Everybody knows that a lot of talent came out of the 1999-2001 sitcom Spaced. Stars Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson (now Hynes) continue today with their successful acting careers. Director Edgar Wright has directed not only the Cornetto films, but also Scott Pilgrim and now Baby Driver, not to mention a handful of films that he produced. We know the supporting cast has also been a success: Nick Frost has not only been in partnership with Pegg and Wright, but has done well in his own projects like Hyperdrive, Cuban Fury, and recently Sick Note; Mark Heap has starred in TV shows such as Green Wing and Friday Night Dinner. It doesn’t stop there! Even the reoccurring characters like Bill Bailey as Bilbo, Peter Serafinowicz as Duane, and Michael Smiley as Tyres are recognizable stars. But have you ever noticed who got the bit parts? The cameos? Even non-speaking roles?
Spaced season 2 finale flashes back to that fateful day when landlady Marsha placed an ad in the newspaper, listing an apartment for rent: professional couples only. But Marsha wasn’t looking for a professional couple, necessarily. Some prick at the newspaper wasn’t listening. This prick—Dave, as he’s called—is played by mega-star comedian Ricky Gervais, but this was before the international tours, before hit TV show after hit TV show (The Office aired in 2002), and before he started pissing people off on Twitter. Later, in June of 2002, Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant lent their Xfm radio producer Karl Pilkington, who would go on to be a famous TV presenter, author, and star of Ricky’s podcast, to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who were hosting their Xfm show from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ricky phones up to see how Karl and his new friends are getting on. You too can listen to those episodes.
I don’t blame you if you missed David Walliams under all his makeup and costumes in the 1999 episode titled “Art.” Walliams plays Brian’s old art collaborator Vulva, who snootily invites him to his/her latest performance. Brian spends hours trying on outfits and practicing his hello, trying to come off as coy and successful. When the two actually meet, Vulva gives Brian a disappointed, “Oh Brian, you came,” to which Brian looks down at his trousers and insists that no, he’d just spilt his drink. Very drole. You’ll also very nearly recognize Vulva’s assistant Hoover as Paul Kaye. Although Walliams had been in a number of roles at this point, this is about four years before his first big break with Little Britain. Walliams had worked with Wright and Hynes first in Mash and Peas and later had a cameo in the Wright-Hynes-Pegg show Asylum.
By 2001, John Simm had already started making a name for himself, having started his acting career in 1992. And how did Spaced utilize this talent? They gave him a non-speaking role, Stephen Edwards, in the season 2 premier. Stephen was a shifty bloke Daisy met at the airport on her way back from vacation, but she didn’t notice anything amiss and chatted away to him until he got hauled away by the feds. Although Simm is largely regarded for his drama acting, and at the time would be most recognizable from his roles in dramas like The Lakes or the corrupt-youth movie Human Traffic, remember that he had already starred in his own sitcom by this point, Men of the World, at just age 24. Of course, now you recognize him from all kind of movies and TV shows, including Life on Mars and Doctor Who.
Kevin Eldon and Mark Gatiss
In “Back,” Kevin Eldon and Mark Gatiss play special agents who follow Daisy back from the airport after Stephen Edwards (Simm) plants some suspicious material on her. Mike (Nick Frost) tries to rescue Tim and Daisy in the pub when the two men in black show up, but it’s Daisy’s martial arts that she picked up in Asia that saves the day. Up to this point, Eldon was known mostly for roles in sketch shows like Jam and Fist of Fun, but now…okay, he’s done a lot of sketch shows since then too, including his very own It’s Kevin (2013). You’ll also recognize him from things like Hyperdrive (with Nick Frost) and as Tony Fisher in Wright’s Hot Fuzz. And of course, the unforgettable role as The Cleaner in Black Books the year before he did Spaced. And, you know, Game of Thrones and Red Dwarf and pretty much every other TV show to come out of England in the last couple decades.
Eldon’s co-fed is played by Mark Gatiss, who at the time was deep into The League of Gentlemen, where he and his co-writers dressed up as a ridiculous number of terrifying characters. Aside from that, he’d done smaller roles, like a reoccurring voice over role on the When Insects Attack segment of Lee & Herring’s morning show spoof sketch comedy This Morning wth Richard Not Judy. He was yet to write several episodes of Doctor Who (with a starring role in the episode “Lazarus”) and co-create Sherlock with Steven Moffat, also playing Sherlock’s older brother, Mycroft.