On stage or screen, David Tennant is a favourite with writers because of his ability to go from nerdy cop to handsome lover 'in just one moment'. Elisabeth Mahoney finds him taking yet another direction - revving up to play the classic angry young man in a new Edinburgh production
Saturday January 1, 2005
The Guardian

David Tennant has an intense, boyish look. I can see him scurrying past the window of the cafe where we're due to meet. Against the backdrop of a drab winter's day in north London, he cuts an unmistakably Scottish figure - recalling Sir Henry Raeburn's painting The Reverend Robert Walker Skating On Duddingston Loch.
Not a sexy image - one entirely at odds with last year's outing as the lovestruck Detective Peter Carlisle in Blackpool, and his next TV role as Casanova. On screen, in Bright Young Things, and on stage, in Michael Boyd's Romeo And Juliet for the RSC, he smouldered. In person, or at least through pane glass, he seems more, well, couthy. Exactly on time, Tennant reappears. He had, it transpires, "some chores to see to". A quaint phrase - who does "chores" any more, let alone "sees to" them? As he unwraps his coat and unwinds his labyrinthine scarf, his explanation of what turned him on to acting suggests a certain likable geekiness. "My earliest memory is of seeing Jon Pertwee regenerate into Tom Baker on Dr Who, and being entirely entranced. My desire to act came from watching the telly and wanting to be the people on there, wanting to tell stories." Nowadays Tennant keeps a miniature Dalek on his desk. He also, he lets slip later, "collects" Dr Who DVDs. With Carlisle, Casanova and the ranting, tormented Jimmy Porter in Look Back In Anger, soon to hit the stage in Edinburgh, you could forget that nerds have loomed large in Tennant's career. In the BBC adaptation of Trollope's He Knew He Was Right, his Mr Gibson, the vain, creepy vicar intent on marrying upward, was pitch-perfect. As the bumbling, decent Jeff in Lobby Hero at the Donmar, he earned an Olivier nomination for best actor in 2003.

Tennant has, at 33, reached a tipping point. Peter Bowker, who wrote Blackpool, says one of his talents is to be "ugly and handsome in the same scene". "David can go from geeky copper to handsome lover in just one moment - and I think he knows when he's doing it. That's the sign of a great actor. He's very good at capturing those moments when you find yourself surprisingly drawn to someone emotionally." Russell T Davies, keen to distance his Casanova from the uncaring serial philanderer of legend, says Tennant was the only possible choice. "He was funny - not in a slapstick way - and that's one of the keys to the character. David's not your classical screen god; instead he's interesting and intelligent, with a lightness to his acting that not many straight actors have. And, as with Casanova, he does certainly seem to have an effect on all the women around him." When Tennant describes Casanova, you can't help but think of the actor himself. "He's a modern man," he says, "a sort of metrosexual. He's very open, wide-eyed: a puppy dog bouncing through life, eating life up but not doing it at the expense of anyone else." By contrast, Jimmy Porter in John Osborne's Look Back In Anger is a working-class anti-hero, railing against an unjust world and venting his bile on his wife. When the play was first performed in 1956, it seemed to mark the end of drawing room theatre of the kind written by Terence Rattigan and Noël Coward, and the start of a new domestic realism. The Edinburgh production marks Tennant's return to the stage, close to home. Born in Bathgate, West Lothian, Tennant grew up in Paisley, attended the local grammar school, and then studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. He hopes audiences will see beyond the play's anti-establishment reputation. "It's theatre that has been hijacked by history because it did what it did, when it did it, in terms of changing the face of British theatre. Its place in history almost overshadows what a piece of work it is. It's no more a period piece than Macbeth is. It's not about the 1950s - it's a love story, a desperate, twisted, sexual love story." At first Tennant's parents did their best to dissuade their young son from becoming an actor, not that the family were strangers to performance - his father was a minister in the Church of Scotland (suddenly a lot becomes clear) and "my granny was into amateur dramatics. Even just before she died, she was still going round old people's homes, doing little shows for them. It was ironic, really, because she was older than a lot of them who were in there." His break came when he was 16; some pictures of him sent in to Scottish Television landed him a part in a children's drama, by a "bizarre fluke", and he was on his way. Now, he's working with child actors himself: he stars as Barty Crouch Jr in the fourth of the Harry Potter series, The Goblet Of Fire. It's certain to bring him a new kind of fame. While keen to avoid the worst trappings of celebrity self-indulgence, Tennant does admit to one D-list fantasy: Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes. "I'd like to be Jarvis Cocker; he's my karaoke favourite. It's very tempting, and I feel I could do that well. But you are in dangerous territory once you've done that. It's like opening Pandora's box." ·

Look Back In Anger is at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh (0131-248 4848) from January 14 until February 12

Source: The Guardian Jan 2005