Strictly 2023 star Les Dennis has credited Ricky Gervais for keeping his career alive during a dark period, when the comedian offered him a part in his hit BBC sitcom, Extras.
Speaking in an unearthed 2021 interview from the My Time Capsule podcast, the former Family Fortunes host shared how a call from Ricky had saved him after his split from ex-wife Amanda Holden, and the negative reception to his 2002 stint on Celebrity Big Brother.
Les divulged: “I had my own episode in Extras, which came to me at a time in my life when I thought, ‘well, that’s it, things are over’.
“Because I’d just come out of the Big Brother house, which wasn’t probably my greatest moment.”
However, the star has since realised that he wouldn’t have received the call from Ricky without his reality TV appearance.
He added: “But then I thought, if I hadn’t done it, Ricky Gervais wouldn’t have called, because he called me when the phone wasn’t ringing.
“I got a call from my agent saying, ‘Ricky Gervais wants you to call him,’ and I thought, ‘this is a wind up – it’s Jon Culshaw’.
“So I called and got Ricky’s voicemail, and I still thought, ‘this is a wind up, it will be Jon Culshaw’.”
After realising it wasn’t the famous impressionist trying to prank him, Ricky explained to Les what he wanted him to do in the show.
The Strictly Come Dancing contestant continued: “And then when Ricky called back, he said, ‘hello, we want you to do this part, we want you to play a twisted, demented version of yourself in this new show Extras.’
“So I thought, that’s a great sales pitch, a twisted demented version, and then he said, ‘think Larry Sanders, think Curb Your Enthusiasm’, and I was a massive fan of both those shows.”
Les admitted he was keen on proving that he was not “Les Miserable,” as he had been nicknamed in the press at the time.
The TV presenter recalled: “There were a lot of things, like the end of my marriage was happening straight after Big Brother and all that stuff.
“I had press outside my door from six o’clock in the morning to six o’clock at night, waiting to get a shot of me looking miserable walking with the dog, or whatever.”
Les went on to say that he still gets positive feedback from the episode, which first aired back in 2005, and that Ricky was also very happy with the results.
He divulged: “So Ricky came with this chance, and I seized it. And whenever I meet Ricky he says, ‘oh, it’s everybody’s favourite episode, everybody loves it’.
“It was a gift and it came at exactly the right moment, where I could be seen in a different way.”