Eddie Izzard talks about his role in the series, future projects like Valkyrie and more stand-up comedy?

Eddie Izzard is one of the funniest dudes around, and he has been since his hilarious one-man shows started popping up in the late 90s, through his notable film roles in Mystery Men, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen. Now, Izzard has made it to a whole new level, starring in the F/X Network's latest edgy drama, The Riches. The Riches: Season 1 just came out on DVD recently, and I had the honor to talk with Izzard over the phone.

This is your first starring TV gig. What sort of transitions did you have to make, in moving from movie work to a regular TV role?

Eddie Izzard: Well, I was told it was going to be intensive as hell. Steven Soderbergh told me, he said, "Darling, it's brutal," ... an American word "brutal" which we don't use but I now use. It is actually brutal, but I don't mind that. There's so much dialogue as well. It's the complete punishment for having a huge ego and saying, 'Give me this big lead role for fuck's sake,' and then they give you one, and it's huge and it goes on forever. I don't think I complain about that, it's just that you have to learn a lot of dialogue, and you have to inhale it. I was talking to Minnie (Driver) about this. You just have to sometimes get two or three pages of a scene, and just suck it in. It's quite a task, but I love it and I'm happy to go on and do seven seasons of this.

How did you first become involved with this? Did you audition or did they come to you?

Eddie Izzard: Well, I went to Maverick Production Company, about something else and Dmitry Lipkin, who's the creator of this, had turned up 10 days before with this story. So, I was in this meeting and we were talking about various things and what we could do, and then the television department said, 'Well, we're doing this story about a group of travelers and they're living in this gated community and they rip off the entire neighborhood.' And I said, 'Oh, can I do that one?' sort of like saying, 'Hey, can I play in your game?' and they said yeah. It was so insanely silly in the end. I just asked if I could do it, and they said yes.

Wow. So you did it before even reading?

Eddie Izzard: Yeah, nothing existed. It was just an outline at that point. So yeah, after all these years, just walk in and say, 'Hey can I do that?' 'Yeah, do you wanna do it?' So they said, 'Come along next week, because we have to pitch it to the studios,' so I was part of that whole pitching process.

So you basically helped bring it to the network as well?

Eddie Izzard: Yeah, exactly. Showtime wanted it, and F/X wanted it and HBO wanted it and in the end we went with F/X because we liked Joel Landgraf's passion. And that was it. We developed the story for a year, for the pilot, and went through all the hoops and hurdles we had to do. So I was in there for the beginning, which was kind of weird, because we were auditioning all these other people and I thought, 'Is this OK? Don't I have to do an audition?'

What are your thoughts on the first season as a whole? Was there anything you would've liked to see differently?

Eddie Izzard: It's interesting, from my own personal point of view, there are scenes where I think were absolutely fine and there are other scenes where I go, 'Uhh, where was I there?' I fixed a lot of that in Season 2. Our story, our tone, shifted a bit, and then it shifted back by the end of the season. I think Season 2 we'll be really locked down into knowing where we're going. I think that's a little bit to be expected in the first season, we move about with the tone and just work out the edges of it. But, overall, I loved doing it and I'm very happy with what we've done.

So you have the second season already done then?

Eddie Izzard: We've done seven episodes before the writers strike came, and those seven, I believe, will be coming out in March or April. That's my guess.

And if this strike gets resolved sometime soon, will you guys be ready to go?

Eddie Izzard: Yeah. Basically, it takes us a month to get us up to speed. There will be a month turnaround between the end of the strike, and us going. As times goes on, there comes a point of no return, and I don't know how you feel the strike is going, but it just feels to me that we're in for a long time, which is unfortunate. I think it might be that we just do seven episodes this season and then go on to a longer season next season to make it up.

So did they basically write in for the seventh episode that, if need be, it would be a season finale?

Eddie Izzard: Yes. Yes, it is. It's not quite as... you know, you usually have two episodes at the end, it isn't quite like that, but it does end with a cliffhanger, with a massive problem.

Do you have some general thoughts on working with Minnie Driver and Gregg Henry as well?

Eddie Izzard: Well, I think Minnie's done some of her best stuff. She's got two nominations now (Golden Globe, Emmy), and it's excellent. I come from a totally different world, so... and Gregg... every scene he gets, he just nails it out. He really is great. Margo Martindale as well, and this second season we have some really good actors coming in. I'm very happy with it and I hope we have some good word of mouth going out. We're doing some really good stuff there.

F/X has a history of putting out shows that wouldn't normally be seen on a Big 4 network. How do you think this would be viewed if it was on CBS or NBC or any of those networks?

Eddie Izzard: I don't know, because I know that people are arguing for it. What are you saying, would an audience think it's too raw or too out there?

Yeah, yeah.

Eddie Izzard: Yeah, they could well do, but it's happening in real life. It's like an independent film. It has that independent film feeling in it, that kind of edge. We know that smaller audiences tend to go to those films, but that anyone in this country can go and see them. Life can be very brutal, or life can be less brutal. I think it would probably shock people in the mainstream audience, but that's probably why it's on F/X.

What sort of special features can we look forward to on this DVD?'

Eddie Izzard: There's a commentary, Dmitry and I do a commentary on the first and last episodes. There are some webisodes on there. I'm not sure what other things they've also put on, but I know those things are there.

I saw something for a Gag Reel.

Eddie Izzard: Oh yeah, the gag reel. The gag reel is excellent. The gag reel is quite a little small film. They did it really nicely, and it's just a whole bunch of fuck-ups and things together. It's really great.

So is there anything you can tell us from the second season and what we can expect from that?

Eddie Izzard: We ramped it up. It keeps going up and up and up. I think Wayne kind of ditches his moral compass and the ends justifies the means on behalf of where he's going. The stakes just get a little higher because we certainly get into this situation where a lot of money is swelling around, a huge amount of money, whereas before we were sort of pushing the edges of it, we get in the middle of this deal where it just gets very very large. Russians turn up as well, and it gets into that kind of area.

Is there anything you can tell us about Valkyrie or The Other Side?

Eddie Izzard:Valkyrie I can tell you about, The Other Side I can't really tell you about. Valkyrie was great to do. Chris McQuarrie and Bryan Singer from The Usual Suspects, it was great to be working with them. Yeah, filmed it all in Berlin, it was great to do, a lot of good actors in there. I haven't seen it all finished. I know there's one scene they've still got to shoot. I'm just looking forward to seeing it at the end. It's also important that the world knows that the Germans did this, that the Germans tried to bring Hitler down because people really don't know the story.

Finally, do you have any one-man stand-up shows planned for the future?

Eddie Izzard: Yeah. I'm going to be doing some stand-up in and around America this year. I was going to do it anyway, and then the strike came up so I'm doing it moreso. If people want to know, they can just go on my website at EddieIzzard.com and they can get on the mailing list or look on things there.

Well that's about all I have. Thanks for your time, Eddie.

Eddie Izzard: Thanks. Cheers.

The Riches is currently on the DVD shelves now.