Mark Wright, who adapted The Adventures of Luther Arkwright for audio, chats to David Tennant about his Big Finish roles past and present.

Mark Wright: So David how are you?

David Tennant: I’m very well Mark. How are you?

MW: Good. Very well thank you. So the adventures of Luther Arkwright?

DT: Yeah.

MW: Another Big Finish extravaganza?

DT: Absolutely, absolutely!

MW: You’ve done quite a lot for Big Finish recently. You’ve done, going right back, you’ve played evil German soldiers…

DT: Yeah

*Medicinal purposes clip*

DT: I’m a sort of poor soul, you lives in Edinburgh, who’s a little bit *adopts comedy accent* not quite the full shilling.

MW: *laughs*

DT: Colonel Brimmington Wood, of Unit. Now he was umm a soldier, no doubt a very good one, but not a particularly nice human being. Quite harsh, quite umm in your face. And compared to Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier, who was also in it, as a sort of retired version of that character, he was sort of the antithesis of everything the civilised English soldier would be. He was Scottish for a start! *laughs*! And he was quite an "in your face" piece of work.

MW: And now we’ve got Luther Arkwright …

DT: Yeah

MW: …which is something a bit different I suppose?

DT: It is! Yeah! It’s not something I had much knowledge of before, and it’s a whole world. It’s a real kind of epic sweeeep (*Scottish accent*).

MW: What was your initial reaction on reading the script?

DT: Well it was that, the scope of it, the scale of it. I think it’s an ambitious undertaking actually, that I think, hopefully, will come off. It sort of, it reminded me of The Matrix. That kind of different realities working and also the speeding up and slowing down of time which goes on. Which will be a challenge for the Sound Designer. Which I’m looking forward to hearing.

MW: Absolutely. I think it was the Big Finish Christmas party where we sounded you out.

DT: *eating* Hmmm.

MW: I think both me and Jason immediately thought "David could play Luther". You could quite considerably be called "a successful actor" in your chosen profession…

DT: *puffs out chest!* Well

MW: …in televisual terms and films and things. Does this kind of, because a lot of things you do, dramas and that kind of thing, does doing things like Luther give you the opportunity to play something a little bit different that you wouldn’t necessarily..

DT: I think it does. I think – yeah. He’s an out and out hero, Luther Arkwright. I mean that’s not the sort of thing I tend to play. I tend to play the more slightly more off centre characters. Either the nutters, or the psychotics or the mavericky types!

MW: *Laughs*

DT: So its quite (different), to do something that’s straight on the money. He’s a right down the centre line, kind of hero. And that’s quite challenging to do that in a sense, cos its quite difficult to make that interesting, to make that kind of human. Although I think the character is written with enough kind of human foibles to give you something to latch onto. But the good guys are always difficult to make kind of breath I think.

MW: Are you aware of the world of comics and graphic novels?

DT: Not enormously. I used to get Marvel comics when I was a kid. As a teenager I kind of got into them again. You know the sort of monthly releases, X-Men, Avengers and stuff like that. But I’ve never really gone into the graphic novel world, and it’s a bit of a mystery to me and I don’t know much about them. So this has been interesting. And in the studio we’ve been looking through the comic book and its fascinating to see what one has had in one’s head and then see how it was initially visualised by the author.

MW: Yeah, cos I liked the way you said "Oh my God, he’s got white hair"

DT: Yeah! I didn’t realise he had white hair. I suppose I just thought he looked like me of course, in a fantastically egocentric way *laughs*. I thought well I’m playing him – he looks like me! But no it’s been great. And from what I’ve seen of the comic book, it’s a very faithful and illuminating adaptation. Very brilliantly adapted I have to say.

MW: The character of Luther himself, he has three very distinct relationships that are at the core of the character. The relationship with Rose, the relationship with Princess Anne…

DT: Hmm

MW: .. and the relationship with Octobriana.

DT: Hmm

MW: and how did you find those to play with the three different actresses?

DT: Well there’s a lovely kind of free love sensibility to it! I think it betrays its early 70s roots *smiles* I think briefly in that. Yeah, Rose is his kind of life partner I suppose, and she spans the various parallels and various worlds that he goes through. But she’s always his constant, and he always returns to her. But she doesn’t seem to mind that he goes off and has these kind of liaisons! She bristles slightly but kind of puts up with it *laughs*! He goes off to all these different time zones and has these errr relations with these other extraordinary women. It’s lovely to do obviously. It’s great to play a sort of super stud!

MW: *laughs*

DT: And er its been 3 wonderful actresses to do it with as well. Siri O’Neal, who I actually met in theatre about 13 years ago now. We were both brand new. So its great to finally work with her. And India, you I’ve heard be so brilliant on many Big Finish things, and was equally brilliant in this. And Michelle was fantastic as Octobriana. So it’s great to have a bit of a James Bond with these three women!

MW: There’s also another relationship that Luther has – with Harry Fairfax.

DT: Yeah *laughs* yeah, ha ha ha.

MW: It must have been great fun to…

DT: It is, its great. Its very good fun. From the moment they meet there’s a sort of, I think Luther finds him a little bit exasperating. But, no, they become very reliant on each other. They kind of save each other’s life.

MW: Do you do a lot of radio acting?

DT: I do, yeah.

MW: Do you favour acting for camera or acting for…

DT: It’s very different. Stage, and screen and audio work are all very different skills really. I suppose in some ways this is nearer to screen work in that it’s not about repeating it every night it’s about getting the moment once on a final take. Obviously it requires different skills and different sets of circumstances cos it’s an audio medium. Its not about what your face is doing it’s about what you can hear.

DT: What did disappoint me, because of the way that Big Finish work, because the sound and effects are such a big part of what they do, we’re all recorded in isolation booths. But when I’ve done love scenes on radio before, we’ve been in a studio, and we’ve tended to act them out *Casanova overtones*. I was thinking "Greeaaat! Three chicks that I get to do big snogging with! And I didn’t get to do it with any of them in this *indignant*, I had to kiss my bloody hand *laughs*!

MW: *laughs*

DT: … and try and make it sound like we were having passionate sex! Which hopefully it will sound like that, and you won’t think of this when you hear it! But that was the slightly crushing element of working in an isolation booth on this particular project!

MW: Do you find it strange that you get asked "Oh David, could you just come and groan for a bit"!

DT: Err, well, yes! Its sort of, not what you expect, and then suddenly you’ve got Paul Darrow growling into your ears as well and interrogating you and it’s quite surreal really. It’s Avon isn’t it?

MW: Yeah

DT: It’s hard not to hear that voice and be transported back.

MW: That’s the thing you must love about working for Big Finish, that you’re coming into contact .. you were known as a, I hate to use the words, Doctor Who fan, before…

DT: *laughs*

MW: I read an interview in Metro, with you..

DT: Oh yes.

MW: … where you talked about being a fan.

DT: Yeah

MW: Have I got it right, that you actually approached Big Finish?

DT: I did! I did! Yeah. Well I’d heard that Big Finish were doing what they were doing. And I’d heard a couple of them. This was way back now. Toby Longworth is someone I know, who’s a regular here. But I didn’t realise that, and I was talking to Toby one night, and saying I’d love to be involved, and he said "I can put you in touch". So… that’s what happened.

MW: You get to meet these people, like you said, Paul Darrow. That must be what you love about Big Finish, that you get to meet these people.

DT: Well it’s fantastic! Yeah! I mean I’ve met a couple of people through normal acting! *Laughs*. For want of a better phrase. I shared a caravan with Peter Davison once. But I thought I’d better not tell him that I’d been a big fan, cos we’re sharing a caravan – he might get a bit scared!


DT: No, its great to come here and get to do this kind of stuff, you know. This kind of science fiction/fantasy kind of world is such fun.

MW: Cos you seem to engage with it!

DT: Well, I grew up loving all this kind of stuff, so it’s wonderful to be kind of indulging in it.

DT: (About Doctor Who) No I sort of fell off a bit, partly to do with age, and going to drama school and things like that, and other things going on…

MW: Girls?

DT: Well there was a bit of that, yeah. Not as much as I would have liked…

MW: *laughs*

DT: No, I fell off when Colin Baker started, no reflection on him. It’s just the way my life went really. And then in recent years I sort of got back into it again. But it was always slightly surreptitious, cos I never knew anyone else alive, who shared this. And then I met Mark Gatiss, and began to think "Oooh, grown up people, sort of - its not that secret". And coming here (to Big Finish) was liberating!

Many Thanks to Lynall for this transcript.