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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 02:01 GMT 03:01 UK
Life in The Office
Martin Freeman
Martin Freeman plays the likeable Tim

Martin Freeman has become a cult hero thanks to his role as hapless Tim in award-winning comedy The Office.

The show's fans undoubtedly breathed a huge sigh of relief at the end of the first series, when Tim failed to carry out his threat to leave Slough paper merchants Wernham Hogg.

Tim's decision - prompted by his promotion to senior sales clerk - means he is back to torment Gareth, flirt with Dawn and laugh at David Brent's jokes for a second series of cringe-inducing office antics.

Tim is the most likeable Wernham Hogg staff member and Freeman turns out to be a nice bloke too. He is talkative, witty and modest. The sort of person you can imagine having a laugh with down the pub.

I ask him where he got the inspiration for Tim. "He's not a million miles from me," he explains. "I based him half on myself and half on one of my brothers, who is a quiet bloke, but what he does say is insightful, funny and sarcastic."

The Office
The Office was co-created by Ricky Gervais who plays David Brent
But character and actor are very different in one area. "If I fancied someone, I would ask them out. I wouldn't wait five years," says Freeman of Tim's reticence in pursuing receptionist Dawn.

The sexual tension between the pair promises to be one of the highlights of the second series of The Office, which witnesses the merging of the Swindon and Slough branches.

"Tim, Dawn, David Brent and Gareth are still there, but there are some great new characters," says Freeman. "The new actors are brilliant. Everyone totally gets the gig - that it's about being small and being understated.

Serious

Freeman says the Tim and Dawn narrative is "still very strong", adding that writers Ricky Gervais (who plays Brent) and Stephen Merchant jettisoned some good set-pieces to get in more straight stuff.


If you are presented with scripts that are that well-written, all you have to do is turn up and do the job

Martin Freeman
"I think they think that's as important as the comedy because it buys you more comedy and the comedy buys you more drama. If you make the audience laugh in the first five minutes they are going to be likely to invest in something a bit serious."

The first series of The Office won numerous awards - including two Baftas - but Freeman says he would have thought the show was great "if only my girlfriend and my mum had watched it".

"You can never second guess what is going to win awards. There are plenty of things I think are brilliant which never get any plaudits," he adds.

'Power struggles'

He deflects praise for his portrayal of Tim, saying: "If you are presented with scripts that are that well-written, all you have to do is turn up and do the job."

Freeman is delighted when viewers say the show has nailed what it is to work in an office, even though he's never done it himself.

"Whether you work in an office, football team or shop floor, you have got to get on with people. There are going to be power struggles.

"We have all fancied people, we have all been frustrated, we have all thought 'I should leave this job'," he says.

Mackenzie Crook in The Office
The Office also stars McKenzie Crook as drippy Gareth
"Without being too philosophical about it, I think what we've nailed is what it is to be a human being. That was all the research I needed. I had lived for 28 years."

Freeman, 30, is clearly passionate about The Office, but he is aware that many people have never seen the show.

"It's not pulling in eight million viewers. There are comedies which get a lot more viewers than The Office but, without being big-headed, I don't think they are anywhere as good," he says.

'Vaguely proud'

"The best thing is that those people who like it really like it."

Freeman says he does not get recognised that often ("I live in north London and I'm pretty unmolested up there") but when people do approach him it is usually to say how much they love the show or his character.

"If you like a programme, whoever you see is quite exciting. I imagine that if I was with Ricky, they probably wouldn't give me a second glance," he says.

He may have become a cult hero, but Freeman, who starred in Ali G Indahouse as the spoof rapper's sidekick Ricky C, has no overwhelming desire to make it in the mainstream.

"As long as I am happy with what I am doing and I can sleep with it and be vaguely proud - that's the way forward for me," he says.

"I'm only ambitious to be good."

See also:

23 Jul 02 | Entertainment
30 Jan 02 | Entertainment
03 Jul 02 | Entertainment
28 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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