It’s been a widely circulated secret for months – the Royal Shakespeare Company at last officially announced that Doctor Who star David Tennant will return to the company next year to tackle the same title role.
The RSC production, directed by chief associate Gregory Doran and also starring Patrick Stewart as Claudius, will open on 5 August 2008 (previews from 24 July) in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Courtyard Theatre, where it will continue until 15 November. From 8 October (previews from 2 October), it will be joined in rep by Doran’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, the RSC’s first staging of the play in more than 12 years, with Tennant playing the lovelorn Berowne.
After Stratford, Hamlet - and possibly Love’s Labour’s Lost - will transfer immediately to London for a limited six to eight weeks at a West End venue still to be confirmed. It will finish in January 2009.
Speaking at a press briefing held in London today, Doran said he had admired Tennant since seeing him as Touchstone in Steven Pimlott’s 1996/7 production of As You Like It, when he recognised him as “a brilliant wordsmith and a brilliant young classical actor”. He was inspired to approach Tennant about Hamlet after watching him unwittingly pick up a skull during the family heritage TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? in September 2006.
While now best known to TV fans for his adventures in Doctor Who, from which he’ll take a year off to fulfil his RSC commitments, Tennant launched his career on stage in his native Scotland. Early in his career, he spent two seasons with the RSC, where his other roles included Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors and Jack in Peter Whelan’s The Herbal Bed. RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said today that, having already spent effectively three years with the RSC, it was “a very natural thing for him (Tennant) to come back and graduate to that toughest of roles”.
John Barrowman interview
MediaBlvd: How do you think American audiences will respond to Captain Jack?
John: I don’t know. I think American audiences are smarter than some television shows make them out to be. BBC America has a very intelligent audience that watch their programs. And, I hope it draws in the sci-fi crowd because I wanna say that they’re gonna love it. I hope they love it. We’re going to have to wait and see. It will be interesting because they’ve never seen a character like this on television before, with his omni-sexuality, as we call it in the sci-fi world. In terms of wording that you need to use in today’s day and age, he’s bisexual, and I don’t know whether they’re going to be able to deal with that or not, but I really think they will. I don’t think it’s going to bug them. It might bug the politicians. It might bug the people who are so far up their own arses that they don’t want to let other people live their lives. But, I think the more people who watch it and let people know they like programming like this, the better it will be for us.
MediaBlvd: Do you think this show presents positive role models because it presents characters who don’t have to explain their sexuality and who just live their lives?
John: That’s the way it should be. It should just be very matter-of-fact. If you’re bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual, who cares? If it does change the minds of certain audiences, that’s great. People who watch these shows are gay, lesbian, bisexual, from the transgender community, and who’s to say that you’re the one to judge who’s right or wrong. That’s not your position, as a human being, to do that. It’s actually no one’s position. The thing that Torchwood does is treat it very matter-of-factly. It’s not an issue. I use the example of when people describe me as, “Gay actor, John Barrowman.” If they were to interview Brad Pitt -- and I use him as an example because he’s very popular, not because I’m in the same kind of category -- they wouldn’t say, “Heterosexual actor Brad Pitt,” so why do they have to put labels on everything else? These are sexually active human beings, as we all are. They’re not afraid of sex. We shouldn’t be afraid of sex. Sex is a vital part of our existence. For anybody who watches the show and is upset by it, turn off the fucking television. It’s so not the norm in America. In Europe, we don’t put that much of a heavyweight on it. It is normal. It’s sensationalized in the United States, which might be a good thing because it makes people watch, but it can also be a detrimental thing. Let it be. Let it happen. And, I think that’s why we explore that. People in the States are intrigued by that because all of our shows cover that. Americans look at it as exploring the issue. We don’t look at it as exploring it. We look at it as telling the story. Hopefully, one day, it won’t be an issue in America.
MediaBlvd: What are the challenges of playing a character that you’ve already established on another show?
John: You have to remember where you’ve come from, and you have to remember what you’ve learned. I have to carry certain things with me into Torchwood from Doctor Who. Even now, while we’re filming Series Two, I’ll read something and say, “Look, I can’t say that because that’s contradicting what I did in episode 3 of Series One.” But, that’s a good thing because Chris Chibnall and Richard Stokes, who’s one of our producers, and Julie Gardner, appreciate that because it shows that I’m passionate about it and want to make it right. If I were watching it, as a science fiction fan, I’d go, “Wait a minute, Jack has just totally contradicted himself.” I’m very much aware of that. So, it is a responsibility because our writers are guests. They come into our world to create our world, but they have to also know what’s happened, and when they make a contradiction, we have to point it out to them.
MediaBlvd: Has there been anything specific that was memorable, either to film or just how something looked when you saw it?
John: I loved the Cybergirl episode because it was just a little creepy. Some of the issues that we deal with are a little risque, like bringing people back to life. The weirdest thing is always to look at one of your colleagues, if they’re laying there with their head split open, or they walk in and they’ve got a stomach prosthetic on, with their guts hanging out. All that kind of stuff is weird because it really looks real. The hard thing to do, at the moment, is when you’re injecting someone with something. You have to do the needle and it looks like it’s going in their arm. All those little things, for me, are a little creepy, but it’s pretend. I love doing it. It’s part of going to work, every morning.
More can be found at the source.