Noel Fielding on Comparing 'Dick Turpin' & 'Our Flag' and Non-Traditional Male Heroes

Ellie White, Noel Fielding, Marc Wootton, and Duayne Boachie in 'The Completely Made-up Adventures of Dick Turpin' Season 1

Ellie White, Noel Fielding, Marc Wootton, and Duayne Boachie in 'The Completely Made-up Adventures of Dick Turpin' Season 1 

Apple TV+.

Most Americans hadn't heard of Noel Fielding prior to 2017, when he was hired by Channel 4 to host The Great British Baking Show in place of Sue and Mel when the series moved house from the BBC. But Fielding had a cult following among fans of British comedy for his series The Mighty Boosh, which aired in the U.K. between 2003 and 2007. Fielding starred in it alongside comedian Julian Barratt, and the series's surrealism landed it a spot among the shows on late-night Adult Swim.

However, it had been a decade since Fielding's comedy had come over to America, and his comedy on GBBO wound up overshadowed by comparisons to previous hosts, the succession of co-hosts that passed through the tent beside him, and Paul Hollywood's behavior. So it was something of a relief when Apple TV+ announced it was picking up Fielding's new series, very loosely based in British history on the famous 17th-century highwayman Dick Turpin, then still untitled, in which he would return to his improv-style comedy troupe roots.

The series, now with the extremely unwieldy (and super SEO unfriendly) title The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin, debuted on March 1 with three episodes and continues to air new installments through the month. Our reviewer wasn't that impressed, comparing it to the late lamented Our Flag Means Death. Ironically, when we interviewed Fielding and the show's executive producer Kenton Allen, Fielding admitted that was one of his biggest worries ahead of the show's debut. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 
Hugh Bonneville cannot believe Noel Fielding tricked him into this in 'The Completely Made-up Adventures of Dick Turpin' Season 1

Hugh Bonneville and Noel Fielding in 'The Completely Made-up Adventures of Dick Turpin' Season 1

Apple TV+.

Telly Visions: Were you worried about Americans not knowing who Dick Turpin was? 

Noel Fielding: I think it freed us up in a way. It's not a story that everyone knows, as, say, with Robin Hood. People roughly know what he did, and there are quite a few different versions, going back to Errol Flynn. That story has been kicking around for a while. We did know that Americans probably wouldn't know who he was. But then, we thought, well, once they know he robbed stagecoaches and nearly got hung, once you've established those things, then really you can it gives you a bit of freedom.

Kenton Allen: He is basically a rubbish cowboy.

Fielding: I think it's quite good that he's a real person. When I was a little kid, I heard about Ned Kelly in Australia. Somehow, I knew that was a real person. There's something about that, having a certain gravitas or something, like with Robin Hood or Billy the Kid, you ask, 'Is it a real person?' And it is... Yeah, it gives it an extra little stamp of approval or something. Something about it. But this is a comedy, so we took quite a lot of liberties with the character. If it were a drama, we'd have to stick closer to the real story. 

TV: Most people coming into this would not know anything about Turpin; I was fascinated by how much you used this to highlight nontraditional masculine roles as heroic. How did that evolve in telling the story?

Fielding: I've never been a traditional male character. I've always been quite androgynous and worn makeup and dresses, slightly gender-bending in a David Bowie way. But we just thought what would be nice is to make the character so much more inclusive, kind, and creative rather than violent; a little bit woke and just a bit more in touch with his feelings and other people's. It's the 17th century; he's surrounded by hardened criminals who are not interested in talking about that stuff.

Allen: He's a visionary! He says, "I can see a time when men and women will get paid the same money, doing the same job." Everybody burst out laughing. The comic conflict is embodied in all of that.

Noel Fielding, Tamsin Greig, and Ellie White in 'The Completely Made-up Adventures of Dick Turpin' Season 1

Noel Fielding, Tamsin Greig, and Ellie White in 'The Completely Made-up Adventures of Dick Turpin' Season 1

Apple TV+.

Fielding: He says highway people rather than highwaymen. He's not preachy, either. I don't think the thing about Dick is he's suggesting these things, but he's not preaching or it's not forcing anyone into it. He's just quite easygoing and liberal and wants everyone to be happy and in love. So he's just, hey, what if we do this? You know, rather than he's not sort of telling people off? I think the key to him is he's fluid.

Allen: He's quite fluid with his ideas, and he's trying to be modern and try and do the right thing, you know, but what gets a bad name does, it just means being awake to other people's thoughts from feeling awake to people's thoughts and feelings in the 17th century.

TV: One of the other things that also really struck me is that, you know, there is a long history of cross-dressing in British comedy, Dame Edna, and so forth. Was it the cross-dressing that came first, and you guys sort of thought, well, let's go in an inclusive direction?

Fielding: Things evolve naturally in comedy. Julian and I as a double act [in The Mighty Boosh]; he's a very northern, quite big guy, man, much more manly than me, he's got a mustache. I was always the sort of slightly more feminine, we were a man and wife in a weird way; when you're in a double act, you're sort of a couple. I'd wear catsuits and makeup on stage; a lot of that I took from Bowie and glam rock. [When playing] a character, I've always tried to carry those traits through everything, because that's what I do in real life. I feel like you have to put an element of your real self in these characters. Otherwise, they don't have that authenticity.

Allen: It was organic, really, just embracing Noel's incredible creativity, his incredible comic mind and spirit.

Fielding: My mom and dad are quite like hippies; I was brought up in a carefree way; they encouraged me to be into art, drawing, painting, wearing whatever, and expressing myself however I wanted to. I naturally just did that stuff, and we wanted to keep an element of that, and we thought it would work, so I dressed up as a nun. I think that's what people want from me. They want that sort of weird freedom and that sort of androgynous escapism.

Allen: Life's pretty grim a lot of the time, so to escape into the world of dictatorship and 17th-century Britain and have some fun with it, I think, is quite joyous.

Asim Chaudhry in 'The Completely Made-up Adventures of Dick Turpin' Season 1

Asim Chaudhry in 'The Completely Made-up Adventures of Dick Turpin' Season 1

Apple TV+

TV: So this is the question that I wanted to ask in the TCA Winter Press Tour panel, but they called time: Everybody brought up other British comedies when trying to find something to compare Dick Turpin to, from Monty Python to Horrible Histories, but nobody brought up Our Flag Means Death...

Fielding: (Jumping in) Oh man! I was very worried about being too similar, and obviously, I love Taika [Waititi, the series creator and star], all of those guys, and everything they've done, really! Flight of the Conchords, What We Do In The Shadows...

Allen: Wait, what's the question?

TV: ...My actual question was that I always felt like OFMD was basically aiming for the AO3 fanfiction crowd. I wondered, How would you feel if the fanfiction community picked up Dick Turpin and ran with it?  

Fielding: (laughing delightedly) I'd love that. But we were a little bit worried about Our Flag because when you're writing something, you think, "Oh, no, they're not doing something too similar?!" I didn't watch them until after we wrapped because I didn't want to imitate what they did. But [once I did], I felt like it was okay. It wasn't anything alike.

TV: We're about out of time, but you did say you're going to stick with The Great British Baking Show; they're just letting you out of the tent for a bit. You and Alison Hammond have such great chemistry... If you guys get a second season of Dick Turpin, would you bring her aboard?

Fielding: You know what? She's quite good at acting. We did some little sketches for Bake Off, and she's a really good performer. She's very funny in a very natural way. She's cool and an amazing person. I've really enjoyed working with her.

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin is streaming on Apple TV+ with new episodes every Friday through the end of March 2024. 


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

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