Interview: Karl Pilkington

Karl Pilkington returns to Sky One to play the character of Karl in a second series of Sick of It, the critically acclaimed tragi-comedy about a middle-aged man haunted by the voice inside his head as he lurches from one existential crisis to another.

Surreal, joyful, poignant, and peppered with Karl’s trademark wit and comic philosophising, series 2 plunges us further into the world of the lovable loser with a weakness for biscuits.

Here, Karl tells us what to expect from the second series of Sick of It.

How does Sick of It compare to your previous shows?

The weird thing is with Sick of It, it’s not that far removed from how I am in real life. We’ve tapped into all the insecurities that you have in your head, little dilemmas that come up, ‘how am I gonna work this out?’, ‘what’s the right thing to do?’ I think that’s what’s good about it, I think people might have watched Idiot Abroad or Moaning of Life and they might be a bit like, ‘I preferred you in that because I was getting to know you a bit, I felt like it was you’ But in a way, I think this is still me, but a different side. It’s like looking at problems that everyone has in life.

What is series two of Sick of It about?

Sick of It Series two is about a bloke who is a bit fed up – he’s not depressed. It’s just sort of that run of the mill life that a lot of people have and he’s just at a point in his life where things aren’t that great. He’s finished with his girlfriend, he’s living with his Auntie. It hadn’t probably turned out as he would have hoped when he was younger. He’s got no mates either. That’s part of the problem. No one really close to him. Since his girlfriend left, he’s kind of on his own. So he’s dealing with everything in his head. Episode one is sort of about insecurities, wanting to have a use in life – we’ve all had that. I suppose self-esteem is also a big topic in Series Two. I suppose he doesn’t feel that good about himself in the series, he wants to do better but we can’t all do well can we.

What does Karl get up to in series 2?

In series 2, he’s not moping about as much as he did in Series One. He is trying to enjoy life a bit more. What do people do to cheer themselves up? Memories and reflecting is something that people do. When you look back, I suppose your brain focuses on the good things. People always think the past was better. In one of the episodes, Karl goes back to his past – and it’s a bad thing to go back and expect something to feel as good as it did back then. That’s what Karl does in one of the episodes – he goes back to Salford to see an old school mate and it doesn’t work out as he’d hoped. But I think a lot of people do that. I suppose it’s because when you were younger, times might have seemed more interesting even though it probably wasn’t. Or things seem more exciting, even though it wasn’t.

How would you describe Karl’s outlook this time around?

In Series one, Karl was more down. He’d just finished with his girlfriend and was a bit lost in life. Everything that happened was bad. Even if it wasn’t actually bad. I suppose when you’re fed up the good stuff doesn’t seem good because your head’s in a bad place. Whereas Series Two is like, he’s got to get on with his life, he’s got to do something with it and I think it’s a bit more positive. Karl is trying a bit more and not letting Inner Self get him down as much. He’s trying to get out there and meet people. He goes out there to try and get a better job to make himself feel better. It’s not mega positive, it’s not like a Richard Curtis film, but I’d say it’s pretty positive from where he is in his head. It’s quite upbeat.

What do you think Karl’s Inner Self says about him?

It’d be interesting if you watched Sick of It and edited out all the stuff with Inner Self and you just saw Karl on his own. You’d think he was quite a depressed man. Maybe a bit moody, bit rude. But when you know what’s going on in his head, you’re kind of with him a bit more. I think everyone’s like that, you don’t really know people do you. It’s what they put out for everyone to see. But how many people, what percentage of a person’s day is someone being ‘them.’ Being really honest about everything. Not playing a game of walking on egg-shells because you don’t want to upset anyone
and tweaking what you really think. You’ve got to do that to get through life.

How much do you think you should listen to the voice in your head?

I think you should listen to it because you might as well listen to the voice in your head, because it’s there isn’t it. The more you don’t listen to it, the louder it gets. It wants a bit of its own way. If you’re constantly trying to please other people, that’s when you have a bit of a breakdown. Because you’re not being yourself, ever.

Ruby is played by Marama Corlett. How did you cast her?

Ruby is Norma’s carer in the series. We spent months looking for the right Ruby, trying to find someone with the right chemistry against Karl. From the start we wanted someone who would feel the opposite of Karl – breezy, fun, with a zest for life. The ying to Karl’s yang. But she also needed to be someone we could imagine Karl connecting with too. Someone who’s a bit of an outsider like Karl. From her first auditions, Marama had a spirit and energy of her own that she brought to the character. Being raised in Malta she had a distinctive accent and turn of phrase that made her character feel more unique so we started tweaking the scripts to reflect this. When we found out she had previously worked as a carer, that was the icing on the cake.

What does Karl think of Ruby?

At the start of the series Karl is openly hostile towards Ruby – he feels threatened by her because she’s replaced him as Norma’s carer. To make things worse he finds her cheerfulness and upbeat outlook on the world irritating. But as the series progresses, circumstances bring them closer together. Since Zoe left him, this is the first time Karl’s had the company of a woman around the house and it starts to play havoc with him and his emotions. He’s not sure what he thinks about her and if he can trust his feelings.

What would Karl’s Inner Voice say about Ruby?

Inner Self is conflicted about Ruby – he feels put out when Karl starts listening to her instead of him. But as Karl gets to know Ruby more, Inner Self realises that Karl needs someone like her around. The truth is Karl’s spent too much time on his own listening to the voice in his head and after a while that can’t be a good thing. As Ruby becomes a bigger part of Karl’s life, you notice Inner Self recedes a bit further into the background.

Could Ruby be a love interest for Karl?

The core story of the series is definitely how Karl’s world is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of Ruby. Norma hired a carer to free Karl up to live his own life and meet someone else but ironically it’s brought Karl and Ruby closer together instead. On the outside they appear a bit of an odd couple with nothing in common but you can’t always control who you fall for.

All episodes of Sick of It will be available on Sky One and NOW TV from 10th January

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