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Vicar of Dibley star James Fleet turns religious: ‘We’re a bunch of misfit monks!’

The Vicar of Dibley star James Fleet reveals his new habit – playing an abbot in BBC comedy pilot Monks (BBC1, Tuesday, May 13)…

What can you tell us about new comedy Monks?

“It’s a terribly funny comedy about a bunch of misfits in a modern-day monastery. I play The Abbot, who’s clearly got a past involving girlfriends! Newest recruit Gary, played by comedian Seann Walsh, is hiding out at the monastery. He doesn’t really fit in, but does have hilarious adventures!”

What attracted you to the part of The Abbot?

“It’s a great part, as I get to sit at a desk and be sarcastic. I didn’t have to do slapstick or get wet  - or anything like that!

You’re probably best known for sweet-but-dim Hugh Horton in The Vicar of Dibley, but have you ever played anything like this before?

“I played a monk about 30 years ago at the RSC, but this is an abbot – so that’s new! The main thing about playing anyone in historical costume is the lack of pockets. You’ve nowhere to put your glasses! Fortunately in Monks I’ve got lots of desk drawers.”

Is it an interesting set?

“It’s a lovely set. They reconstructed the Vatican around the back. You see me have a telephone call with a cardinal [played by Angus Deayton].”

The other monks include Mark Heap as angry Brother Francis and recovering alcoholic Brother Bernard (Justin Edwards). Why have they chosen the religious life?

“They’ve all escaped various problems and found themselves in this failing monastery, struggling to survive in the present day. They’re a bunch of deadbeats really!”

Would you be interested in making a full series if Monks was commissioned?

“We’re gagging to do a series because we had such a laugh making this. Viewing figures are very important, so please all watch it!”