It’s so moving, so real and unlike anything I have read before or seen before...
David Tennant stars as the dad of a child with severe learning disabilties in a groundbreaking new series. Here he talks about what attracted him to the role
WRITER Shaun Pye, who you may remember as Ricky Gervais’ nemesis Greg in Extras, has penned a comedy-drama based on his own experiences as a parent to a daughter with a rare chromosonal disorder.
There She Goes follows the story of nine-year-old Rosie and how her condition affects both her and the rest of the family.
David Tennant plays Simon and Jessica Hynes his wife Emily, with Miley Locke as Rosie in the five-part series. Here David talks about tackling such a sensitive subject.
What appealed to you about There She Goes?
SHAUN’S honesty. It was so difficult to read at times. It’s so moving, so real and unlike anything I have really read before or seen before. In some ways it has the trappings of a sitcom, but it does not read like one at all. It’s just the clarity of that voice, the extraordinariness of the situation and the familiarity of parenthood.
Shaun is writing so truthfully about this experience. I have known him for years because we have worked together. I have also known him a bit socially, but I had no idea that this was his life. To read something that is written so well and has a clear distinct, honest and funny voice – that’s quite a rarity.
You have worked with Jessica before. Is that pre-existing chemistry important?
YES. I think familiarity is always helpful when you are trying to tell the story of a couple that have been together for a number of years, especially as we zip back and forward in time. Jess and I have worked together several times now, so anything that you can do to develop a shorthand helps. It’s an ease that hopefully will help us to make it as real as possible.
How have you found it working with Miley?
SHE’S astonishing. It’s a very difficult brief she has got because she has no words. But she has got such a pragmatism about her.
Maybe it’s just the gift of being younger, but you don’t sense the kind of self-consciousness in her that others might feel in taking on a role like that. She can slip in and out of being Rosie without any kind of comment. That’s more difficult to do than it might seem, and yet it is what we need in these circumstances. She is a remarkable little girl.
How would you describe Simon? Is it fair to say that he’s a bit of an idiot sometimes?
YES. Fair play to Shaun for accepting that he behaved like a bit of an idiot sometimes. I can see why that must have been awful and difficult and infuriating for his wife, and I can absolutely agree that that was not the optimum behaviour. But I certainly don’t blame him for that.
Are you concerned that some viewers might be perturbed by There She Goes?
I WANTED to do this because it is so honest and so candid.
You do not worry about the political correctness or otherwise of it because it cannot be anything other than just Shaun’s honest story. It’s the reality of what happened to him and his family, and so there is no kind of comment on that other than just, of course, that’s what happened. That is the situation they were in, and the fact that he has managed to be so honest about his own shortcomings within that is creditable as well.
Do you think that what Shaun has done is brave?
IT IS terribly brave, yes, as well as therapeutic and cathartic, I’m sure.
There was one day where we just talked and talked for hours about it all, and at the end he said, “Oh, that was rather a good therapy session”.
I suppose there must be a lot to unpack, and I think writing about it helps you unpack it. But it must also be very challenging to look back on.
But Shaun and his wife have done brilliantly, haven’t they?
YES. It is just wonderful that they have come through it – what a credit to them! I do not speak for Shaun, but he talks very openly about when it could have gone either way. But life worked out for them.
The show is a wonderful blend of comedy and drama. Is that a hard tone to strike?
I THINK it is just life. If it is funny, it’s funny because Shaun is a funny human being, and therefore reacts to his life with a kind of comic bent. What it is not is a sequence of comic happenings.
That has been really important to me; at no point are we trying to construct comic moments. We have got to be ruthlessly honest about how we play it. As soon as you start looking for funny moments beyond the fact of what might happen in a situation, you are lost because you lose the truth of it.
How do you think viewers will react to There She Goes?
IF it is challenging now and again to people watching it, I think that is OK.
It is not like we are talking about something that does not happen and we are not making judgments about it.
It is hard to portray, hard to tell and also hard to make generalisations about, so we are not trying to do that. We are just trying to be open and honest. In the end, it is really good that as a society we just remember all the people who are underrepresented. I am delighted this is happening.
■ There She Goes is on BBC4, Tuesday at 10pm.
David Tennant, left, as Simon, and below, with Edan Hayhurst as Ben, Miley Locke as Rosie and Jessica Hynes as Emily in There She Goes