Interview: Rick Edwards

Rick Edwards, along with Alexa Chung, Miquita Oliver and Steve Jones, has become something of a delicious staple in the Channel 4 weekend fix that is ‘T4’. However, far from being just one of four pretty faces that aids one’s digestion of hangover-TV, Rick is fast becoming one of televisions own entrepreneurs, and is a ‘filthy tab’ at that.

A North Londoner at heart, ‘and very happy to be living back there again’, Edwards grew up far from the glaring lights of a Channel 4 studio. ‘My dad got a job down in Portsmouth when I was quite young so, after a period of resistance, me and my mum had to move down there with him. So that’s where I went to school.’

Edwards ruefully admits however, that he has ‘never been much of a fan of curriculums’, only ever really enjoying the subjects that he ‘was interested in’. ‘I was quite easily distracted at school. But then, to juxtapose that, I did a maths project on my own to try and calculate an exact value of pi. I had my moments.’ These moments clearly paid off, as Edwards attended the other Pembroke College reading Natural Sciences. Not the classic path for a ‘pop’ presenter and general pin-up. ‘I had a great time, but wasn’t really focused on academia. I wasn’t especially popular with the Senior Tutor. In fact, he hated me.’ Possibly a reassuring thought for those of us in a similar position.

It was Edwards’ time in the lesser-hallowed-halls that led to his involvement with the performing arts and in particular stand-up, even though entertaining seems like something he was destined to do. ‘My mum and dad say they always knew I’d end up doing something like this. I always loved making people laugh – I was the archetypal disruptive class clown. So when I arrived at university and there was a legitimate opportunity to stand up and make people laugh (Footlights), I took it. I was also lucky enough to do a bit of TV stuff on the god-awful local cable channel.’

By all accounts Edwards’ path to ‘T4’ stardom has been incredibly smooth, with few bumps in the road. ‘I really wanted to do T4. It was my dream job – it still is. I actually auditioned for it when I was 21 and in my last year at uni. I did quite well and got down to the last two – it was me and Colin Murray. In the end they gave the job to Vernon Kay. I did a screentest some years later for E4 Music and from there have graduated onto T4.’

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Rather charmingly Rick makes no bones about how much he enjoys his work and how easy it is, although I am not sure that can be completely true as this very interview has been postponed several times due to his other commitments.

‘If anyone ever tells you that TV presenting is hard work they’re
lying. It’s not a proper job, it can’t be, it’s too much fun. I just hang out with people I really get on with and laugh a lot. Alexa’s one of my closest friends. Don’t tell her that though – I want to keep her on her toes.’ Ooops. We will have to assume that she is too busy to pick up this particular student paper!
‘With T4 I’ve been very lucky and done some extraordinary things and travelled to some incredible places. The most amazing experience was when I was doing a global warming special and we filmed in Mali in West Africa. It was a fantastic place, like nowhere I’ve ever been before. And I flew in a tiny plane with a scientist and we went up into the clouds and ‘seeded’ them – we made rain fall. It was breathtaking. Having said that, at the other end of the spectrum, I have very fond memories of filming on a farm in the Cotswolds. I was supposed to be celebrating beating a goat in a pentathlon and shouting at it, “take that, you horny bastard”, all up in its tufty face. But we all got the giggles so badly – me, Alexa, the crew, not the goat actually, she was very professional – that we ended up having to do 31 takes.’

Rick is however a Jack-of-many-trades, and not just an animal-comedian. ‘I used to write comedy stuff with my friend Tom Basden, now a very successful writer/performer. I was commissioned to write a feature-length screenplay once – it was based on a real-life fraud, and was subsequently investigated by the police. Which was exciting, as you can imagine.’ Edwards admits that being good at so many things doesn’t always make it easy to find your direction in life. ‘I’m very competitive, probably too competitive, so I want to be the best at anything and everything I try. I hope I’ve found what I’m best at now. It’s certainly what I enjoy most.’

Despite his status as ‘T4’ hottie and presenter extraordinaire, Edwards seems to bare no ill will to the publicity-juggernaugt that he is a part of. ‘The media glare doesn’t really focus on me, so I’m largely unaffected by it. I don’t really go out to flashy bars or celebrity parties much. That’s not really me. I hang out with my friends in the same places we’ve been hanging out for years. Occasionally someone might recognise me, but all they’re gonna ask is ‘where’s Alexa?’ or ‘how come you’re so tall?’ He really is quite tall, but Alexa wasn’t with him.

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Indeed, the flash of the paparazzi’s lightbulb seems to be the last thing that interests Edwards. ‘I’m a film geek. It’s directors mainly that inspire me: The Coen Brothers, Robert Rodriguez, Almodovar, Michael Haneke, Shane Meadows,’ and other equally heavy-hitters are mentioned as he discusses an obvious passion (and perhaps a future career path?). ‘I’m not hugely careerist, so I don’t have any grand plans. I love what I do and hope it continues for a long time – but I’m also realistic enough to accept that, if it ends tomorrow, I’ve still been very privileged to have done it at all. However, I’d really like to host Film 2017, or whatever the year is when it comes up for grabs. I guess Jonathon Ross isn’t going to do that show forever. And maybe the BBC should bring back Tomorrow’s World. Then I could put my degree to good use, finally.’

As much as he revels in his experiences and times on ‘T4′, there is no doubt that they keep him extremely busy. A list of his current projects includes ‘T4’ and his weekend show on XFM. Rick is also hosting the ‘Guardian Student Media Awards’ this weekend as well as having ‘a new show for ‘T4’ called ‘Relentless.’ I’ll tell you about it. There’s one contestant who has to answer 10 questions in a 48 hour period.’ He then boggles me with an explanation of the show, there are crocodiles or something. ‘Honestly, I’d be a rubbish contestant. I wouldn’t run around The Den, Millwall’s ground, at half-time wearing women’s underwear. I wouldn’t fancy rap battling an angry, potty-mouthed MC. But our contestant’s all had cojones – especially the girls.’

By this stage I am slightly mesmerised by Rick’s description of his new show, but am certain that it is something we will all ultimately end up addicted to. There is no denying that this charming, multi-talented presenter has a long career ahead of him – and with Jonathan Ross largely out of any pictures it seems likely we will soon see him hosting ‘Film 2008′. Let’s just hope any Greenroom friendship he might have had with Russell Brand during his Channel 4 affiliation ended at Passport Control.