Or Robin Williams. Or better?
I'm about to write my review of "Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale," which I've seen twice now (once prior to my podcast with Gervais, another time in a class I teach at CCA). It's a truly great conclusion to the series - perhaps shockingly great. At a full 80 minutes, it's a completely realized wrap-up of all the issues Gervais was poking at with "Extras," one of the most criminally ignored (despite his Emmy win) series on television. But what struck me about all the wonderful aspects of the finale was this: Gervais excels in the dramatic elements. Everybody knows he's brilliantly funny. But here he proves that he's capable of that next step. The finale, echoing the sentiments set forth in Season 2, is dark and bittersweet. The implosion of Andy Millman is thorough and sometimes even difficult to witness (luckily the blindingly funny parts offset it).
Anyway, I can't get over how good Gervais was. Is. And it got me thinking about his future. I hope his next project after his current movie shoot involves something complicated and dark. He can do it. The transition from clown to acclaimed character actor is very, very difficult, however. I'm not the biggest fan of Robin Williams but he made the leap and when he's good at his role, he's really good at his role. Bill Murray, however, might be the modern day standard bearer here. Has there been a better famous funnyman (or woman) who has made the leap to fully accepted dramatic actor? Sure, Murray often gets roles where the script plays to his oddball tendencies and it allows him to use archness or jadedness as a crutch. But not everything he does is so idiosyncratic. (It doesn't all work, either.) But outside of, say Jim Carrey - and his comic style is less acclaimed than either Gervais or Murray - no other comic may have pulled off the dramatic trick as well as Murray. Look, they're all good. Murray, Williams, Carrey. Given the right role, they light up and transform the screen. I'd go so far as to say that Murray's ability can make the most of mediocre material where the others can't. But it's a minor distinction.
The point is, I think Gervais is on the brink of joining that group. He'll need more work under his belt. And I'd like to see him make something dramatic out of other people's words. But he's on the verge. And the "Extras" finale is a real step up, an impressive coming out party for an emerging dramatic actor.