David Brent: Life on the Road premieres Friday on Netflix
Thirteen years have passed since David Brent graced small screens, and now The Office‘s resident king of cringe is back with a musical odyssey: Life on the Road.
Ricky Gervais, who created and embodies the character, chatted with PEOPLE about stepping back into Brent’s shows — though he’s the first to admit that, for diehard fans, the bumbling middle manager “never really went away.”
Gervais, 55, says the semi-hero of the 2001–03 Britcom has been very much part of his day-to-day both as he’s developed international TV adaptations and through his social media following. “When I got on Twitter, people would remember the lines I couldn’t even remember some — like, ‘Who does your tampons?’ ” he tells PEOPLE. “I realized what [love for the show] there still was.”
But the seeds of Life on the Road, which shows Brent attempting to make it as a rock star, were sown when Gervais was tapped to participate in a Comic Relief fundraiser in 2013. Any fan of “Freelove Freeway” already knew Brent had a knock for songwriting, so Gervais started there and ended up crafting his character’s most popular bid for the charts, a well-intentioned, if poorly executed, track called “Equality Street.” Seeing the real-world hunger for more Brent that that gig, Gervais decided to take Brent’s success and run with it.
So where is David Brent now?
“I moved him on a little bit from The Office,” says Gervais. “I thought it was very apt that he was trying to be famous like everyone else in the world at the moment. He sees YouTube, he wants to be a YouTube star; he’s on Twitter, he wants to be an influencer.”
Gervais calls the former paper salesman’s titular time on tour his “one last attempt to be famous.”
But Brent will come up against some challenges because he’s “a docu-soap star [from] 15 years ago that no one cares about, no one remembers,” says Gervais. “What I thought was really interesting was that the world’s changed now. Even though he’s the same old David Brent, the world around him has changed.”
See how those changes will make for gloriously awkward pit stops on the journey to fame (or maybe failure?) when David Brent: Life on the Road premieres Friday on Netflix.