“Hall Pass” is the 2011 Farrelly brothers-directed relationship comedy about best friends Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis). Stuck in lackluster marriages, their wives — Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate) — decide to grant them a “hall pass” for one week. This hallowed “hall pass” allows the guys to basically do whatever they want without consequences, all as a way to save their relationships. Sure enough, this brief experiment teaches both men what’s really important to them, and, by the end of the movie, both Rick and Fred recommit to their wives.
If you’ve seen “Hall Pass,” you might remember Rick and Fred’s three pals who egg on their efforts to fulfill their respective hall passes: Flats (J.B. Smoove), Hog-Head (Larry Joe Campbell), and Gary, a tall, bespectacled Brit who provides hash brownies that fuel many golf course hijinks in one memorable sequence. British director, writer, and producer Stephen Merchant plays Gary. The multihyphenate talent is perhaps best known for co-creating the original incarnation of “The Office” along with Ricky Gervais, his frequent creative partner, as well as executive producing the American version.
What you might not know is that he has also acted steadily over the years, primarily in television but also in movies. Here’s where you may have seen Merchant in addition to “Hall Pass.”
As of 2021, Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais are arguably one of the most successful comedy partnerships of the 21st century, but, as of 2021, they haven’t collaborated on a project for almost a decade. Their last joint venture was the comedy travel documentary “An Idiot Abroad,” which concluded in 2012. Of the two, Gervais had traditionally done more on-camera work, including his portrayal of the gloriously inept boss David Brent on the British version of “The Office.” Merchant has a small role in that series, too, as Gareth Keenan’s (Mackenzie Crook) obnoxious best friend, Oggy. Following his breakout on “The Office” in 2001, his on-camera roles got bigger and bigger.
After “The Office,” Gervais and Merchant’s next notable television endeavor was “Extras,” per his IMDb profile. The BBC series follows background actor Andy Millman (Gervais) as he struggles to find work in the entertainment industry. He plays Andy’s idiotic but endearing agent named Darren. “Extras” ran for two seasons between 2005 and 2007, and it’s probably best known for its over-the-top cameos from celebrities like Kate Winslet, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellan.
On the heels of “Extras,” Merchant and Gervais played fictional versions of themselves on “Life’s Too Short” (via IMDb). The mockumentary series starring actor Warwick Davis, who is also playing a fictional version of himself. On the short-lived show, Merchant often tries (and fails) to keep Gervais from offending potential business partners during scenes.
“Endearing” is a word that can be applied to many of Stephen Merchant’s roles; no matter how annoying or pathetic his characters might be, you always manage to root for them anyway. None of his roles embody this idea better than Stuart Pritchard, the protagonist of HBO’s “Hello Ladies” (via IMDb). After his successful collaborations with Gervais, he returned to standup comedy, a medium in which he’d never been particularly successful, but one that allowed him to branch out on his own. In his 2011 comedy special, also titled “Hello Ladies,” he joked, “The first reason I’m doing standup comedy is that any money I make I don’t have to share with ‘you know who'” (via The Guardian) — likely a winking reference about Gervais.
In the standup special, Merchant opened up about his dating struggles in Los Angeles despite being a successful, award-winning television producer. Two years later, he starred in an adaptation of that special. He plays Stuart, another fictionalized version of himself who’s trying to find his soulmate. “Hello, Ladies” ran for just one season in 2013 and got a feature-length conclusion the following year.
Besides his endearing nature, Stephen Merchant is probably best known for his distinct physical appearance — he stands at a gangly 6’7″ (via The Guardian). In 2017, he put his appearance to good use as Caliban, a long-limbed mutant who teams up with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in “Logan.” In the X-Men universe, Caliban relies less on his physical abilities because his primary mutant power is the ability to detect other mutants nearby. Merchant described his character as “a glorified truffle pig” during an interview on The Jonathan Ross Show in 2016.
Merchant is almost unrecognizable in “Logan.” Since Caliban is an albino mutant with extreme photosensitivity, he wears a hat, goggles, a poncho, and a bandanna when going out in public. The actor also shaved his head for the role, making his everyday appearance even more “imposing” than it already was (by his own admission). Even though “Logan” is one of the grimmest movies in the X-Men canon, Merchant brings a lightness to his performance. Despite Caliban’s ability to get under Wolverine’s skin, you can’t help but like him.