David Learner is the voice of Cyril, the FarmBot

We're delighted to welcome David Learner to the team! 

David trained at RADA alongside Alan Rickman and Trevor Eve. He was Marvin the Paranoid Android in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on stage and TV, and played Pickle the Elf for three seasons in ITV’s fantasy adventure game Knightmare. Countless theatrical, radio and voice over appearances before moving sideways into commercial sales in the late 1990s prior to three years at Waterstones. Still makes the odd professional guest appearance but is happiest behind the counter of Mr Simms, his old fashioned sweet shop in Ely, selling rhubarb and custard.

Interview - David Learner

Interview - The voice of Cyril the FarmBot, David Learner

David Learner is a British actor who is best known for playing Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Pickle in the CITV adventure game show Knightmare. He studied at RADA alongside Alan Rickman and Trevor Eve and has appeared in numerous stage plays and radio productions.  

David, you were approached by Elaine Jackson - who you knew from her days as creator of ZZ9, the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ appreciation society she started in 1980 - about providing a voice for Cyril the Farmbot, who has been described by artist Dan Schaefer as "Mama's Alfred". Can you tell our audience what initially drew you to the project? 

David Learner

 It’s always exciting to be involved in a new project. This time, it was the premise of Elaine’s script that really got me interested: that search for hope in a devastated world. The relationship between Mama, her tiny son and Cyril, her strength and her adviser, really digs deep into our consciousness. It’s going to be a fascinating journey. Both Marvin and Pickle were memorable for entirely different reasons and both were there, not because they had to be – they didn’t move their stories forward a single step – but gosh they both live long in the mind. I have a feeling Cyril is going to do the same; it was an unmissable opportunity to create new life again.

You are known for playing Marvin the paranoid android on stage and television in ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, but you have been involved in many other projects during your career… how did you get started and what made you decide to pursue a career as an actor?

My dad told me I was going to be an actor when I was four years old. That was it. There was no looking back. When I was five I narrated the school play, The Cats of Chincheree. I’ll never forget. I always felt that the live stage was where I lived. I knew what to do, instinctively. I’ve been very very lucky. That helps as well.

Now you see him....

 Above and below: David on the set of BBC Television's adaptation of the Douglas Adam's classic, 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. Photos courtesy of KJD

...Now you don't! Photos courtesy of KJD 1980

Your Wikipedia page notes that you retired from acting in 1999 and since then you’ve been an editor for KL Magazine and an Independent Recruitment Consultant. Most recently you’ve provided confectionery to the people of Ely at Mr Simm’s Olde Sweet Shop. Is there anything (apart from ‘Minding Mama’, of course!) which might tempt you back into the acting profession?  

Never say never. My Twitter profile just says “actor”. That’s all I do. Sure, I’ve done a lot that hasn’t involved tickets and ice cream in the interval but I use acting in everything I do. That’s why Mr Simms was so successful; we had a five-year run and I starred in the show I’d written and directed. How cool is that. The audience changed every day and everyone went wow! That’s as good as an Oscar any day.

Cyril, the not-so-paranoid android as visualized by Dan Schaefer for Issue One of 'Minding Mama'
.... and his counterpart on the set of our pitch trailer. Photo by Stephen R Cox

 David Learner provided the voice of Cyril, described by artist Dan Schaefer as “Mama’s ‘Alfred’”.  

What else are you working on that you can tell us about?  

I’m just about to start work in the editorial department of an international publisher. It’s a whole new adventure and I’m so looking forward to it. Books and coffee. That’s the job. Fantastic!