“What seems to be surprising to people is that I have a kind streak,” the Brit funnyman said of audience reaction to the show, which screened Thursday night at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Gervais’ titular “Derek” character is a slow-witted, mumble-mouthed man-child who works in an old folks’ home. His naïf is meant to produce not just belly laughs but poignant moments of genuine humanity.
“I sort of have left behind the veil of irony,” Gervais said, contrasting the skein with his previous TV projects, “The Office” and “Extras,” while it follows the same faux-docu style. The nice-guy bit also deviates from Gervais’ three-time turn as emcee of the Golden Globes, when he gleefully and unapologetically cut down Hollywood elite.
Gervais wrote, directed and exec produced the seven-episode series for the U.K.’s Channel 4, which aired the half-hour show earlier this year. “Derek” is set to bow on Netflix Sept. 12, available worldwide except in the U.K.
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said Gervais emailed him about a year and half ago in the middle of the night to propose the Internet service distrib the show outside Blighty. (HBO passed on picking up “Derek.”)
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“It was a real validation for us to have somebody of Ricky’s level reach out like that,” Sarandos said.
Also in attendance at the preem were thesps from two other Netflix original series, “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards.”
On the red carpet, Gervais — accompanied by longtime girlfriend Jane Fallon — spotted Corey Stoll of “HoC” and called out to him that it was “the best show in 10 years.”
“OITNB” talent on hand included Natasha Lyonne, Laverne Cox, Yael Stone, Dascha Polanco, Lea Delaria, Samira Wiley and Matt McGorry. Members of the prison drama’s predominantly female cast (created by “Weeds” showrunner Jenji Kohan) said they’ve formed a tight bond on the production, which is currently shooting season two.
“We really, really like each other,” Wiley said. “You would think there would be cattiness with so many women, but there’s not.”
Gervais said he’s finished drafts of scripts for the second season of “Derek,” with filming to commence in November. Netflix will carry the next run, as will Channel 4, with launch skeds yet to be determined.
“I’m prouder of making someone cry than laugh, in a way,” Gervais said. “People will laugh at anything, you know?”
The event’s after-party was held at MoMA’s posh restaurant, The Modern.
Watch Netflix’s trailer for “Derek”: