David Tennant relentlessly pursued a career in acting ever since he was inspired by watching the long-running British science-fiction series Doctor Who as a kid. Not only did Tennant, 46, achieve his dream of becoming an actor, he also got to be Doctor Who, specifically the Tenth Doctor – that is, the 10th reincarnation of the Doctor from 2005-10 – who is the favorite of all the Doctors of many fans and critics alike.
For the uninitiated, the titular Doctor is an alien, particularly a centuries-old Time Lord who travels through space and time in his TARDIS (which resembles a police telephone box) with his Companions. When the Doctor is badly wounded, he has the ability to regenerate his body. However, by doing so, his physical appearance and personality changes as a new actor assumes the role. In Tennant’s case, he was preceded by Christopher Eccleston and succeeded by Matt Smith. Tennant grew up watching Tom Baker playing the Fourth Doctor, who was his favorite Doctor.
“It’s lovely playing the cleverest person in the room. He has all the best lines. He’s very enthusiastic… He has this enthusiasm and brilliance and intellectual heft. He doesn’t have rippling muscles, which appealed to me as a scrawny youth. Don’t get me wrong: I love the Incredible Hulk, too, but I never aspired to be him,” said the Scotland-born actor.
Tennant – along with fellow Doctor Who actors Catherine Tate (alias Donna Noble, one of the Tenth Doctor’s Companions) and John Barrowman (alias Captain Jack Harkness), as well as novelist Carole Barrowman (John’s older sister), Clare Kramer (alias Glory from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Eliza Dushku (Faith from Buffy and Angel, Echo from Dollhouse), Marvel Comics founding father Stan Lee, among many other celebrity guests – appeared at Awesome Con from June 18-20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. More than 71,000 guests – record-breaking numbers – attended Awesome Con, which sold out on June 19.
Tennant participated in a Q&A panel on June 19, which was moderated by Dr. Grant Tremblay, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass; and Dr. Matthew Shindell, curator of planetary sciences at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. He addressed an enthusiastic crowd of 5,000 – the auditorium’s capacity – eliciting many laughs.
“Science-fiction is a language about who we are now and who we might be in the future,” said Shindell.
This led to Tennant describing the Doctor in his own words, stating that he knows pretty much everything, which is always coupled with this curiosity and enthusiasm to find out even more.
“(The Doctor) looks out for those who can’t look out for themselves. The fact he’s an alien allows him to be objective about human beings and how we treat each other. He sees the good points and banishes the bad… It seems credible we might get there some day,” said Tennant.
He also spoke about the suspension of disbelief regarding Doctor Who, such as the Doctor’s famed sonic screwdriver being able to scan an entire planet. He stated that the suspension of disbelief works best on the edge of “going bananas” rather than completely going over the edge into the preposterous.
When Tremblay stated that mankind would never be able to travel through time, much to the disappointment of the audience, Tennant looked at him and said “Killjoy,” to which the audience laughed long and loud.
During the panel, Tennant made fun of himself, particularly his 15-year-old sneakers, referring to them as ugly and scabby. When it was opened to questions from the audience, an audience member asked him if he could sing “These Boots Are Made for Walkin,’” Tennant replied with a blunt no.
One boy in a gas mask dressed up like the character from the 2005 Doctor Who episode “The Empty Child” who was looking for his mother approached the microphone.
Tennant said, “I know what your question is.”
“Are you my mummy?” asked the boy as the audience roared.
Tennant even joked about wanting to do a Shakespearean take on the Marvel Universe, asking everyone if they could imagine him doing Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) in iambic pentameter. “Stan Lee is here. We’re gonna have a word,” said Tennant to many laughs.
An aspiring actress asked him for acting advice. Tennant give her three tips:
1). Don’t be late.
2). Learn your lines.
3). Don’t be an asshole.
“Pretty much the rest of it is luck,” said Tennant. “You keep doing it until it works or you quit doing it.”
He explained that one of the challenges of acting – no matter how successful one is in the profession – is getting a job. There’s a low level of panic that actors live with that never goes away because acting is a freelance job, according to Tennant.
In addition to playing the Tenth Doctor, he is currently playing Det. Alec Hardy in the final season of Broadchurch, the British crime drama. Other notable roles include the villain Kilgrave on Jessica Jones; Barty Crouch, Jr. in 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; the voice of Scrooge McDuck on Disney’s DuckTales; and a critically lauded stage performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
“Hamlet was the biggest challenge,” said Tennant. “There’s a lot of words. If you surrender to it, it takes you places, which is why it’s the most extraordinary role.”
While some people asked about his other roles, the subject inevitably returned to the Tenth Doctor. Asked how he separated himself from the Doctor at the end of the day, Tennant simply shrugged and answered, “You just do. You take the costume off and go home. There’s nothing magic about it – it’s part of the job. You compartmentalize as best as you can.”
Tennant also addressed preparing for the role of the Doctor. He stated tongue-in-cheek that he grew out his sideburns and learned his lines. “You can’t exactly research being a Time Lord,” he said. “I watched the show as a kid, so I was pretty steeped in it… You bring as much energy and creativity you can (to the role).”