, the uptight roommate of Pegg's character Shaun, but while he enjoyed working on the film immensely, Serafinowicz reveals his favourite moment was when he realised that Wright had the talent to change British cinema forever.

"I think it was on my first day of filming, I turned up in North London and they had just done the Steadicam shot —you know, when Simon goes to buy the cornetto the first time when he walks past all the local people, and then he does it again the next day and it's all the same people but they're all zombies.

"They'd just done the first [shot] of that where people weren't made-up as the zombies and I watched it back on the monitor, Edgar showed it to me, and I was like 'Oh my God, you've made Crouch End look cinematic' and no one had done that before.

ASHFIELD,PEGG,WILTON,FROST, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, 2004
Peter Serafinowicz loved the scenes set in the pub in Shaun of the Dead because it reminded him of his nights out with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. (StudioCanal)

"I think what Edgar did with that film, and probably Guy Ritchie as well, previously British films were always like a very impoverished relative of American Hollywood movies. There was something about it that didn't gel like Hollywood imagery... but with Shaun of the Dead it was like 'dude, you figured it out, how to translate it into a Hollywood language."

But one of his favourite parts of the movie wasn't a moment that he was in, it was a scene featuring Pegg and Frost in the pub —an iconic scene for fans of the film— because of how it reminded him of their real-life friendship.

"It was based on this real pub that we all would go to because we were all friends, and there's a bit where they're walking home drunk and it was, to me, like looking at a time machine," he says.

"That's what we used to do. I remember in one of those nights someone dared me and Simon to kiss each other, and we did, we kissed with tongues — we just did it. And I remember the next day waking up and thinking 'Oh, what happened last night? Oh yeah, I went to the pub with Simon and Nick, and I kissed someone! Oh... it was Simon.'"

His sketch shows are a 'love letter to TV'

Peter Serafinowicz in The Peter Serafinowicz Show. (Channel 4)
Peter Serafinowicz has created and starred in a number of sketch shows like The Peter Serafinowicz Show. (Channel 4)

As well as star in other people's projects, Serafinowicz has created several of his own including sketch shows The Peter Serafinowicz show and Look Around You, the latter of which he made alongside Robert Popper who went on to make British classics like Friday Night Dinner.

The actor looks back fondly on this work, saying his sketch shows were "a love letter to TV", adding: "It was the death of it, the beginning of YouTube and the end of TV, pure TV. I know we still have TV now, but yes, I love that and I'm working on something [new]."

Peter Serafinowicz in Look Around You (Channel 4)
Peter Serafinowicz co-created mock-science programme, and sketch show, Look Around You with Robert Popper, who went on to make Friday Night Dinner. (Channel 4)

He explains his new project has seen him "working a lot with deep fakes" which, he says: "For someone like me, as a mimic, to be able to transform into anybody visually as well as tuning an impression... that opens a lot of exciting doors."

Embracing his Scouse roots in The Gentlemen and Dead Hot

After taking on Hollywood with projects like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Tick, Serafinowicz is ready to re-embrace his Liverpudlian roots onscreen. He is doing this by using his Scouse accent, or making it even stronger, in his two newest projects: The Gentlemen and Dead Hot.

Serafinowicz is playing very different characters in each, in Ritchie's spin-off of The Gentleman he is playing a member of a Scouse criminal gang and in his new Prime Video series he's detective Danny, who comes across Jess (Vivian Oparah) and Elliot (Bilal Hasna) while they're investigating a missing persons case.

Peter Serafinowicz in Dead Hot (Prime Video)
Peter Serafinowicz in Dead Hot, where he got to use his Liverpudlian accent. He did the same thing with The Gentlemen, because he wants to re-embrace his roots. (Prime Video)

"I feel like I'm re-embracing my roots bit, I think when I started out as an actor it wasn't that cool to be from Liverpool," the actor reflects. "It was a sort of a disadvantage if you had a regional accent and you're an actor, but now I don't know.

"The character in The Gentleman and Danny in Dead Hot, they're both based on the villains that I would avoid when I was growing up in Liverpool and it was nice to be able to get inside one of these guys who I was terrified of as a kid.

"I do think the Liverpool accent can be the most intimidating of any regional accent, do you think there's any [better] accent that some tough guy could have? It's the reason I didn't really get into Peaky Blinders because I couldn't take the accent seriously. I think a tough, very thick Scouse accent, to me that's the scariest voice. I loved doing that."

Peter Serafinowicz stars as a Scouse gangster in The Gentlemen. (Netflix)
Peter Serafinowicz (right) stars as a Scouse gangster in The Gentlemen, who is based on 'villains he would avoid" when he was growing up in Liverpool. (Netflix)

Serafinowicz heaps praise on Dead Hot, sharing that he felt it is the most inventive and original project he's been part of for a while: "Once we started making it, the thing I realised was this is not trying to be anything else.

"It's not trying to copy some other show, it's not rehashing old characters, old tropes, whatever. It's just its own thing, it's original. I mean, there's not that many original things being made, I think."


Dead Hot premieres on Prime Video on Friday, 1 March in the UK and Ireland, and The Gentlemen comes out on Netflix on Thursday, 7 February.

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