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Interview: David Tennant

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Everyone’s favourite Scotsman David Tennant is hitting BBC2 this Thursday in The Politician’s Husband – the companion piece to 1995’s BAFTA and Emmy-winning The Politician’s Wife.  

The political drama sees Tennant play Aiden, a high-flying MP whose career is about to be put to the test. Here he talks politics and power.

“I love a bit of political drama,” says Tennant. “The West Wing is probably my favourite television series of all time. There’s just something about that world. There are very few areas in life where the stakes are so high; where the power struggles influence not just the lives of the people involved, but also the lives of everyone they represent.”

He calls predecessor The Politician’s Wife, “fantastically juicy to watch. Paula (Milne, the writer) really caught that moment in time when a certain echelon of the ruling classes began to realise, perhaps, that they weren’t able to get away with whatever the hell they liked anymore.

“It was the beginning of the end for a certain type of politics – or at least of a certain type of public life, anyway. And I think she told that story very well. The Politician’s Husband isn’t a straight sequel. It’s inspired by similar territory, I suppose, but the story is very much drawn from today’s world.

“The character I play in the drama is Aiden Hoynes. He’s a member of the cabinet and he’s very well regarded. He’s clearly seen as a potential leader of the future. It’s probably not helpful to find real-life political candidates to cast him as – I didn’t base him on one particular individual (which is probably just as well because I don’t think that would have done anyone any favours!). But he’s certainly a man who’s doing very well for himself.

“So at the start of the story he feels that his moment has come, that the Prime Minister of the day is not performing as he might, and that this is his moment. He stands up in the House and argues that the Prime Minister’s immigration policies are xenophobic and that the PM’s position is effectively untenable. How much of that is driven by ideology, and how much of it is a power play? That’s a very grey area, really – it’s hard to say where one ends and the other begins. But the policy may be slightly less important than what he’s trying to achieve by wielding it.”

In The Politician’s Husband, Tennant plays the father of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. He says: “We were helped brilliantly by people coming and talking to us. I wouldn’t want to betray any confidences by going into that too much, but people were very honest with us, which was hugely humbling, actually, and very helpful for the roles.

“When you have a child with Asperger’s, you can’t always communicate in the way that you would normally expect. It can rob people of a normal life – and that is a huge part of the story here.

On power and politics, he says: “That’s what they’re chasing, a lot of the time. There’s something quite egotistical about that. But if it comes from a sense where they’re trying to change things for the better, I suppose it can be a pure and virtuous thing as well.

“Filming the drama certainly gave me an insight into why politics appeals to people – particularly that sense of the intoxication of power. And the fact that you’re making decisions that will change people’s lives. I can see why people are drawn to it. I can see why people devote their lives to it. There are such huge opportunities there, and such crushing disappointments, too. It’s sort of Shakespearian in that way. It’s like a history play in the making.

“What will real MPs make of the drama? I think they’ll love it. They’ll love it because at the end of the day it’s a great bit of drama. It’s got all the hooks and surprises of a thriller, but with the depth and the texture of a quality character piece – because it’s written by Paula Milne, and she knows what she’s doing. So I think everyone will love it. But I dare say politicians will love it all the more because they’ll see their own world reflected back at them. It’s a really fascinating and intriguing series.”

The Politician's Husband will air on Thursday 25th April on BBC2 at 9pm. 

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