"No, I'm not sick of talking about The Office," sighs Martin Freeman, who played the lovelorn Tim on the beloved British series. "I really do understand people's fascination with it. To do one of the most-talked-about shows in the last few years this early on in my career... that opportunity doesn't come along very often. It's definitely a thing to beat."
Freeman shouldn't be too concerned about equaling past triumphs. After all, he's currently starring in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which topped the box-office charts this past weekend in America, Australia and Freeman's home country, England.
Based on Douglas Adams' classic book, the movie casts the actor as Arthur Dent, one of the only human survivors left after Earth is destroyed to make room for a hyper-space bypass. The book's sizable fanbase has been waiting for the movie for more than two decades, and its members were more than a little concerned when Hollywood got involved. Freeman, for one, knows where they're coming from."I think America has always had a hard time taking British stuff undiluted," he says matter-of-factly. "We've always made, if I can say so myself, top-class comedy. Of course, we've also made some dreadful comedy. But the best stuff that I think could and should have worked in America hasn't, because I think America can be an insular place.
"In England, we've always [aired] American shows as they are," he continues. "So we know about Route 66, Hollywood and American accents. But that stuff isn't reciprocated. It's a shame that people here don't know what Yes, Minister or even what [the original] The Office is. I wish there was more two-way traffic.
"Instead, there's a long-standing tradition that America takes something it doesn't quite understand and changes it into something they do understand. I'm happy to report from my experience on the film that this didn't happen with Hitchhiker's. I would defy anyone to see it and think that not everyone had been cast right."
Speaking of English-to-American translations, how does Freeman feel about the remake of The Office that currently airs Tuesday nights at 9:30/ET on NBC? "I've only seen the pilot," he admits. "And I liked it. If I had come across it on the telly, I'd watch it again. It was very much like ours, only with American accents.
"In fact, it was so good and faithful, I kind of wondered who was going to get that who wasn't going to get the English one. My biggest fear was that they were going to make everyone beautiful, but [the actors] all looked normal. So hats off to them. I think they did it well. And I would say something if I didn't."
Next up for Freeman is a role in The Good Night, a film written and directed by Gwyneth's younger bro, Jake Paltrow. In the fall, he'll return to London's West End to tread the boards in an original play called Blue Eyes and Heels. But don't expect to see him working with his old Office boss Ricky Gervais anytime soon. "It would have to be specifically right, so it wouldn't jeopardize what has gone before. We wouldn't want to be teaming up just to push memory buttons. If I'm still talking about The Office in 10 years, I will know I have done something wrong!"