Rick Edwards is — by his own admission — supposed to be shallow, and possibly a little bit stupid.
Not because he’s constantly being papped staggering out of celeb hangouts (he doesn’t know where they are) or sleeping his way around London (he has a long-term girlfriend) but because he is TV presenter. Not only that, but an ex-T4 presenter.
And if you spent any time over the last four years nursing your weekend hangover in front of the TV — where you’d have seen him on Channel 4 as part of the impossibly perky, annoyingly pretty gang wrestling with pop stars and clowning about in funny costumes for our light entertainment — you might have been tempted to agree.
In reality, Rick has used his day job as a presenter of shows like T4 and Tool Academy (the new series of which began this month) to explore several side projects, none of which fit the stereotype. There’s been the short film he wrote (the funny, tender, ‘The Boot Sale‘), an acting role in an excellent comedy pilot (Rick and Peter) and even the odd article for the Huffington Post. Could it be that the Cambridge graduate’s true passions lies somewhere beyond the television studio?
The day job at the moment is handling the second class in the Tool Academy. Part-Geordie Shore part-The Apprentice, Tool Academy is a show that tricks a group of misbehaving boyfriends into thinking they’re auditioning for ‘Britain’s Ultimate Lad’ before confronting them with their angry girlfriends and a series of tasks designed to reform them into worthy partners. Understandably, they don’t always take too kindly to being enrolled.
“The guys don’t like the fact they’ve been tricked. Why would they? During the first series we didn’t really anticipate how mental they’d go and didn’t really have any security. I had to hide in a basement for about two hours, hoping no one would barge the door down. Passions run quite high…”
On the surface it’s another daft-but-fun reality show, but Rick thinks that, for some of the participants at least, being made to confront their tool-ery has a positive effect.
“A couple of the guys from the last lot that I’ve stayed in touch with say they’ve genuinely benefited from the show, which is quite heartening really. You can see at the Academy that lots of them were progressing and being slightly less awful. They’re actually almost all likeable guys, they’re decent underneath they just need some guidance.”
Hiding in basements aside, this kind of work is Rick’s safe zone. On T4, while Miquita Oliver sometimes seemed on the brink of losing the plot and Steve Jones often looked like he was wondering what he was doing with his life (although cracking America with The X Factor may have cheered him up), Rick always came across as the most natural and good-humoured about doing a job that was never destined to last forever.
“I didn’t leave because I didn’t like being a T4 presenter, I left because I felt it was time to do something different. I think the channel would have been happy for me to stay for another year or two, but at some point you have to make a difficult decision. I didn’t want to get to a point where people were pointing at me and going: ‘Are you still doing that?!’ It’s an easy trap to fall into. I think a lot of people have stayed too long.”
Last month, the pilot episode of a sitcom devised by Rick and his old friends from university aired on Channel 4. Playing a –- you guessed it –- shallow and egotistical version of himself, the story saw him paired him with Peter, a disabled actor, after making ‘inappropriate’ comments on air.
“We really like the idea of playing with the notion of what people think TV presenters are like. I think it’s quite funny that people tend to think I must be a vapid and narcissistic. Although I’m sure there are parts of my personality that are vapid and narcissistic, it was fun to play with that perception. We wanted people to be a little bit confused by it.”
It certainly seems to have confused Channel 4 who, despite the positive reviews, haven’t made a decision yet on whether to turn it into a full series. Either way, Rick is deservedly proud of it. Trying out new things and taking risks seems more important to him than simply being a celebrity. But how famous is he?
“I have a fairly modest level of fame, and I’m lucky that it’s all people being nice and just wanting a photo or a chat. Clearly there are super famous people who get papped all the time, but I think that’s partly a lifestyle choice as well.
“I’m not a specially press worthy person because I don’t do anything that interesting. I don’t particularly have celebrity friends or go to celeb hangouts –- wherever they might be –- and I’ve had a long term girlfriend so it’s not like I’m going out with glamour girls. The most I get is drunk people coming up to me in pubs…”
Whether Rick gets any more famous –- and for what –- remains to be seen. In the mean time, he’s content to dabble in the things that interest him, and continue striving to reach new heights in a job that plenty of people mistake as easy.
“The weird thing about presenting is that it should be really easy. It’s just talking to people, either in person or through the camera. It’s just communicating and showing a bit of personality. I meet 20 people a day who are good at that. Yet for some reason, people can’t always translate that onto TV. I’ve seen people do screen tests and they just freeze up and become weird. Really good presenters –- and I’m not including myself in that list –- make it look like a piece of p***. But sometimes it can be quite challenging.”
“When I presented the athletics in South Korea [the IAAF World Championships in September] which was quite a departure for me it was really, really f***ing hard! The technical side of it was a really challenge. But I enjoyed it, because it was tough.”
Interviewed for AOL, November 2011