Since heading south, Tennant has appeared regularly on stage, not least in: King Lear and An Experienced
Woman Gives Advice (for which he won a MEN Award nomination) at Manchester's Royal Exchange; Romeo and Juliet, The
Comedy of Errors (for which he won an Ian Charleson Award Commendation), The Rivals, As You Like It, The Herbal Bed
and The General from America for the Royal Shakespeare Company; The Slab Boys Trilogy at the Young Vic; Comedians
for Oxford Stage Company; and, in the West End, The Real Inspector Hound, Black Comedy, Hurlburly and >Last year, Tennant starred in the British premiere of Kenneth Lonergan's . Following its initial run at the Donmar
Warehouse, the play transferred to the West End's New Ambassadors Theatre for an extended season, and Tennant was nominated
for a Best Actor Olivier.
On television, Tennant has been seen, amongst other programmes, in Trust, Foyle's War, People Like Us,
Bradford in My Dreams, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), Mrs Bradley Mysteries, Love in the 21st Century, Duck Patrol, The
Bill, A Mug's Game, Rab C Nesbitt, Strathblair, Takin' Over the Asylum, Posh Nosh and the upcoming He Knew He Was Right
and The Deputy. His film credits include Bright Young Things, The Last September, LA Without a Map, Jude and
Tennant has now returned to the National Theatre, where he's previously appeared in What the Butler Saw
to star - alongside Adam Godley, Nigel Lindsay
and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent - in the world premiere production of Martin McDonagh's latest, The Pillowman. In the highly controversial play, set in a nameless
totalitarian state, Tennant plays a writer who's interrogated about the gruesome content of his short stories and their similarities
to a number of child-murders that have happened in his town.
Date & place of birth
Born 18 April 1971 in Bathgate, West Lothian in Scotland.
Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Lives now in...
Crouch End in north London.
First big break
My first job out of drama school was a production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo
Ui which toured Scotland. A couple of years after that, I did a TV series for BBC Scotland called Takin' Over the Asylum.
It was seen in England, too, and probably every job since then has been either directly or indirectly because of that. It's
what brought me to London and got me a London agent and what got me noticed the first time around by the National, where I
then went to do a production of What the Butler Saw.
Career highlights to date
Hopefully, things are a progression, in which case the highlight should
be wherever you are now. I certainly don't think the best is all behind me. I often stop when I'm doing something, in the
middle of rehearsals or some other job, and I try to take a minute to think "okay, this might be as good as it gets, so drink
it in, appreciate it now". So far, I've been lucky because another job has always come along to equal the last.
Favourite productions you've ever worked on
The Pillowman is pretty special. It's the best
play I've read in a long time, it's got a great cast and a wonderful director. The last play I did, Lobby Hero, was
equally special for all the same reasons. The last time I was at the National, with What the Butler Saw, was fantastic
- I made some great friends who I'm still close to. There's always something special about being up in Stratford with the
RSC, which I've done a few times. And there was a production of King Lear at the Manchester Royal Exchange, which was
the best social time I ever had on a show. I haven't had many grim experiences really. I think back fondly on most productions.
The three guys in this - Jim Broadbent,
Adam Godley and Nigel Lindsay - are pretty
hard to beat. I've worked with all three previously on different things, but we never had any scenes together so it's nice
to have some now. All the cast of Lobby Hero are favourites. I also get a real kick out of working with legends. I
did a film called The Last September with Maggie Smith and Michael
Gambon; that was a blast. But there are so many favourites. It feels churlish to pick people out.
John Crowley has been fantastic on
The Pillowman - very understanding, intelligent, relaxed. He was great during previews, he really helped us sharpen
it up. Howard Davies is pretty unparalleled. Michael Boyd is touched with a mad genius - he's wonderful, unique and brilliant. And Mark Brokaw was lovely on Lobby Hero. I'd like to work with Deborah Warner in theatre.
So far I've only worked with her in film, on The Last September. There's also a director that I worked with back in
Dundee Rep days called Richard Baron who is a real talent. He's an associate at Nottingham
Playhouse now and he's going to be huge.
If I don't say Martin McDonagh, he'll
hit me over the head with a blunt instrument, so I'd better say him - though, I do honestly think he's an extraordinary talent.
And I love that whole strain of American writing, starting with Eugene O'Neill through
Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and right
up to Kenneth Lonergan. I love their unashamedness in tackling grand themes on a domestic
level. It's very potent. Of course, there's Shakespeare, too. He's impossible to get around.
What roles would you most like to play still?
Hundreds. How long have you got? Starting with Shakespeare,
there are a load: Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost, Angelo in Measure
for Measure, Richard II. I tried to persuade Michael Boyd to let me do Hamlet,
but he'd already gone and signed up Toby Stephens! Other parts? Jimmy Porter in Look
Back in Anger, Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest, either of the men in Closer. Early on in my career,
at Dundee Rep, I played Tom in The Glass Menagerie and Edmund in Long Day's Journey into Night and I'd love
to do both of those again, although I might be getting too old now, which is a worrying thought. The Crucible would
be fantastic. I don't know if I could do John Proctor because they usually like someone beefier, but Reverend Hale would be
good. In fact, I'd love to do any Arthur Miller - A View from the Bridge, All My
Sons, Death of a Salesman, the lot. I could go on. There are just so many good plays.
What's the last thing you saw on stage that you really enjoyed?
I thought Katie Mitchell's Three
Sisters was heart-stopping, such a rounded, rooted, beautiful production and the acting was immaculate. I'd been slightly
dreading it because I was knackered that day and it was so long and I'd just recently seen the other West End production of
Three Sisters, but I was gob-smacked. At the end, I wanted to stand up and cheer - but I didn't, of course, because
What would you advise the government - or the industry - to secure the future of British theatre?
think the big national companies are in good hands at the moment. Nicholas Hytner
is storming here at the National, and although Michael Boyd has a lot to sort out
at the RSC, he is so the man for the job and his ideas for the future sound thrilling. The smaller subsidised theatres - the
Donmar, the Almeida, the Royal Court - they all seem to be thriving too and doing good work. It's the West End I worry for.
The buildings are literally falling to bits and, at the same time as the theatregoing experience is becoming less thrilling
and less comfortable, it's also becoming more expensive. That does filter back, because commercial and subsidised theatre
work off each other. These great playwrights the Royal Court and others are nurturing need some place to progress to where
they can actually make a living as artists. I think the people in charge in the West End are trying, but it does feel like
the wheels are falling off the cart a bit at the moment.
If you could swap places with one person (living or dead) for a day, who would it be?
not to have slightly impure thoughts when you're asked a question like that. In fact, I can't think of anything that wouldn't
be totally prurient and unprintable.
Favourite holiday destinations
I go back to Scotland but I don't count that as holiday. I went to
Madrid for New Year. That was nice. And I'm going to Boston later this month. My girlfriend (actress Natalie
Walter) is doing Peter Hall's As You Like It on tour in the States and I'm going to visit her.
I've never been to Boston before so I don't know if I'll like it but I hope to.
Jeannette Winterson's The Passion. Everything by JD Salinger - well, that's
only four books. Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting was pretty seminal, too. I'm reading the sequel, Porno, now.
Favourite after-show haunts
I've been a member of Soho House for a couple of years now. It's a terrible
actors' cliché, I know, but it is very handy, it's open late and I do like all the Soho nonsense. But, for The Pillowman,
I'm more likely to head to the backstage bar at the National. It's convenient.
Oh, it's a real anorak admission. I've been an obsessive Doctor Who fan
since I was a child and it persists to this very day. The BBC run a Doctor Who
website and I go on almost every day to check the latest news. Doctor Who is the finest piece of television that has
ever been made anywhere. They're putting together a new TV series next year and Bill Nighy is supposed to play the doctor. I've been onto my agent to see if I can get a part, but she's not keen. She says I'll
never work again if I do it. I'm proud to say, though, that I have already performed in a couple of audiobook episodes. That
If you hadn't become an actor, what would you have done professionally?
I was always going to act,
literally ever since I was tiny. In fact, I have Doctor Who to thank for that. I wanted to become an actor after being
obsessed with Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor Who, in the 1970s. His was the definitive performance of all time in anything.
Why did you want to accept your part in The Pillowman?
I couldn't not accept it. When you're
sent a script that brilliant, you just can't say no. Also, I hadn't done theatre for about a year, since Lobby Hero,
so I was up for doing some. Out of the blue, this came up. My agent is Jim Broadbent's
agent and Jim was already signed up. She was convinced this was going to be the best new play of the year. I couldn't disagree.
Do you think writers are responsible for any consequences of their writing?
Writers, and all artists,
have a responsibility to express themselves. That's all they can have - what else have they got to go on? You've just got
to express what you yourself believe in. Otherwise, you're not an artist, you're someone else's mouthpiece. And who defines
what's right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable? These are arbitrary judgements made after the event. I think someone who
shocks just for the sake of shocking isn't an artist. But if they're shocking because that's the only way they know how to
express their actual worldview, that is valid. Which is Martin McDonagh trying to
do when he writes plays like The Pillowman? There's no point in trying to second-guess, Martin - he'd only say I got
it wrong anyway. But I do believe that his work comes from a place of true creativity.
What were your favourite stories as a child?
The books I read as a child were all Doctor Who
books! There were hundreds of episodes, which were all novelised, and that's all I ever wanted to read. I loved monsters,
aliens and other creatures. I remember being obsessed with the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti. I don't think they scared me,
but there's was something about the unknown that tickled my fancy.
What's your favourite line from The Pillowman?
One I'm very fond of that I say is: "You
came fourth out of fucking four in the fucking discus." And there's a great one that Nigel Lindsay says: "My first step would be to torture the prisoner with the aforementioned electricity, wasn't it?"
What's the funniest thing that's happened to date with The Pillowman?
In rehearsals, Jim Broadbent did a very funny one-man impersonation of the RSC. It involved him drumming loudly
on a metal cabinet while chanting "all hail the king". You had to be there, really. Maybe he'll reprise it for a cabaret act
What are your plans for the future?
The Pillowman runs until March so there's nothing else
too immediately. On TV, I'm in a BBC serialisation of Anthony Trollope's You Knew He Was Right, which comes out in
the spring, and I've done a pilot for another BBC show called The Deputy so we might do some more of that.