Tea Time Tidbits
Rik Mayall and Blackadder
Week of June 16, 2014
Rik Mayall.

Recently we received sad news from across the pond that actor Rik Mayall, who starred as Flashheart in Blackadder, has died at the age of 56. Details of the cause of his death aren't yet known, but he will be greatly missed.

Mayall first appeared in Blackadder in 1983 when he was in the final episode of the first series appearing as the character "Mad Gerald". Mayall returned to the series as "Lord Flasheart" in Blackadder II and Blackadder Goes Forth and played a Flashheart-like Robin Hood in Blackadder: Back & Forth.

Mayall as Flashheart.

The character Flash was inspired by a moniker-wearing friend of the series producer John Lloyd and co-creator and writer Richard Curtis Mayall's interpretation of the character though was completely one of his own creation. It was also one he kept a secret from the rest of the cast. The swaggering, lusty Flash didn't emerge until taping began - prior to that Mayall had sat quietly through rehearsals for his character's first scene. Even his character's costume and make-up came as a surprise to everyone working on the show as Mayall had privately worked behind the scenes with the costume department to concoct a costume for Flash, which included a blonde wig with seashells in it. Once the cameras were rolling Mayall burst into the scene and produced an unforgettablly magical character; much to the amazement of Rowan Atkinson and his Blackadder sidekick Baldrick played by Tony Robinson.

It's hard to believe that Blackadder has been around for over three decades. The first series which consisted of just six episodes and which was filmed at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland cost £1,000,000 to produce. The expense and the series' mixed reviews were so weak that although a second series had been commissioned the newly appointed head of the BBC cancelled the show before it went into production.

The arrival of joint scriptwriter Ben Elton changed the fortunes of the series. Elton decided to take the series out of the miserable Middle Ages and move it into the Elizabethan era. The writers also adjusted the scripts so the series could be produced on a minimal budget - no more location shooting, instead everything was taped in the studio. They then went back to the powers that be at the BBC and asked that the decision to take the series off the air be reversed. The BBC agreed and since then have more than recouped their investment through sales of DVDs and overseas broadcasting rights.

Blackadder airs on Afternoon Tea, Fridays at 1pm.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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