Digital Spy caught up with Oli to discuss the pressures that came with stepping into Kenny's shoes and why he thinks Everett doesn't get nearly enough credit...
> Katherine Kelly Best Possible Taste Q&A: 'BBC Four is awesome'
BBC Four has produced a few of these biopics in the past - had you seen Hattie, Hancock and Joan or any of the others?
"I hadn't seen those two, but I saw the recent Monty Python one [Holy Flying Circus] and I'm sure I've seen a couple of the others as well. They're always so brilliantly done - BBC Four is so brilliant and it's a travesty that the funding is getting cut... it needs preserving at all costs.
"This programme, for example, would not have got made without BBC Four - there is nowhere else it could fit. What actually attracted me to this project over a few of the others was that a lot of them are about some awful dark night... and though as with any life Kenny did experience highs and lows and there are those elements to his life - he did try to commit suicide at one point and he had a struggle with his sexuality - but also beyond that, the script feels to me very joyous.
"It's a real celebration; it doesn't try and say he was really unhappy. It just celebrates his work more than anything, and that's what I really loved about the script that it was really kind of fun and celebrating the positives as well as focusing on the negatives."
How did you actually get involved with Best Possible Taste?
"In a very strange way actually - I'm a writer as well so I had a meeting with the production company Mammoth to talk about writing projects and I'd just come back off holiday. I had a big beard and long hair and we were just chatting and I said, 'What have you got next?' and they said, 'We're working on this Kenny Everett thing'. My eyes lit up and I went, 'Oh my God, that sounds amazing'.
"I didn't once think of myself for it, but I started suggesting other actors, and I was like. 'Who's going to play it, this guy, this guy or this guy?' Then I must admit I didn't think much more of it after that, and then the next day I got a call...
"So I went in to see the casting director - they were very late in the casting process actually. Obviously because otherwise they wouldn't have gone, 'He's got a beard, let's see him!' But they'd been looking for a long time, so they gave me a shot."
So your enthusiasm won them over then?
"I guess so, my enthusiasm and my beard!"
It sounds like you're a fan; did you have a personal experience of Kenny Everett when you were growing up?
"Not really - I was aware of him... I think I was aware of him because my Dad looked like him! My Dad had a beard, and Kenny looked just like my Dad. That's probably why I liked him!
"I never knew him massively - he just stuck in my head for some reason. Working on this was a great experience, just watching all the old shows. He was unbelievable and he was just a genius. That word is used very easily but he really was - he was so ahead of his time and very creative and original and spontaneous. He was absolutely brilliant."
When you're playing a real person, is it important to get their mannerisms down or is it more about capturing their spirit?
"It's a tricky one, and it's a funny one with him particularly because you do [Kenny playing] characters as well. You have something to cling onto with the characters, you either get it right or wrong. But with him, it's a 90-minute script and he's in almost every scene, so you can't sustain an impression for that long.
"You can hear him talk at one point and he's got a perfect cut glass accent, and then you hear him and he's a Scouser. Every time you hear him speak, he has this plethora of different voices and sounds that he used. There are so many different versions of Kenny [that] you can't really do impressions.
"I just had to consume as much of him as I could and watch every show and try and take in as many of those voices as I could, and just hope they came out in the right order and in the right place. There's sort of too much... you never have a handle on it, you just need to arm yourself with all the weaponry and sometimes you'll just go 'That was right, that was him'.
"It was a unique experience and fascinating to play because there are so many different sides to him, and most of the time you're playing him off-camera or off-air, and it's very difficult to find examples of that.
"I met his wife and his agent - he's still so important to them and they still care about him - and it becomes a lot more than an acting job, because it's getting it right for those people, because they lived with him. It's about doing justice to them. It's about doing it right for them."
As you say, Kenny is still influential and fondly remembered - were you nervous at all about playing such an iconic figure?
"Yeah, in a way - you just can't think about it too much. I just approached it with a genuine affection for him and a genuine desire to do my best for him and the people who knew him and cared for him. I thought as long as I cared for him, then hopefully that would come across. It' such a big thing to tackle you have to just leave everything at the door and throw yourself in and hope it goes well.
"Everyone on the job from top to bottom put their heart and soul into it. I've never worked with such a dedicated crew - everyone worked above and beyond and knew what they were doing and really cared about it. That just shone through, and made everybody up their game.
"It was really important for everyone to get it right and I hope that comes across, and I hope the fans think we've done it justice. I hope it opens him up to a new audience too - I don't think he gets the credit he is due a lot of the time, to be honest. He's so revolutionary and so ahead of his time, so extraordinary.
"I think he should be mentioned in the same breath as the greats like Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock and Peter Cook. He should be on that list - he was a pioneer and really on top of his game with what he did on radio and television. Yeah, the guy's a genius."
As well as his career, does Best Possible Taste delve into Kenny's politics as well?
"It does. I mean, to be honest we show the Tory part - [Everett made a controversial appearance at the Young Conservatives' 1983 conference] - but I don't think he was a very political person to be honest. He had this kind of child-like innocence to him and that's what got him trouble a lot of the time, to be honest - he just went on stage and did the thing that would make people laugh the most and get the best response, and it was totally out of context.
"You hear him talking about it and there's a great quote from him where he says, 'Oh you know, I just thought it would be great fun - if the other guys asked me to be in their show I'd have done theirs, too'. He thought it was a party and I think his only real politics were that Labour scuppered pirate radio, so he had a slight issue with them for that.
"He didn't like [Labour politician] Arthur Scargill, because he thought he was a rabble-rouser and he was stirring up trouble. I think he liked the way that Maggie Thatcher dealt with that, but I think that's as political as he got. He went on stage because he thought it would be fun, and I think that's what got him into trouble - he never thought it would go wrong and he saw the best in people. He never thought it would be turned and used against him."
What is next for you following Best Possible Taste?
"Just straight back into it really, I run a theatre company called Les Enfants Terribles, and we're just about to premiere a new show at the Edinburgh Festival, so I just had to come straight from Kenny and write that because we had the posters up - so I had to get on and get that written!
"Writing-wise, I have a couple of very exciting projects in development with a couple of people, and acting-wise there's a few things on the horizon that will hopefully come off as well. It's a very exciting time, and I guess that's one thing I do share with Kenny - I'm a bit of a workaholic. I love working, I love creating and I love making new stuff.
"I'm always looking for stuff to do. Best Possible Taste sort of came out of nowhere really, so this has opened up a lot of new opportunities as well, which is fantastic. It's an exciting time - who knows what the future holds?"
Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story airs on Wednesday, October 3 at 9pm on BBC Four.