A house sitter battling an insect with a vendetta is stressful, as Rowan Atkinson’s character discovers in his new comedy series, Man Vs Bee.
For someone who’s made physical comedy look so easy it’s a surprise to learn the experience of filming such a fun series is itself just as nerve-racking.
The 67 year old star of Mr Bean and Blackadder admits the experience of filming isn’t something he’s ever enjoyed, thanks to his quest for perfection.
“Whatever I do, I always think I can do it better,” he says.
“That’s a stressful thing. Just feeling: ‘That was OK, but surely there’s something better out there’. I’ve always felt this, in every part I played.
“The meat in the sandwich is the horrible bit. The bits of bread either side are fine, pre-production and post-production, but the production is no fun at all.
“And, of course, it’s the bit that I’m supposed to be good at! But the acting bit I never find easy at all.”
His character Trevor, in the wake of a marriage breakdown, has taken a job as a housesitter. Trevor becomes infuriated with a bee who just won’t leave him alone – and the consequences are disastrous.
“To play a genuinely good-natured, sweet character is quite rare for me, because Mr Bean certainly isn’t, Johnny English isn’t – he’s another sort of self-consumed weirdo,” he says.
On Man Vs Bee, some of Atkinson’s performance was invented on the day – “most of that was me just being silly”, he says of a scene where the bee gets into his trouser leg – though his usual method sees him “rehearse things to within an inch of their lives”.
“In Man Vs Bee we have this idea of: we want to put the bee in a microwave. How’s he going to trap him in the microwave? What’s the mechanics of that? And you sit in a rehearsal room with props and little kitchen units and you try and work it out long, long before shooting,” Atkinson explains.
“But the process of working out the physicality – unfortunately you tend to have to go through it all over again once you get on the real set and suddenly think: ‘Oh, hang on, this isn’t going to work because the bee’s at the wrong end of the room’. And then the difficulty starts again.”
Even if the series is successful, car enthusiast Atkinson will have to be tempted back for another series, according to Man Vs Bee writer Will Davies, who worked with him to create Johnny English.
“I’d say never say never,” adds Atkinson.
Man Vs Bee, Netflix