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David Tennant on Playing ‘Someone Sweet, Long-suffering and Most Like the Real Me’ for HBO’s ‘Camping’ [EUR Exclusive]

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*Jennifer Garner and David Tennant are set to star in the upcoming HBO comedy “Camping,” —  based on the British series of the same name created by Julia Davis.

Written and executive produced by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, the series follows Walt (Tennant), whose 45th birthday was supposed to be a delightful weekend back to nature, but becomes a weekend of tested marriages and woman on woman crime that won’t soon be forgotten.

“I was drawn to the writing, just flat out the writing was so much fun to say and David can tell you that I had a really hard time saying it,” stated Garner during HBO’s panel at summer TCA 2018 in Beverly Hills last month.

“I mean, being in a scene with David and saying, “Do you want me to have a dysfunctional pelvic floor for the whole of your birthday weekend?” Like, who gets to say that every single day at work? There were things that I got to say that I felt like no one else gets to say these lines,” she added. “So, that was initially what I was drawn to and Jenni directing, and Lena back there writing away in New York, and it was kind of heaven being part of an ensemble.”

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Writer/director/producer Jennifer Konner (L) and Jennifer Garner of ‘Camping’ speak onstage during the HBO portion of the Summer 2018 TCA Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 25, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California.
(Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)

After “Jessica Jones” and “Bad Samaritan,” one reporter asked Tennant if he hit up his agent and asked: “Find me somebody who’s agreeable and submissive?”

“If only I were that tactical and clever,” he replied. “No, I didn’t. But then this came in and you go oh well that’s perfect because you know, you can only play so many psychopaths without taking it home. So, it was lovely to play someone who’s so sweet and open-hearted and long-suffering and possibly most like the real me that I’ve ever done. The physical manifestation of Walt is how I feel inside much more than some sort of sharp-suited psychopathic villain,” explained the BAFTA-winning actor.

“So it was hugely appealing to kind of get into that headspace and bucket hat. And yeah no, I don’t think it was a direct reaction to anything I’ve done before, but it was certainly, quite unlike anything I’ve done before. Although, I think, the character brought more resonances with myself when I wear my hats even in public. I think Jen and I have, and I’m not suggesting for a second Jennifer that she is mad as Kathryn is, but we’ve both had sort of character traits that I think we could identify with.”

When it comes to the actual outdoor activity of camping, Tennant admitted:

“I’ve always assumed before I ever did it I would hate camping because I do quite like home comfort and a shower and not smelling, clean undercrackers. These things are important,” he said. “And so I have only been proper camping once. And it was sort of a disaster. I went to a music festival and we got rained on and I woke up the next morning. There was rivers down the side, either side of the tent we were in. And it didn’t really improve for the four or five days. And I resisted briefly. And then I just surrendered and part of me kind of went feral and kind of loved it, but I’ve not rushed back. I don’t know how. I’m not a natural camper, but there is an area of me that once I can access it, I think I could do that probably quite happily.”

Julia Davis marked her series directing debut with the British version of “Camping,” dubbed as a couples’ camping trip that descends into derangement and debauchery.

David Tennant attends a preview of Baby Cow productions new Channel 4 comedy ‘High & Dry’ at BFI Southbank on March 5, 2018, in London, England.
(March 4, 2018 – Source: Getty Images Europe)

But just how different are the UK and American versions?

“It’s a really interesting question isn’t it?,” said Tennant during TCA. “It’s hard to be objective. I mean, I know Julia Davis’s work overall. I’ve been a massive fan of her forever, and I love that she goes to some very dark, quite surreal places. “Nighty Night” was a work of great genius, “Human Remains” was brilliant. But I hadn’t seen “Camping” until this came up for me, and I sought it out, and loved it. But as genius as it is, it feels very British, and I think it’s got a sort of Mike Lee flavor to it, there’s something very domestic about it, which is part of its joy,” he explained.

“And I think what Jenny and Lena managed to do was to take something that’s recognizably the same show and make it very much their own. I don’t quite know how they did that. But it feels, you know, if you’ve seen the British show, you’ll recognize it, but then it becomes very much its own beast very quickly. But it’s hard to define, isn’t it? I don’t know what’s British about it. But you just sort of know it when you see it, don’t you?”

Mr. Tennant, most known for playing the 10th incarnation of Doctor Who on the long-running BBC series, dished on his process and how much of his own flair he was allowed to bring to the role. He also explained to EURweb.com contributor Ny MaGee which genre he finds most challenging to explore; comedy or drama?

“I think, in terms of the job of it, I think you’re just trying to always do the same thing. You’re just trying to be truthful. And I think the more kind of scrupulous you can be about being truthful, the funnier something is. And I think that’s true in drama as well, as much as there’s a difference. I try to sort of approach the two in the same way,“ he stated. “I think as soon as you try to be funny, it can kind of become a little bit knowing– a show like this, it’s about the characters, and those characters have got to be believable and rooted in something real. I slightly worry that this is closer to the real me than anything I did in “Jessica Jones,” or anywhere else, really.”

Adding, “I love playing those parts, and I love the sort of challenge of that. Walt is, you know, that’s kind of me, really. And so there’s something liberating and slightly alarming about allowing myself to go there.”

David Tennant speaks onstage during the “Call of Duty: WWII Nazi Zombies” Panel at San Diego Convention Center on July 20, 2017 in San Diego, California.
(July 19, 2017 – Source: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images North America)

Konner noted that Tennant “brought so much to the part” and he “had a physicality that was nothing like David’s physicality. He had a way of speaking that felt so different from the person I’d met. And he just brought this character to life, like Jen did with Kathryn. They were like deflated balloons or something, and then these two came in and blew them up. Is that a bad metaphor? You know what I mean.”

“Camping” is set to premiere on October 14 on HBO.

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