David Tennant's Guardian Live Chat - Shakespeare, Guilty Pleasures And Performing In Bare Feet

David Tennant took part in a live webchat hosted by The Guardian today, answering questions posed by readers.

Read his responses below:

Richard II: all well and good. But isn't Bolingbroke really the hero of the play: why not choose that character? And if not..why Richard II? Surely the world wants your Richard III? It's the ultimate bad guy piece and more fun than Richard II, surely??

What's great about this play is that there is no definitive hero or villain. Shakespeare refuses to take sides, and that's why it works so timelessly. Certainly Richard is not immediately empathetic, but then unpleasant characters are more fun to play.

Most of my actor friends who took stage names in their early twenties really regret their choices now (they either went for slightly porn star names or named themselves after a favourite pop star who they're now rather embarrassed by).
Do you regret naming yourself after Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys? If you could choose a new stage name now, what would it be?

I am now actually Tennant -- have been for a few years, it was an issue with the Screen Actors' Guild in the US, who wouldn't let me keep my stage name unless it was my legal name. Faced with the prospect of working under 2 different names on either side of the globe, I had to take the plunge and rename myself! So although I always liked the name, I'm now more intimately associated with it than I had ever imagined. Thank you, Neil Tennant.

Saw you in Hamlet at Stratford and Much Ado in London - loved your performances and can't wait until Richard II. Do you still wear red undies when performing ?

It's a lovely question, but I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about ... I don't believe I've ever owned a pair of red undies, let alone worn any. Thanks, though!

Who are your favorite contemporary and classic playwrights and what about their work distinguishes them, in your opinion?

Obviously I love a bit of Shakespeare ... I'm also a big fan of the modern American classics, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Martin McDonagh is touched with extraordinariness. David Hare can be brilliant. I thought Lucy Prebble's The Effect was fantastic. So many.

I'd love to know if there is any particular ritual you follow before you go on stage. For example listen to a certain song?

Rituals -- my pre-show album on this production has turned out to be David Bowie's Next Day, and the closest I come to superstition is that I have to play that every night before I go on.

When Richard II is filmed, will your performance vary in any way from one of the regular performances in consideration of the cameras, or will you do absolutely nothing different and count on the camera operators to get what they need?

It's a good question, and I'm not entirely sure. I think the idea is we do exactly what we do every night and we ignore the cameras, and they send it out into the world. I've never done it before; it's exciting and a little bit scary ...

Adam Lloyd
I read that your first Profesional job after drama school was 'The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui' and that you didn't get a great review. Over the years do you read your reviews? And still get affected by them? Or do you just not read them and carry on with the work.

The bad review to which you refer was actually for a German expressionist piece about the Round Table called Merlin. It was the first extensive review I'd ever had, and it was absolutely appalling. Not that it's scarred into my memory in any way whatsoever. I try not to read them, these days. Reviews aren't really for the people who are performing, and -- good or bad -- they don't help. You always get a sense if something you're in has been well-received or not, that's unavoidable. But beyond that, details are best avoided ...

Anita C
What is your relationship like with your understudy? What is your involvement with the understudy production? I thoroughly enjoyed it, and Oliver Rix made an excellent king!

You're right, Oliver Rix did make / could make an excellent king. It's one of the great strengths of a company like the RSC that an actor as good as Olly is also an understudy. I saw the understudy run too and felt inappropriately proud of the company, both our own company of actors and the RSC itself.

DAVID......What is your guilty pleasure?? Everyone has one! Do not ignore it!! Haha love you! :D

Guilty pleasure? GTA5

Loving the long hair, do you use herbal essences? ;)

Other hair products are available.

Valeria Collins
Did you watch Ben Whishaw's Richard II in preparation for your own or did you make a deliberate decision not to do so? 

I did, and I shouldn't have. Ben is one of those actors who seems to come from a different universe; he has something utterly magical about him. And it took all of the rehearsal process to banish the memory of the performance. I think in the end I've ended up doing something quite different to him, but I am nonetheless a huge fan. And he is annoyingly nice man as well.

My question is, you did an interview in 2003 when you said that you would love to play Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost, Hamlet and Richard II. And 10 years later, you did them all! Is there any other role you would really love to play?

I know -- ticked all the boxes! I still have a few boxes unticked, however. Angelo in Measure for Measure. Iago in Othello. Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Three'll do ...

Shane Korte
You've played serious (or at least mostly serious) Shakespeare roles. Would you ever play the Fool? It seems something you might enjoy, with the wordplay and sass. Secondly, what is your favorite Shakespearean monologue?

My favourite Shakespearean monologue is probably Berowne's speech about love in Love's Labour's Lost. That speech is why I wanted to play the part, and I still love it. I read it a close friend's wedding; it's always been very special to me.

I can't Come to see the play but I'm hopping That Richard II Will be released on dvd very soon. Is it likely to happen? If it is the case Will it be available In the European countries? 

Not sure to be honest. Sorry!

Would you ever consider branching out from acting into other areas of TV/film/theatre such as directing or writing?

I've long fancied a go at theatre directing, but having just finished working with Greg Doran on this play, I feel woefully underqualified! Perhaps one day. And I've got a great idea for a production of Midsummer Night's Dream, but it's going to have to wait for now ...

Cassie Marvin
If a random fan came up to you and asked to ruffle your hair, would you let them?

If anyone came up to me and ruffled my hair? I think I'd call the police.

When preparing for the play how did you arrive at the precise accent and delivery you used. At the beginning of the play you use a very 'posh' English accent with quite a mannered delivery ( not a criticism, it was entirely appropriate for the rather effete king). Did you arrive at this during the rehearsal process or did you decide on this delivery during your own preparations for the role.
Also I noticed that during the course if the play the accent became less pronounced and the mannered speech disappeared, how much was this a conscious decision or something that just happens as the pressure on Richard (and yourself) increases.

It's an interesting observation. I think you're probably right that the accent does degenerate along with Richard. That wasn't particularly conscious, but I don't think that makes it any less appropriate.

Performing barefoot on stage seems to have become a recurring theme, is it a conscious decision you make when developing a character or do you, like Tim Minchin, just find it more comfortable to perform sans shoes?

Always happy to be mentioned in the same sentences as Tim Minchin. I did the barefoot thing in Hamlet and now in Richard II for different reasons each time, although perhaps it does indicate something about a character's vulnerability. Either that or I'm very short on ideas.

Got to go now I'm afraid -- thanks lots for loads of questions, sorry I couldn't answer them all.
See you at the cinema broadcast!

Photo by Andy Dickson