David Tennant is in Los Angeles to sing the praises of the BBC’s drama Blackpool. Not the town, but the 2004 BBC musical drama that first brought him to our attention, a series that only now is getting a well-deserved broadcast in the US.
We’ve not heard much from the actor since his dramatic entrance to Doctor Who aired back in June. Yet when we suggest that he’s the actor who is bringing sex appeal to the last surviving Time Lord, Tennant breaks into a broad grin.
“God Bless you!” he laughs. “You’re getting an interview, that’s it!”
So here we are in the middle of sun-drenched Hollywood, chatting away with the new Doctor. He’s an actor who came to the role by stealth. He was executive producer Russell T Davies’s replacement of choice: they had worked together on his recent three-part BBC drama Casanova, in which the actor gave a brilliantly effervescent performance as the Venetian Lothario.
“I didn’t have to do a screen test because I’d done Casanova; that became my audition,” says Tennant. “I’d been working so closely with Russell on that. I didn’t know the role was a possibility then and it probably wasn’t at that point.”
In contrast with any of his predecessors, Tennant is a paid-up fan of Doctor Who. He’s even said in the past that the show is the reason he became an actor in the first place. Even then, he had to think twice when the Holy Grail of acting roles came his way.
“I think when you take on anything that is as big a deal as this, or that’s as big a commitment as this, you have to think about it,” he insists, “because it’s a long time and it has a lot of attention. The fact that I’m in LA and still talking about it, it’s that kind of show, it’s got this reach.”
Tennant’s casting proved to be one of the biggest secrets in showbusiness – until, of course, the tabloids ruined the surprise by leaking news of Eccleston’s departure three months before the regeneration aired.
Did the actor tell his parents?
“No, I couldn’t tell anyone,” he responds.
But how’s it possible to keep news like that from your poor mum?
“Because it was such a high-voltage secret that I was aware that there really was no choice,” he says. “I wanted to tell everyone, of course, but it was pretty hard – my agent was the only person I could talk to about it.”
It’s been said that the actor was forced to keep it hush-hush for six months; is that true?
“Not quite that long, but certainly for a while,” he replies furtively.
Doctor Who will change his life forever: he’ll be recognized in the street, mobbed by fans, and receive sack fulls of fan mail. In fact, the mass attention has already begun.
“The letters have certainly started arriving by the van load,” he reveals, “but it’s lovely, it’s great that people are so interested. It’s fantastic to be involved with something that’s so loved and people get so excited about. And it’s quite a privilege to be a part of that history, but it’s kind of daunting as well.”
by Judy Sloane and Richard Houldsworth