Every so often, the unassuming Ricky Gervais erupts with his trademark laugh, which sounds as one might imagine a hyena on a bender would.
Wearing well-worn jeans and a black T-shirt, Gervais, 46, uses his day off from his first star turn in a film, "Ghost Town," to talk in HBO's Manhattan headquarters about his latest series, "Extras," which ends its 13-episode run Sunday, Dec. 16, with "The Extra Special Series Finale."
"Extras," starring Gervais as Andy Millman, a one-time extra who shoots to stardom on an idiotic sitcom, offers a brilliant, if bleak, ending.
Zap2it: Why end "Extras"?
Ricky Gervais: We said everything we needed to say, and if I carried on, I would be saying the same thing two or three times.
Zap2it: Where do Andy and Maggie (Ashley Jensen) go?
Gervais: I think they'll go to America.
Zap2it: Will he still act?
Gervais: On his own terms, this time for his own reasons. He doesn't need his picture in magazines he wouldn't have bought five years ago.
Zap2it: How do you and Stephen Merchant work together?
Gervais: In the same room, we come up with stuff. I put it into Dictaphone, it's typed up and get about 60 pages in hand. I can't wait to get my hands on it. If he says something and we both laugh or I'll say something and he'll laugh, we are only pleasing two people. I got to a point with "The Office" and with "Extras," where I said, "Oh, is that next?" I couldn't wait to do that -- writing and acting.
Zap2it: Do you still dislike acting?
Gervais: I like acting a lot more than I did. If I had to give one up, it would be acting. The first thing I did was "The Office," and I didn't know about hitting the marks.
Zap2it: You must have worked in an office to capture the soul-numbing depression it can induce. What was your experience?
Gervais: I was an ad man for the student union for London University.
Zap2it: Is that where you studied philosophy?
Gervais: Yes. When I was doing it, I was very keen on determinism. I was fascinated by ethics and morality.
Zap2it: Didn't you start in science?
Gervais: Yes, I wanted the hard facts. I did biology, physics, chemistry, and I changed after two weeks. I don't think there's any better grounding to do philosophy than hard science.