The fabulously talented David Tennant is well known to MASTERPIECE viewers — he hosted MASTERPIECE Contemporary more than a decade ago, and has appeared on plenty of MASTERPIECE and MASTERPIECE Mystery! titles throughout the years — but his role in the sweeping new adaptation of Jules Vernes’ Around the World in 80 Days is a thrilling return to form. Tennant previews the ongoing series, and looks ahead to the rest of the quest to come in a new conversation.
Jace Lacob: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
Even if you’ve never read French novelist Jules Verne’s classic 1872 adventure, Around the World in Eighty Days, it’s highly possible you already understand the basic plot. It is right there in the title, after all.
Bellamy I like this piece, Fortescue. “With the opening of the railway between Rothal and Allahabad this fellow Penrose claims it’s now possible to circumnavigate the globe in a mere eighty days.” Absolute rot, of course.
Fogg It’s not rot, actually.
Jace The timid Phileas Fogg, a quiet and unadventurous member of London’s prestigious Reform Club, haphazardly wagers that he can circumnavigate the globe in a mere 80 days — a hefty challenge even today.
Fogg I am going to circumnavigate the globe in eighty days. Or less.
Fortescue My dear fellow. Has something happened, Fogg?
Fogg Nothing’s happened. Not for years. I’ll start today. One o’clock. With any luck I’ll make the overnight sailing from Dover to Calais.
Bellamy By Jove, I think he’s serious!
Fogg Never more so, Bellamy.
Jace The weight of the bet won’t hit our hero until later in this new eight-part journey — but for now, Fogg is sailing high in the sky on his quest.
Passepartout Why can’t we get a train like normal people? Do you have any idea how this thing works?
Fogg Basic physics, I imagine.
Fix What a story!
Passepartout Where are we going?
Fogg Italy, of course! Not a second to lose!
Jace Phileas Fogg is an even more quirky role for the already quirky David Tennant, and he joins us to discuss Fogg, family, and the escapist magic of a story at a time where so many are still staying close to home.
Jace This week we are joined by Around the World in 80 Days star — and one of my personal favorite actors of all time — David Tennant. Welcome.
David Tennant Hello. Thank you so much for having me.
Jace So Around the World in 80 Days, particularly in 2021, feels like an escapist road trip adventure in a post-COVID world. Take me back to what initially attracted you to this project pre-COVID times.
David Well, I suppose you know these there are certain stories that are tenacious, aren’t they? These novels that are perennially adapted and there’s something very appealing about that, you know, retelling these stories that people enjoy and that have been told so successfully many times as a challenge and an appeal to that, to be rediscovering that for a new generation. And so I suppose my interest was piqued at the notion of adapting the story at all. And then you get the script through. And of course, it’s although it must be said when the novel was written, because to make it around the world in 80 days is something we wouldn’t find particularly difficult these days. Well, perhaps before a pandemic hit anyway. And so, you know, it is of its time, but at the same time, it has to be of now. You have to find a reason for telling that story, and you have to find the resonances that we will enjoy as a modern audience, I suppose, to make it worth going there again to find a reason, you know, because there have been lots of very successful adaptations of the story. So you know, why do another one? And then you read Ashley Pharaoh’s script and you go, ‘Oh, because these characters are alive and they’re timeless. And he’s rediscovering the well-discovered,’ and all those things that make you keep turning the pages of the script, because it’s always the script, isn’t it? It’s always, you know, you can give me a notion of ‘It would be wonderful to do an adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days, but unless you’ve got a script, that’s that’s worth making, then why bother?’ You know, we’re all we’re as actors, we are very much in the hands of our script writers. So when you get a good one, you want to hang on to it. You want to make sure that nobody else gets in there before you.
Jace So you were able to shoot one episode of 80 Days in early 2020 before production was shut down for nearly a year?
Jace What went through your head when you got the news of the shutdown? Did it feel like this would be just a temporary blip rather than almost a full year?
David Well, like anyone, any one of us, anywhere in the world, we were mystified and alarmed and bewildered that this was possible at all. I mean, you know, our lives are very different, I think post-pandemic, because an impossible thing has just happened. So now, you know, our expectations for the future will be forever slightly undermined. I think it seemed we were in Cape Town. And as you said, we’d filmed one entire episode. We were filming all the London scenes from all the episodes, in fact. So we’d shot one whole episode and bits from all of the episodes when we were all told we were going home, but it just seemed so…unlikely? You know, the word ‘unprecedented’ has been used an unprecedented number of times in the last 18 months, but there is no other word. It just felt so unlikely that I think all our minds imagined that things would snap back to normal after, I don’t know, a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months. It seemed so inconceivable that we would be locked in our houses for the length of time that we were. And so, yes, I went home from Cape Town, not really knowing what that meant. You know, it takes a lot to shut down a television production. These are massive machines that spend a lot of money every minute of every day, so it takes an enormous amount to make them grind to a halt at all, let alone send everyone halfway across the world to go home for a while and sit tight and see what happens. You know, I think after a few weeks had passed, we all began to wonder if we would ever get back to it, if there was ever going to be a way of making television again. And as you point out, it took a number of months for our industry to figure out a way of getting back to work and then for our production specifically to figure out what it was going to do because we were having to pull people back from various corners of the globe. And initially, South Africa really wasn’t open for business in a way that we needed it to be, so we had to reorder the shoot and go to Romania, which had always been part of the plan, but that was going to happen much later and we had to put sets on hold and build new sets and find new locations and rewrite bits of some of the scripts for for for things that were no longer available to us. And it was I mean, it was, I suppose, relatively stressful and complicated for myself, for particularly Simon Crawford Collins, our executive producer, who had to make all these decisions and bring the machinery together and make it all work out. It was an extraordinary, weird, unprecedented time. It felt when we finally got back on set and it must have been eight months after we shut down, it felt very exciting to be back at work, but of course, now we’re all wearing masks and we’re all squirting hand sanitizer between every take and were being tested every couple of days. And it’s a very different world to go back to. So there was a mixture of excitement to be back at work, relief to be back at work and also a little bit of fear that, you know, what does it mean to be mixing with people after we’ve been locked in our own homes for all these months? But ultimately delighted that we got back to making the show, it would have been a terrible, a terrible loss to have made one and a bit episodes and to never come back to it. So yeah, it was a year to the day from my first day in front of the camera to my last. It was February the what was the exact date now, 20th, I think 2020. That I first shot on Around the World in 80 Days in February, the 20th 2021 when I and when they called a wrap for me. So that was around the world in 365 days, more specifically.
Jace I want to ask about the source material. I mean, did you have a certain fascination with Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days going into this? Was this a book that had meant something to you?
David I think the truth of it is that the the book probably hadn’t, but I don’t know that I was aware what my relationship to that story was, other than the fact that it’s just one of those tales that we’ve all grown up with as part of our sort of cultural furniture and. And it was only when I committed to doing the series that I went to the novel and realized I’d never read it. And the novel is actually, in many ways, quite different to any of the adaptations that I’d ever seen. And there are things that one accepts about Around the World in 80 Days like hot air balloons, which don’t come from Jules Verne and so I suppose the the version of Around the World in 80 Days that I had received, that my subconscious felt like it knew, was an amalgam of probably various screen adaptations that I’d consumed over the years and just a kind of general sort of sense memory of what it is that I think, you know, we all have. It’s one of those tales is one of those stories, isn’t it, that we all feel like we know? But perhaps we don’t necessarily know it as well as we think we do. And then again, Ashley Pharaoh’s version of it, our version of it is again very different to the book. The source material there are bits you will recognize, but there are the, you know, the characters are. Ashley and our versions of these characters, there are characters that aren’t in the book. Some of them are in the are are in the book, but are characters with the same name, but very different profiles. Abigail Fix, who is our the third sort of lead character in, you know, there’s there’s there’s Philleas Fogg, Passepartout and Fix, Fix is a character in the original novel, but it’s a male police officer who’s chasing them around the world. In our story Fix is the daughter of my best friend who’s desperate to work on the newspaper that her father edits. And of course, a female gung ho journalist is not particularly of the time, so she’s battling her father. She’s battling gender prejudice, and she’s battling, battling the ways of the world that she lives in to sort of plow her own path.
Fix Can you tell me what is wrong with this otherwise carefully researched and expertly conveyed article?
Fortescue Abigail, will you please calm down –
Fix I’ll enlighten you, shall I, father? It appears to be written by a Mr. Charles Penrose.
Fortescue I have my readers to consider.
Fix It’s 1872! Would your readership really suffer a mass coronary if they discovered a woman had written this?
David So these are all elements that were introduced by Ashley. It’s a yes, you can sort of if you know the book, well, there are lots of things that are almost Easter eggs hidden away. You know, moments in the novel that may have inspired something very different in our adaptation, but but it’s still very true. You know, the central premise, it’s so gloriously dramatic. I mean that a ticking clock is built into the title. It gives it jeopardy from the off. It’s you know, I’m sure that’s one of the many reasons this is a story we keep coming back to because it’s so deliciously dramatic. You know, the title gives you gives you that the, you know, the jeopardy, from the get go.
Jace I mean, you mentioned the differences. And obviously Abigail’s not, as you say, sort of a Scotland Yard detective, Passepartout is a person of color in this version. Do you think that the changes that Ashley Pharaoh made in the script helped to ground 80 Days in a more modern perspective? Can we look at this from our vantage point and find deeper places of connection?
David I think inevitably we always do when we retail a story. I think that’s just part of how we as human beings, we’re on the lookout for things that are relevant to us. And of course, the better the writing is, the more layered and textured a piece of art is, the more it seems to resonate with us as the human beings of our own time. And it’s why Shakespeare keeps working. Because whatever you look to Shakespeare, it seems to be saying something about the human condition that’s specific to now. And so I think there’s an inevitability to that. But yes, I think Ashley has, without taking the story out of its time, he’s given it resonances that work for us as an audience today. And I and yes, as you say, Passepartout is a black man traveling around the world with a posh white man, and that would be remarkable at the time. And Ashley doesn’t pretend that it isn’t, which I think is important. And the fact that Abigail is a feminist, essentially, you know, has discovered women’s liberation many years before that term would be recognized. I think is again, that’s, you know, we examine the sort of gender politics of that as the story goes on, we don’t shy away from it. We don’t pretend that the world was a sort of utopian progressive paradise whilst at the same time, you know, allowing us to have a perhaps a more modern trio than Jules Verne might have entertained.
Jace I love the first appearance of Phileas Fogg in episode one. There’s a fastidiousness to him, but also a sense of genuine kindness towards his valet, Grayson. And then that ordered calm of his existence is sort of shattered by the postcard.
Fogg Where did this come from, Grayson? There’s no post-mark…
Grayson I… I…
Fogg Grayson — who brought this postcard into my house?
Grayson The postman, sir.
Jace What did you make of Fogg’s introduction and how does this scene sum up his character as it is in this first episode?
David Well, there are a lot of questions posed about him in that first episode that you will ultimately get answers to, but aren’t immediately evident. Perhaps, as you say, there is a postcard delivered to him with one word scrawled on it, which will certainly change the day he’s about to have. The Phileas Fogg in the novel is rather inscrutable. Rather, he has a sort of zen-like calm, he seems to be supremely confident that he will manage to succeed. And that is not the Phileas Fogg that we have in our version. He’s a man who’s been disappointed by himself, and because he comes from a world of privilege, he has never had to strive for anything, and it’s left him sort of empty. He’s he feels like he and any moment in life that have called on him to be challenged, he has failed. He feels like someone that is lost and has become terrified of life or the prospect of living, really. And we happen upon him on a day when several events occur at once. That will propel him to make a rather rash decision to decide to travel around the world in 80 days. And this is a man who’s never traveled farther than Edinburgh from London, so he is not constitutionally suited to this. And of course, dramatically, that’s very enticing. As an actor, that’s rather delicious. You want to play the fish out of water. You want to, you know, be discovering this man who is almost immediately out of his comfort zone as soon as he gets on the boat. Everything is foreign and terrifying to him and I, and the psychology of a man who makes this, who jumps out of an airplane as it were in a moment of madness and then has to sort of build his own parachute as he goes before he hits the ground is, you know, I think there’s something very there’s something very endearing about him. There’s also something infuriating about him. He’s a fascinating character. He’s not really the hero of this story, the heroes of the story are Passepartout and Fix. They’re the go-getters, they’re there, they’re the adventurers, and he’s almost a hindrance to their success in many ways. But to put someone like that at the center of a story which is all about adventure, I think iis a sort of masterstroke and was a joy to play from start to finish, really.
Jace He’s not even really a reluctant hero. He is sort of a man whose life is just one of sort of quiet desperation. It’s all brown Windsor soup and boiled beef and lunch at the Reform Club.
Jace And he is sort of thrust into this because of this wager. So I want to talk about the wager. It comes as a bit of a surprise to everyone in attendance that Fogg would wager £20,000 quid to travel around the world in just 80 days and arrive back by Christmas Eve. You know, what do you think prompts Fogg to act in that fashion to not just accept the wager, but to double Bellamy’s wager, even at the risk of sort of financial ruin to himself?
David I think he’s reached a point. He’s reached a dark moment in his life. I suppose we might describe it as a midlife crisis, although that’s not a phrase that he would recognize. He is obviously staring at the end of his days, as you say, sitting in a leather armchair, eating the same lunch every day, reading the same newspaper, and doing nothing with his life. He’s been disappointed by choices that he made earlier on, you know, without giving too much away, that’s that we will discover that as he trudges around the world trying to find his mojo. There have been disappointments in his life. There have been moments that he wishes he could go back and rewrite. And he’s so this postcard arrives first thing in the morning, and that hits him in a very deep, deep emotional scar there that that that this postcard picks at the scab of. And then he goes to his club and then he his he he’s made to feel small by his friends He sees the daughter of his best friend, this rather fiery, unpredictable girl who seems very driven and full of energy and full of potential that he knew as a little girl. And where those years go on and what is he turned into? He seems to have atrophied. There’s a there’s just a moment when it could have gone either way, where he obviously thinks that his friend Bellamy and you know, he’s indulgent, but also supercilious. And there’s just a moment where he breathes in a different kind of air and he could breathe out again, and nothing could change, but there’s just a little there’s something in the air, there’s something in the in the in the rotation of the planets where he just suddenly decides to not give in to nothing, sit in his chair to just roll the dice and regrets it almost as soon as he’s done it. But it was a moment of madness, has just an accumulation of everything that’s happened that day. That’s the accumulation of everything that’s happened over the last 30 years. Something just snaps, and in a moment of madness, he doubles down and says, ‘No, I, I can do this.’ I think intellectually, he has a very clear understanding that it’s possible, but emotionally, he’s so ill-equipped for it. But he gets a high, I think, in that moment of challenge where he decides, ‘Yes, no, I’ll take this wager. I can do this. I can see…’ he has a rather brilliant, logical mind so he can see that it’s all possible. Unfortunately, he has a very impractical, closeted existence, which means that the actuality of it proves very, very different. And as soon as he’s on the ferry to France, he regrets every, every moment of his boldness, of his, of his courage because it all crumbles around him. And that’s when he comes to rely on Passepartout and Fix, without whom he’d be back drinking Windsor soup and accepting defeat before the end of episode one.
Jace Before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors…
Jace I love the channel crossing scene, which has Fogg vomiting over the side of the boat.
Jace While his stovepipe hat sails right off his head.
David And it’s so disappointing because I loved that hat. I very much enjoyed wearing it for the couple of scenes before it hit the sea..
Jace And it’s as though the hat is sort of clawing its way back to Dover.
David Absolutely, absolutely.
Jace Fortescue even describes Fogg as sort of the the quote, ‘The most timid, unprepared man in Christendom.’ Do you think that the scene sort of helps to, as you say, sort of depict him as this cosseted sort of out of his depth, naive, ill-prepared person?
David Oh, absolutely. I mean, everything about him is exactly that. He’s such a naive person, because he comes from this world of privilege. He was born into money. He doesn’t apparently need to work for his fortune. He’s never been challenged by life, really. And that everything about this trip ill-suits him. And you know, he’s the sort of, the clichéd English Public School sort of sap. And he is utterly ill-suited for every moment of it. And you know, the story for him becomes a journey of self-discovery. The moments when he can find the inner strength, which he’s never believed he had in episode two, on a train traveling through Italy, he meets a young boy who is full of adventure stories and the possibility of flying to the Moon. And he sees himself in that little boy. And he’s initially inspired and then sort of devastated by the potential he once had that he now believes himself to have lost. But there are also the moments that just nudge him forward that will just keep him going, that will just lead him to discover himself. I mean, he never stops doubting himself all the way around the world. But the story for Fogg really is discovering those little, those little moments that give him some hope in himself where he can prove that actually he is a worthwhile member of the human race and a human being that is capable of more than he ever really believed was possible.
Jace He’s immediately out of his element in Paris.
Fogg For goodness sake, go! None of this has anything to do with me! Non! Non! Non! I AM ENGLISH!
Jace He doesn’t speak the language. He can’t even pound on the roof of the cab correctly.
David Yes, as if that should be enough.
Jace That he’s somehow immune to to being treated this way by a mob clutching his carpet bag so, so preciously as the urchins paw through his belongings, there’s this sense that in some way, his artifice is being stripped away. How did you read that scene where his possessions are sort of being rifled through and taken?
David I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, I think this is a man who who leaves behind. I leaves behind a facade. You know, he’s he’s he’s protected by money. He’s protected by class. Nothing need to touch him. He has servants. He has. He has wealth. But of course, behind all is a scared little boy who feels like he’s failed at life. And so that that that scene where the urchins of Paris are unpacking his suitcases is an absolute manifestation of that. Everything is being exposed. His his his underwear is literally being waved about a French street. It’s everything. He fears that that the truth of his insecurities will be revealed to the world because, you know, that’s what that’s why he lives this frightened life of repetition. He has this closeted lifestyle that entirely protects and from any kind of examination. And that’s why it’s such a big deal that he makes the decision to go on this journey and why and why he’s so ill suited to it.
Jace What can you tell us about what lies ahead for Fogg and company in 80 Days? And is there perhaps a Doctor Who: Waters of Mars reunion of sorts coming up?
David Oh, you’re talking about Lindsay Duncan?
Jace I am yes.
David I suppose, who appears in in a very significant role in episode three, playing a real world character. There’s a couple of them, actually. There’s a couple of real world historical events that that Fogg and his team sort of bump into as they go round the world. Lady Jane Digby, played by Lindsey Duncan, was was a real what would you call her adventuress, I suppose, in that world. And you find out all about her in episode three when we get to the Wild West and we discover the first black marshal. And although I do want to give too much of the story by explaining what he’s doing there, but that’s again, that that was that’s based on a on a on a real event that was taking place in the in the world of the of the time, although it doesn’t necessarily feature in Jules Verne novel, but those those characters fall very neatly into the into our story. And and yes, Lindsay, of course, what a treat to have her. That was, in fact, the first episode we shot. So what a treat to to start work on this show with Lindsay Duncan as our guest star.
Jace True or false: You had a doll of Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor as a child.
David That is true. Absolutely true. Yeah.
Jace And that you met him at a book signing as a kid, even wearing that stripy scarf?
David He was all dressed up. It was giddy-making for a for a small boy. I queued up. He was in John Menzies’ bookshop in Glasgow, and I queued up and he signed my Doctor Who and the Monsters book and he said, ‘Happy times and places, Tom Baker.’ Yeah. And he was dressed in his full Doctor Who outfit and he was mesmerizing. Yes, very exciting.
Jace Everyone has their Doctor, and number ten was mine. Doctor Who reunited you with Cassanova writer Russell T Davies. Davies is returning to Doctor Who as head writer. Would you ever entertain stepping back into the TARDIS and getting to play with Davies again, even for a one off?
David I mean…Doctor Who is such a curious beast, because from the moment you are announced as being part of that role, you’re being asked when you’re leaving and then when you will come back again after you’ve left. And it’s part of the big, you know, lesson. I understand it as a fan of the show. I get it. The enthusiasm that that show engenders in people is is there’s something about that show that touches people in a very sort of fundamental level, it excites such enthusiasm that and it’s. I’m just. It’s a long. I’m giving you a long, drawn out non-answer to your question. That’s what I’m giving you because whatever I say to that question gets overinterpreted, misinterpreted. You know, I don’t know. I don’t know, is the answer to your question.
Jace My eight-year old son asked who I was interviewing today, and usually has no idea who my guests are. But when I said you narrated the audio books for How to Train Your Dragon and Wizards of Once, and provided the voices for Scrooge McDuck and Spy in the Wild. He was shaking with excitement. He goes around imitating Squeeze Juice all the time. What is it that you love best about voice work?
David I really like the fact that there are so many different versions of this job, and I’m one of the things I think that I’ve most cherished is being able to do lots of different types of things. And whether that’s different types of characters, but also just in different types of genres, I suppose I’ve done a lot of theater and I’ve done a lot of screen stuff and audio audio work again is it’s just it’s a different it’s a slightly different skill set and I do know I enjoy. Creating things in a slightly different way, you know, when you’ve just got the vote, your voice to work with, you have to find different ways of communicating ideas and. And I quite enjoyed doing silly voices, I suppose. The truth of it. I mean, you and that’s part of it.
Jace You really do excel at giving each character their own unique voice, whether that czar or the Witch King and wizards or toothless or explainer in how to train your dragon. What is your process for creating each specific voice? How do you do this ahead of time?
David Well, the hydrogen or dragon books were interesting. Interesting because although they are set in this kind of on this Viking island, and I know that Cressida Cowell was inspired by the Islands of Scotland. So I felt that I had to make the tribe Scottish. So then you’re sort of plundering your various Scottish voices and you kind of sort of cast them with, you know, in my head, they’re all cast as different people that I know, whether I know them passionately or, you know, I know them from from, you know, television or whatever else it might be. And then with the when there was a book like that, because there are all these other tribes, I sort of decided all the tribes must come from a different sort of regional base. So there’s the trade. They all had to have different Irish accents and then there’s the tribe, all a lot of different Cornish accents. And then the difficulty with that came by Book 14 when I had run out of different areas of the UK to plunder so that I was really squeezing, squeezing my brain for inspiration towards the end of those books, although they were a joy to be able to take from start to finish. And then, yes, I suppose it’s a mixture of, you know, it’s it’s I don’t know why your brain suggests certain characters might speak in certain voices. Some of it, I suppose, is just a kind of a knee-jerk instinct. Sometimes at other times there might be something in the in the the text of the book that gives you a clue that somebody has a squeaky voice or a loud voice or whatever else. It might be a it’s a it’s. You also have to if it’s a character that Senator Law in, it’s a lot you want to plump for a voice. You have very easy access to, you don’t want to be struggling and you know to remember exactly how that character spoke. Although again, when you’re doing books over, you know, the spread over many volumes, it can be a little bit tricky if someone shows up in book nine. That hasn’t said anything since two sentences in Book one, and you’re kind of badgering the publisher to try and figure out if that if that character did see something in, you know, way back when we recorded that book six years ago, and that was a bit of back and forth, sometimes a bit trying to locate exactly where I can’t remember any of the specific names there, but there were there were a few pretending those dragon books towards the end. There were a few characters who showed up again and needed a bit of. I needed a little bit of research help in that trying to get the sound files.
Jace You launched your own podcast, David Tennant Has a Podcast, in 2019, which has featured guests such as Olivia Colman and Cush Jumbo and Billie Piper and Neil Gaiman. What was the impetus behind launching a podcast, and would you be up for another go around?
David I mean, it’s a never say never thing. It’s not something that has stopped. We’ve done two seasons of it, I suppose, for want of a better word. And it came out of it sort of started a bit by accident. I was having a conversation with my agent about podcasts. We’d both been listening to a lot of podcasts and and I I sort of mentioned to her that maybe there was. I’d been listening to quite a lot of Alec Baldwin’s Here’s the Thing podcast, which I hugely admired and the way that he got his guests to open up on the variety of guests he got in the type of guest he got. And I sort of was saying to Sarah that maybe there’s a there’s a British version of that podcast to be done. And she sort of took the bull by the horns as it was. And suddenly I had a meeting with a production company and suddenly it was happening and I was asking, you know, initially mate if they would be part of it and sort of knew. But he said no. So suddenly I’d done five or six episodes and then I was reaching out to people I didn’t necessarily know or only knew vaguely. And then it just kind of snowballed a bit. And then yes, and then in lockdown, when it became clear that one could do such things remotely, which hadn’t even occurred to me on the first run of them, and everyone was locked in their house, so people were willing to, you know, devote a couple of hours to it and seemed quite happy to be part of it. And then and then I really was approaching people on spec, then people who I had no particular connection to at times, some of whom were, you know, very generous with their time. You know, sometimes there was a Doctor Who connection I could exploit, or sometimes it was a friend of a friend that I could and, you know, helped me twist an arm. And it was for me, it was a sort of fascinating experiment again in in exploring another skillset, I mean, I’m not a journalist and. And if anything, I suppose it felt like that that let me off the hook. You know, I could be, I sort of could be as successful as I ended up being. I didn’t have to be good at it. I didn’t have to be good at interviewing people because that’s not what I’m necessarily expected to be good at. That was helpful at first to to be sort of let off the hook like that. And that allowed me to just sort of see where these things went. And we had a very good I have had very good producers and very good editors. So it was an absolute joy to do. And I got to speak to some people that I know and like very well, and I got to speak to some people who I had never met before, and I found utterly delightful.
Jace Finally, you’ve played everyone from Phileas Fogg and Hamlet to Kilgrave, Dennis Nilsen to Scrooge McDuck. Is there a character that you’ve always longed to play and yet you’ve never gotten the chance to?
David It’s always a hard question to answer that, isn’t it? Because until you see the script that’s written about that character, it’s very hard to imagine playing them. Or at least it is for me. And because I, you know, I could say, I don’t know, I want to play a magician veterinarian, which sounds like a rather fun combination. But until I see the magician veterinarian script, I don’t know if I really want to play it. I suppose there are roles in the sort of classical canon that you know, that’s already exist, that I’m intrigued and tempted by. And so there’s definitely a Malvolio and an Iago and maybe even a Bottom that I’d quite like to have a go at. But in terms of scripts that don’t exist yet, I’m not entirely sure I feel like I know those characters when I see them. I mean, I never realized I wanted to play Philleas Fogg until I read episode one as written by Ashley Pharoah. And then and then I wasn’t going to allow anyone else to play it.
Jace So, Magician Veterinarian, this fall on BBC One.
David Let’s hope, fingers crossed.
Jace Fingers crossed I mean, I would watch the hell out of that show.
David I’m looking forward to the puns that might be constructed for the title. I’ll leave that with your listeners.
Jace I will be thinking about them. I will think about them. David Tennant, thank you so very much.
David Thank you. What a pleasure.
Jace We head to a different place of comfort on the other side of next week — the beautifully rugged Yorkshire Dales, and the tiny town of Darrowby.
Mrs. Hall Oh, you’re back!
James Good to see you, Mrs H.
Mrs. Hall Sit yourself down. I’ve made your dinner. How was Glasgow? Your mother must’ve been so pleased to see you. I want to hear all about it.
James There’s really not much to tell.
Mrs. Hall I don’t believe a word of it. Oh. It’s good to have you home.
Jace All Creatures Great and Small Season 2 premieres Sunday, January 9 on MASTERPIECE on PBS, and we’ll speak with head writer and executive producer Ben Vanstone right here on the podcast after the episode airs. MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob, and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Susanne Simpson.
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