From Mr Bean to… Mr Bee! Master of slapstick Rowan Atkinson is at it again in his new Netflix show – one man’s battle of wits with a bumblebee
- Rowan Atkinson stars in a new comedy Man Vs Bee, a ten-part series on Netflix
- He takes on role as Trevor, a man recruited to house-sit for wealthy strangers
- Trevor is Rowan’s first new sitcom TV character since pompous Inspector Raymond Fowler in BBC comedy The Thin Blue Line almost 30 years ago
An angry-looking Rowan Atkinson is about to take a powerful metal-cutter to the door of an E-Type Jaguar. Sacrilege, you might think, for someone so passionate about classic cars, but it’s all in a day’s work for the master of slapstick playing a man at the end of his tether.
In Netflix’s new comedy Man Vs Bee, a ten-part series of hilariously tense ten-minute episodes, Rowan stars as Trevor, a man recruited by an agency to house-sit for wealthy strangers Christian and Nina. But the presence of a bee in the luxury house drives him increasingly mad, and after a succession of calamitous attempts at silencing it end in absolute carnage, the bee buzzes off to Christian’s beloved Jag.
And that’s when the power tool comes out. ‘What starts out as a minor inconvenience for Trevor becomes an obsession prompting large-scale destruction,’ explains Rowan.
‘The bee is the catalyst for Trevor vandalising the house, and the car, in a variety of ways.’
Rowan Atkinson (pictured) stars in a new comedy Man Vs Bee, a ten-part series on Netflix, as Trevor, a man recruited to house-sit for wealthy strangers
Trevor is Rowan’s first new sitcom TV character since pompous Inspector Raymond Fowler in BBC comedy The Thin Blue Line almost 30 years ago, although it’s the creation that preceded him who invites most comparison. Hapless buffoon Mr Bean often found himself in the kind of farcical situations Trevor faces, and Rowan acknowledges there’s a similarity between the two.
‘If I’m going to be playing a character without words – and Trevor doesn’t say a great deal – you’re going to see something redolent of Mr Bean,’ he says. ‘There’s going to be something that reminds you of him and there are aspects of the story that are reminiscent of the kind of difficulty Mr Bean would get into.
‘But Trevor’s a more rounded character than Mr Bean, who was a two-dimensional, self-serving anarchist. Trevor’s more likeable, so hopefully people will be rooting for him when he gets himself into more and more trouble.’
And therein lies the fun – we watch on aghast as a gorgeous house and a prestige car are destroyed by a man who’s supposed to be looking after them as he fights a losing battle of wits with a bee. To ramp up the sense of destruction, Netflix went to town when it came to creating the house’s interiors at Bovingdon Studios in Hertfordshire.
Trevor is Rowan’s first new sitcom TV character since pompous Inspector Raymond Fowler in BBC comedy The Thin Blue Line almost 30 years ago
The bedrooms, a vast lounge with huge windows, a state-of-the-art kitchen and a library all contain exquisite artworks created especially for the show by artist Humphrey Bangham, and the furniture is elegant and expensive.
The E-Type Jag Trevor attacks was actually a stand-in for a more expensive model, the first E-Type Jag ever made in 1960. But Rowan, a petrolhead who’s owned dozens of classic cars, was clearly taken with the substitute – when filming was over he bought it!
‘He loved it, he even wanted the hole in the door left as it was,’ says executive producer Chris Clark. ‘He reckons that’s what makes the vehicle special.’
The bee we see on screen is the bee’s knees too. It was computer-generated, while on set tiny model bees were used to give Rowan an idea of where the CGI bee was in relation to his character.
‘A model bee would be put on the end of a fishing rod so Rowan got his movement in relation to Trevor’s nemesis right,’ explains Chris.
Filming the show wasn’t much fun for Rowan though, but then it rarely is for the 67-year-old former Blackadder star. ‘If you look at a TV project as a sandwich, then I enjoy the bread but not the meat in the middle,’ he admits.
‘I enjoy the rehearsal period, I like working on the script and I enjoy post-production. I relish the chance to get involved with the sound mixing and the editing.
‘The filming part is horrible as far as I’m concerned, but it’s something you have to do to tell the story. The irony is that’s the part I’m supposed to be good at.
Rowan admits that he does not enjoy filming due to frustrating Covid delays and the physical demands of playing someone in pursuit of a bee
‘But I’m playing a singular character, so the pressure is on me to make the show work. With that comes considerable stress, which is not nice.
‘Whatever I do, I always think I can do it better. I’ve felt that with every part I’ve played, apart from Blackadder, because there was a shared responsibility on that so I felt I was carrying the burden with others.’
Add in frustrating Covid delays and the physical demands of playing someone who has to crawl on his hands and knees and leap around in pursuit of a bee, and it’s not surprising Rowan isn’t exactly enthusiastic about a second series.
‘I can’t see that happening now,’ he sighs. ‘But I do need a lot of decompression after a show, and with the passage of time things change, so never say never!’
- Man Vs Bee is available on Netflix from Friday