Mr Flibble Talks To... Headless Wonder
With the new-look Red Dwarf in 1989 came a new Holly. Hattie Hayridge won millions of fans as the ditsy computer whose hair, at one point, was described as being far too long for a computer. Mr Flibble asks, how long should a computer's hair be anyway?
6 April, 2001
Hattie Hayridge
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble whispered his first question: Is it true that alcohol is mostly responsible for your move into COMEDY?

I'd like to say it was desperation at being a secretary, but the four double Southern Comforts were a catalyst, yes. (Laughs) I'd like to say that I don't need it now. That was only for the first gig ever, because it was spontaneous.

I'd been tinkering with the idea of it - rather than practising in front of the mirror. [The material] was about childhood, and about being a secretary. It was little true incidents. I think that's what I said, I can't truthfully remember! It was one of those days. If you ever think there's a day which changes you life, that was definitely the one.

How did you get the HILLY part?

It was only about a year after I started doing stand up - so it wasn't long after that first, fuelled trip. This is only what I've been told really. Paul Jackson saw me on Friday Night Live and they needed a female equivalent of Norman for Parallel Universe. They thought, 'Oh, she looks like that' so I was sent the script - that was without audition or anything. I was just sent it straight off.

Mr Flibble refuses to read for roles, but what do you make of the audition process in general?

I haven't done much. Before I did that stand-up originally, I used to sometimes answer things in the back of The Stage and go along for auditions for Fringe plays. That was the only time I had to have an audition speech.

Norman lent you his series I videos when you played Hilly, didn't he?

Yeah, because I hadn't seen series I - and because Hilly was in series II, and that hadn't gone out, there was only series I to have seen. I didn't see it - nobody saw it! I had kind of heard of it, but didn't know anything about it at all. I wasn't sure what the fans' reaction would be to a different Holly, but they seem to have been nice about it.

You read for the HOLLY part, though...

I just had to read the script. 'Audition' I'm thinking that you go along with a Shakespeare bit and a modern piece. [For] the Holly [audition] they used the script from Backwards - the bit about dates. I think they saw about 15 to 20 people - though obviously they know more about that than me. I was looking down the list - because I like reading up-side down (Laughs)

It was a series filled with changes, but fan reactions come through much faster - and in greater volume - now, since the advent of the internet...

You can get people's opinion really immediately now. Cor, pre-internet! Some fans won't even have been born then! (Laughs) The worrying thing now is when young comics [come up to me and] say, 'Oh, brilliant - I was allowed to stay up late and watch Red Dwarf!' Oh my God...(Laughs)

Would you have liked to have kept the Holly episode intros that Norman used to do?

Yeah. I suppose at the time I would have liked to have done. But then again they were associated with Norman, so maybe they wanted a different aspect on it. They were good, though, those bits.

What's your usual TECHNIQUE with scripts and directions?

I used to draw all of them as little stick people on my script, because I used to stand where the screen was. If I'd just sat down where [my box] was, I don't think they'd have bothered to look at the screen. So I used to stand there, and they got used to looking at the screen. Then when I [recorded] it, I could visualise where they were - so at least move my eyes. It just made it more real.

You didn't have access to the set for rehearsals for series III...

At Acton - where all the bits and pieces [props] weren't real! [We used] anything that was to hand - usually things that were in the rehearsal room from other shows. I didn't used to have any props though...(Laughs) It was always hard to imagine what it would look like. Then it'd be like 'wow!' when you got up to Manchester. [With] rehearsal on the set [from series IV onwards] you just got the 'wow' earlier.

Did the stick men have hair to distinguish them...or maybe a set of flippers and a bow tie?

How did I differentiate them...? I probably just put their initials underneath. I don't think I gave them characteristics. I always highlight. I think any actor - one of the first thing they do when they get a script is go out and get a set of colour highlighters. Highlight your lines up.

Then I type them out as well, to help me remember them. I make loads of copies and walk round with then all the time. I just type out my lines and the lines either side, then [read them] just sitting on buses, so it goes in gradually. Then I do them onto a tape - as you do. I don't know what the perfect method is, so I try all the different ones until it clicks.

I always type them up, though. Sometimes I feel that I see them visually.... 'See them visually!' (Laughs) As opposed to through my ears! As if it's on autocue though. I didn't have autocue, actually. I thought, if everyone else can learn their lines, and they've got a lot more than me, I can learn mine. You can see people's eyes darting about [with autocue], and I think you go 'out of focus' because you're not looking in the right place.

Season IV saw you fainting, and Holly gave Kryten a gift in The Last Day - both of which were your idea, I understand. Did you find the writers receptive to SCRIPT additions?

Yeah. They - especially Doug - would wander off. Then he'd come back. He had this thing of going, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, no' or, 'No, no, no, yeah.' You never knew which was going to be the last one! But they were [receptive]. They had some many things to think about - me, I'd be thinking of the logic of it.

With the Ace Rimmer episode, I don't think I was in it, as Holly, I was just in it as Mellie. I said, shouldn't I be in it as Holly? They said it was a packed out episode with loads of stuff they were going to have to cut anyway. I said, 'What about if I just faint? Then it explains, in my mind anyway, where Holly [went].' I just wanted it to be logical.

Did you have to stand up to do the faint?

I usually have a chair, but I think I stood up for that one. I think we tried it on a chair, but there's nowhere for me to actually go! (Laughs) Unless you go backwards... I certainly didn't hit the floor - just crouched down.

Holly's most famous lost scene was from Holoship, where she delays Rimmer for her own amusement. A sad loss?

I haven't seen it. You kind of know, logically, why it would be cut, because it just holds everything up when you want to be moving on. Holding someone up, for the people watching, is also a holding-up scene. I remember that, as Mellie, I don't say 'What a guy' - which I did say. So quite why they would cut it... They all over-ran, I think.

Let's talk about COSTUME. For White Hole you were tested as a bald Holly for when your IQ returned...

A bald skull cap and little round glasses, but they thought it looked too good. I don't know if I'd particularly agree. But I liked how they did it in the end, with the slicked-back hair and the quiff-y thing. That was much better. I know the make-up girls were quite excited whenever they could do something different with me. That and Mellie, it was like, 'Ooh, we can play around with you!'

You also got played around with in Demons and Angels...

That was another time I got a change - there was a lot of change in that one. A black wig and a cloak and hood for the Highs and Lows. And of course for White Hole I had to have a blue polo-neck because they put me on chromakey. So that was another costume! My [usual] costume was a black polo-neck jumper, and the rest of the clothes were my own - otherwise that's all I'd have been wearing... A very different show. (Laughs)

The Low Holly also had a bit of a different voice...

I can do quite different voices - people don't think I can. (In a ridiculously low, yet rather impressive, bass voice) I can do very low voices. (Ultrasonically high) and very high! People don't think of you doing anything like that. I've just got a range. I can sing 'Wandering Star' at the right pitch if I really have to. (Does so - with terrifying results.)

I understand your biographical book RANDOM ABSTRACT MEMORY had more Red Dwarf stuff that was cut...

I think Penguin thought it was going to be more about Red Dwarf - they just assumed that was all I'd done. So when they actually got it, they said, 'Oh, I don't think we need so much Red Dwarf as we asked for' - so they were cutting it down as well. [Although] whatever was cut I cut myself in the end.

It's all totally true. There were some things they wanted to change that you think, 'Why?' I went to a girl's engagement party, and they said, 'Can you make that a wedding?' I said, 'It wasn't, it was an engagement party.'

Mr Flibble was glad Hattie went to his preferred publishers. Is it hard to get the chronology of things right?

Oh God, yes. I had to check a lot of that. Sometimes I have a diary with just one thing in where I forget to fill it in for the rest of the year. I think going through photos really helped. [Although] the only reason I wrote [the book] was because I dreamt the title!

I did do an interview on Loose Ends. Just before I was to be interviewed about the book, he said, 'Do you know the book at all?' (Laughs) I went, 'Yeah, I wrote it.' He went, 'I was just checking, because a lot of people don't write their own books.' But it is true. I wrote every word myself. It was a quite good of him to check...

Mr Flibble enjoyed talking to Hattie Hayridge, and now that it's over... Mr Flibble is very cross.