Arthur Darvill is returning to Doctor Who for Big Finish’s upcoming series, The Lone Centurion, and so the audio company caught up with the actor, who played Rory between 2010 and 2012.
In the interview, Arthur revealed he was reluctant to return, but was won over by the scripts. He says:
“If it was dark and moody, I wouldn’t have been interested. The amusing comedy side of it really appealed to me and I just saw it as such a good opportunity for the writers to have a field day with the material.”
He also discusses the joys of recording in lockdown and why he loves Rory so much. He also reveals some of the additional cast, including his wife Inès De Clercq (Broadchurch) and close friend Hugh Skinner (Fleabag).
Here’s the full interview…
Big Finish: So, Arthur, what first drew you to working with Big Finish?
Arthur Darvill: “I was really excited to start doing Big Finish as I’m a huge fan of old radio shows – I grew up with radio comedies like The Goons, The League of Gentlemen, and I used to listen to the old Poirot audiobooks. I really love the craft of it: I like being able to do different voices and the skill involved in that. Something audio does is create such brilliant images in your brain. I get really absorbed in it so whenever I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in anything Big Finish do, I just jumped at the chance.”
BF: You’ve previously worked on some of our other releases – what was that like?
AD: “I’ve done Frankenstein, a Dark Shadows, Bernice Summerfield, and I was still badgering [Big Finish producer] Scott Handcock to let me pop up and do a silly voice, even anonymously in a few scenes, as I really love it. It’s always been a real joy as it’s a different type of preparation and there’s a real sense of fun in it.
“I love the story of Frankenstein – it’s always tempting to make really bold choices, especially with a story like that. I wanted to keep that clinical, methodical approach he has – that’s all in the writing. It’s such a good adaptation, I really loved it.”
BF: What made you want to return as Rory Williams?
AD: “I’ve always been really hesitant to come back as Rory. I felt the work we had done was quite sacred and that story was very precious to me. I didn’t want to do anything that interfered with it at that point.
“And then I had a proper chat with Scott about it. He pitched the idea [of The Lone Centurion], which I just thought was a brilliant one, and there’s real scope for light and fun. If it was dark and moody, I wouldn’t have been interested. The amusing comedy side of it really appealed to me and I just saw it as such a good opportunity for the writers to have a field day with the material.”
BF: In your opinion, what draws audiences to Rory?
AD: “I think Rory’s such a great character as so often, for so much of it, he’s on the outside looking in. I always saw him as being the audience’s point of view – especially in my first season [Doctor Who Series 5]. He was questioning stuff with quite a level of panic, so we meet him at an interesting point where he’s been thrown into a big journey of change, and he’s got time to kill. He’s trying to stay out of trouble but he doesn’t really succeed, nor does he fully invest in any of the situations he’s in, which I think really gives scope for a lot of really amusing situations… hilarity ensues!”
BF: What was the experience of recording in lockdown?
AD: “Well I got to work with my wife, Inès [De Clercq], who’s in one of The Lone Centurion stories, which was great. We recorded them at home because we were in lockdown, but we’ve got quite noisy neighbours!
“I’ve got a sofa and built a duvet fort around it to muffle the sound. I loved being able to come downstairs and go to work in my little hut. We just had such a laugh – you can’t see anyone but you can hear them, it’s such a different type of acting. Normally when you’re doing them you can see each other, but it required a level of concentration so you are really listening to everyone. It’s amazing what technology can do now, as everyone really went for it and got the tone straight away.
BF: For the second story in this box set, The Unwilling Assassin, you got to work with an old friend of yours… what was that like?
AD: “Yes! For the second story, I got to work with Hugh Skinner who’s been one of my close friends for years, and he’s one of the funniest actors I’ve ever come across. To work with Hugh as Lancelot was just brilliant. He’s been in a few things I’ve written; he’s played the same part in a play that had an alternating cast. We were at drama school at the same time, although at different schools, and had lots of mutual friends. We’ve been really close for years and I just think he’s the funniest person. Doing stuff with him was really difficult as I tried to make it sound like I wasn’t laughing… but I really was.
“The casts Scott has pulled together are amazing. We were all at home and people were all over the country, so no one had to travel and it was great. He could get people that wouldn’t normally come down for a day.”
BF: What was your overall experience of recording this box set?
AD: “I had a really, really good time. The nature of it means Rory is the straight man in a lot of it, in comedy terms, which is a lot of fun to do. It was funny getting back into his rhythms, and the writers did such a good job of capturing his tone. Steven [Moffat] wrote him in a particular way and I added pauses and odd noises at times and the writers really jumped on that and all of them wrote for him in the right way. It was definitely his voice and quite nostalgic in some ways to revisit it, in a really joyous way.
“The stories are so good. They are such a romp, proper standalone adventures and you think, ‘This could be actually be a TV show.’ I’ve only listened to little bits of it, but it always amazes me how good the sound design is. They always do such a good job. There’s loads of little Easter Eggs in there as well. They’re really silly in places, and we could all do with a little bit of that just now.”
The Lone Centurion – Volume One: Rome is now available to pre-order as a collector’s edition CD (at £19.99) or digital download (at £16.99), exclusively from the Big Finish website.
Volume Two is due for release in July 2022 and is currently available to pre-order as a collector’s edition box set (on CD at £19.99) and as a digital download (at £16.99). Big Finish listeners can save money by pre-ordering both volumes together in a bundle for £38 on CD or £33 on download.