INTERVIEW: David Tennant On The Power, The Horror & The Naivety Of Kilgrave

As the American TV industry heads into Emmy season, Yahoo! TV are focusing on performances that they consider to be worthy of nomination. To that end, they have spoken to David Tennant whose performance as Kilgrave, the childish, twisted villain from Marvel's Jessica Jones was met with universal critical acclaim upon the 13-part series' release on Netflix last year. 

David was asked to reflect upon some of the key scenes between Kilgrave and Jessica and consider how the show has opened up conversations on the themes of obsession, coercion and sexual violence.

On Kilgrave's declaration of love to Jessica
“…I think in that moment, you see how at sea he is in the world of human emotion and how far from empathy he really is…the fact that this character can switch from that callousness and that rather breathtaking open-heartedness on a dime makes it wonderful to play.”

On filming the police station scene:
"There were so many people in the scene, it felt like something of a theater performance with a bit of an audience…I quite enjoyed the sense of theater performance that that gave it, but that’s my background. That’s where I started, so I think I responded to that."

"There’s not many scenes where you get given a severed head in a plastic bag."

On Jessica and Kilgrave's house share:
"It’s all in the writing...for Krysten and myself, it was such a gift to get to play these really complicated, psychological odd scenes between these two characters who should never really sit down and talk to each other."

On Kilgrave's inability to acknowledge his rape of Jessica:
"I remember reading that for the first time and being quite shocked. It’s a very charged word, quite rightly, and it’s a word that isn’t used, and must never be used, lightly...What’s been very pleasing is that I think the writers handled that sensitively enough that people have responded to that in such a profound way. All sorts of things have been written about sexual violence on the back of that...It went to somewhere more profound than you would expect, and we got to talk about some real issues about consent and about sexual violence. I’m very proud of that."

On working with Kilgrave's traumatic past:
"Of course, that kind of backstory certainly allowed me to indulge that fantasy that Kilgrave was misunderstood and not really a bad person after all, which is quite hard objectively to realize. From the day to day reality of inhabiting someone, you’ve got to find the empathy, however scant it might be."

On shooting in the sealed tank:
"I don’t want to overstate it, but there was something quite isolating about being shut in there a lot of the time. You couldn’t really hear what was going on outside. You couldn’t really tell what they were setting up next, or where they were going next. That certainly helped the atmosphere for shooting it."

David will be revisiting the theme of sexual violence in the new series of Broadchurch, currently shooting in the UK. This time, Detectives Hardy and Miller will be investigating a serious sexual assault. David says of the difference between the roles, "What’s really interesting on that is so far Hardy is trying to come to terms with the psychology of someone who would commit a crime like that. Kilgrave can’t really understand what he’s done wrong."

Marvel's Jessica Jones is available to stream exclusively on Netflix. 

The Emmy Awards are voted for by members of the Television Academy. Nominations are announced on July 14th with the winners announced on September 18th and telecast on ABC from 8pm ET/PT.