Derek Mears is nice. Maybe a little too nice. Although he physically fit the part given his 6’5” frame, some behind the scenes of the 2009 Friday the 13th remake were hesitant to cast him as Jason Voorhees, a role he’d wanted to play since he was a kid with alopecia and identifying with the similarly prematurely bald Jason. So, when producer Andrew Form asked him, “You seem really, really nice. You’re gonna be able to switch, right?” Mears got a wee bit snarky, “Yeah, it’s called acting. That’s what I do.”
That is what actors do – they pretend. For obvious reasons, you wouldn’t really want to cast an actual homicidal maniac as Jason Voorhees. However, outside of the horror movie context it is quite easy to fall into the trap of conflating actors with roles and hoping that they are secretly just like the person they play. That’s how you might walk away from a Christopher Lloyd signing a tad disappointed that he’s actually a very quiet and reserved man, not at all like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. And then there are those actors who always have kind of seemed similar to their most iconic role.
Enter Doctor Who’s David Tennant. Beyond the fact that he naturally speaks with a Scottish English accent whereas his Doctor spoke with an Estuary English accent, if you’ve ever seen or heard him interviewed he always sounds just like his version of the Doctor, endearingly excitable, remarkably energetic, impressively motor-mouthed, and altogether charming. Those aspects of his personality don’t always transfer through to the roles he plays, be it the grim detective of Broadchurch, beleaguered barrister of The Escape Artist or the potential villain Kilgrave in Marvel-Netflix’s upcoming AKA Jessica Jones. However, it gives the impression that there was a whole lot of David Tennant in the 10th Doctor.
So, when you hear that David Tennant just used his motormouth to accomplish something no one ever had before you might simply think, “Yeah, that sounds like something the Docto…I mean David Tennant would do.” Tennant was recently a contestant on the popular BBC radio show “Just a Minute,” which has been around since 1967. It’s a simple-seeming yet deceptively difficult contest wherein, true to the show’s title, contestants have just one minute to speak extemporaneously on a single topic which is given to them at random. You participate on a panel of contestants, and your fellow contestants are supposed to interrupt you if hesitate, repeat any words, or deviate too far from the assigned topic. It is rare for anyone to actually last the full minute, and before David Tennant no new contestant had ever done it.
The topic they gave him was “Exit, pursued by a bear,” which comes from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale and is one of theater’s most confounding stage directions. Tennant rose to the challenge (although the following is not actually the full minute):
Technically, his fellow contestants failed in their duties because he used the word “stage” twice at which point he should have been interrupted. They didn’t notice, though, and he now goes down in history as the only new contestant to last the full minute. According to Public Radio International, this afforded Tennant a brief moment in the spotlight, “In the British media, reaction to the good doctor’s feat has been enthusiastic and — like Tennant’s persona — slightly manic. Clips of his speech have been featured on news programs, and extracts have been included in major newspapers.”
The Doctor famously talks his way through problems, nattering on about this or that while formulating a plan and building up to it. As the Matt Smith Doctor once put it, he generally “talks really fast, hopes something good happens, take the credit.” In fact, the episode “Midnight” ultimately turned the Doctor’s loquaciousness into a weakness, presenting a mysterious villain which appears to steal his voice. It’s one thing to do all of that on some location or soundstage in Cardiff, Wales, well-rehearsed, lines memorized, etc. It’s another to do so on BBC Radio, off the top of your head. David Tennant is NOT the Doctor because the Doctor doesn’t exist, what with being fictional and all. That being said, doesn’t this totally sound like something the Doctor would do?
Bravo, David Tennant.
Oh, btw, I know he really talked about Shakespeare, not bears. The title of this article was intentionally misleading. Sorry about that.