David Tennant on Hollywood’s fight for equality: 'We’ve all got a bit of programming we need to unpick' (exclusive)


David Tennant is at the Glasgow Film Festival to discuss his latest movie, You, Me and Him, the rom-com story of a lesbian couple, Alex (Faye Marsay) and Olivia (Lucy Punch), who get involved in an awkward situation with their neighbour John (Tennant) when they decide they want to have a baby, which leads to a series of terrible decisions.

The character’s a departure for Tennant, with You, Me and Him‘s John a mixture of ageing hipster and toxic masculinity. It begs the question…

Yahoo Movies UK: How did you get involved with the project?

David Tennant, Faye Marsay, and Lucy Punch in ‘You, Me, and Him’.
David Tennant, Faye Marsay, and Lucy Punch in ‘You, Me, and Him’.

David Tennant: It came to me because Phin Glynn and Georgia Tennant – and the name is relevant, because I’m married to her – are the producers of the film. They took this idea to Daisy Aitkens, who wrote it and directed it, and I knew Daisy because she’s a friend of Georgia’s, so there was a family connection when they brought it to me – not immediately, I have to say, but when they’d exhausted all other possibilities, they said ‘Oh, he’ll do.’

I’ve interviewed four directors at this festival, and three of them have been women – you’ve just worked with Daisy on You, Me and Him, have you noticed a change in the industry, either before you embarked on this project, or just after?

I think a shift is clearly happening, the impact of that in terms of who gets the jobs, it might be too soon to know. I’ve been quite lucky, I’ve worked with quite a number of female directors, though not as many as I’ve worked with male directors, but maybe more than most.

It’s just the opportunities, isn’t it? What’s interesting about this whole movement is that at one end of the spectrum there’s some serial sex offenders being brought to book – that’s as it should be, and not before time.

But what’s more interesting long term is the other end of that discussion, it makes everyone realise that we’ve all got a bit of programming we need to unpick, in terms of how we think about things. The industry as a whole needs to do a bit of that. That might mean a bit of positive discrimination for a while to balance the scales a bit.

I spoke to Ruth Wilson recently, and she said that men are going to have to lower their wages at the BBC in order for equality to happen – is that something you’d be prepared to do?

Do you know what, it’s not something I’ve considered – it’s something that’s on a case-by-case basis as a freelancer, isn’t it?

Myself, Lucy and Faye were on a favoured nations deal for You, Me and Him, that’s how it was prescribed to me, and that felt right and proper. I don’t know how much one should discuss other people’s wages…

Certainly on something like Broadchurch, Olivia (Colman) and I were on a favoured nations deal. I don’t know if that’s increasingly the case, or if that’s just the situations I’ve been in. Each situation will have different circumstances. But it’s part of the conversations that need to be being had.

From now on, it’s something I will be aware of, it will be talked about. It’s opened up a very important conversation, which it should. I suppose what I’m saying is, I have been in situations where it’s been handled appropriately and correctly, and I would hope that would be more the norm now.

You mention Broadchurch, what do you think Chris Chibnall will bring to Doctor Who?

Well, I’ve heard a couple of story ideas which are brilliant. Chris has been steeped in Doctor Who for his entire life. He will bring that, he will bring his enthusiasm, he will bring his brilliance, and also he will bring Jodie Whittaker, which is a stroke of genius.

I can’t pretend to know any more than anyone else does, but I have great optimism that it’ll be very exciting.

And it’s another step forward in terms of equality, how did you feel when you heard Jodie had been chosen?

When I first heard, it was a thrill – Jodie’s a friend and I think she’s amazing. I’m so thrilled she’s got her own series, it’s so deserved that she’d be at the forefront of a big show.

I also know how funny and anarchic and brilliant Jodie is. She does such brilliant work in everything she does, but I don’t know if we’ve seen that side of her. I suspect something like the Doctor will allow us to see that. If she channels her own joie de vivre into it, it’ll bring the character a lovely fizz of life.

Is it possible to prepare for a role like the Doctor?

I think if you’ve been around the industry at all, you’re aware of what it means. Jodie is already a better known face than I was when I took over, but you can know what it is and experience it, and the two are slightly different.

It’s unique because of the type of show, it’s cross-cultural and cross-generational, and even people who don’t watch Doctor Who are aware of it, it’s a part of our culture.

So, yes and no – you can know what’s coming and be aware that it’s going to change your life but I don’t know if you really know what that feels like until you experience it, and it’s good and bad, to be frank.

You’ve got Good Omens coming up, what’s it like playing a demon?

It’s been great fun. The particular demon of Crowley is enormous fun to play, because he’s got a louche anarchy to him which is hugely enjoyable. And also because he’s not all bad, he’s a demon who has a soft heart, just as Michael Sheen’s Aziraphale is an angel with a bit of a wicked glint in his eye, so together they form an unlikely but rather appealing duo.

It’s an extraordinary, bonkers, sweeping story that comes from the most bizarre corners of Terry Pratchett’s and Neil Gaiman’s imaginations, so it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.

How familiar were you with the book?

I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t, because now I’m becoming increasingly aware of how much it means to so many people. It’s something people hold very close to their hearts. So then you feel the weight of responsibility. But we’ve got Neil Gaiman showrunning it for us, so we’ve got the boss legitimising any decisions we make.

There’s a villainous air about the projects you’ve got coming up, you’ve got Good Omens and Bad Samaritan – what can you tell us about that film?

It’s a proper jump out of your seat thriller, in quite an old fashioned way – and I mean that in the best possible sense. Dean Devlin is a lover of movies, and of the effect of movies, the fun of movies, and that’s something he poured into this project. It’s the sort of thing I don’t think you can avoid having a great time going to see. It’s a proper nail-biter, it’s unapologetically a thriller, and I don’t feel like I’ve seen that for quite a long time.

Jessica Jones is such a good show, and Kilgrave is pretty prescient in terms of what’s been happening in Hollywood…


… are you looking forward to Jessica Jones coming back for season two?

I don’t think it’s a secret that I do make an appearance in season two, but I don’t know a great deal about what else goes on, so I’m looking forward to seeing it. I watched The Defenders recently, and it was so pleasing to see all of the characters, but especially Jessica, doing some stuff where I didn’t know what happened next. I’ll be looking forward to it, just because it’s a great show. It’s a joy that it’s coming back.

You, Me and Him will in be UK cinemas on 12 April. The Glasgow Film Festival runs from 21 February to 4 March.

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