Mr Flibble Talks To... The Penguin & The Cat
The best-dressed character on television he may be, right down to the cat's pyjamas - but what does the feisty feline do when the fur comes off? Mr Flibble tracked down Danny John-Jules for tales of pussy galore...
20 November, 2000
Danny John-Jules
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Let's talk about kids TV - you seem to have done quite a bit of that - Maid Marian, The Demon Headmaster, Spatz...

I guess that's that versatility again. It doesn't matter how old they are - if they need to be entertained, I will entertain them. I don't pick to do kids. If someone says, 'Oh, I'm doing a great TV show for kids', it's no different to doing a film for Lucas. They're paying, they get 100%. They do it whether I'm doing The Magic Roundabout, Jackanory [for which Danny did the 25th Anniversary show] or Steven Spielberg. They all get the same attention.

Maid Marian and her Merry Men was one of the best kids shows ever made - and it spread to an adult audience. Why do you think it was so huge?

I don't do flops, man. I don't do flops - because I can spot them a mile away.

It was an excellent cast - although Mr Flibble feels that it could have used something extra. A flightless bird, perhaps...

You're only as strong as your weakest link, and Tony Robinson, who wrote it, knew exactly what he wanted. He said he wanted to write something that his kids could watch. So he said, 'I want to do something that's a cross between Red Dwarf and Blackadder.' Which is what Maid Marian became, because that's what his kids watched. They liked Red Dwarf and they liked Blackadder, so he did something that was Red Dwarf-esque - as far as the way the comedy and the dialogue was done - and visually it was very Blackadder-ish.

Didn't your character, Barrington, originally have a different name?

I didn't change it, the writer changed it. What did happen was I said to him, 'I think the name's a mistake.' The original name was Winston - a black character called Winston? Please. There were already three Winstons - that I counted to him - on telly on a regular basis. And I said, 'If you're going to do something new, get a new name, man.' So he changed it.

But that wasn't because I told him to change it. A man is given an explanation of what might be a problem later on - i.e. all the black people turning off because it's yet another black character called Winston in a TV show in England. I said, 'It's a new show, that everyone's going to see. And as soon as they see Winston, they're going to turn over.'

And in Red Dwarf race is not an issue, it's never even raised. (At this point Mr Flibble made a joke about what's black and white and red all over, which Andrew refused to pass on.)

It's not relevant - so what's happening with the rest of the world? They all say to you, 'Aren't you afraid you're going to be stereotyped, typecast?' I said, 'Who's going to write another character like the Cat? No-one!' I don't think I'm going to be typecast in that role.