Tag: Toby Whithouse

Doctor Who 5.6 – The Vampires of Venice

I was sold on “The Vampires of Venice” (not “Vampires in Venice,” which is what I mistakenly called it at the close of last week’s recap) by its beginning – well, its second beginning, since there are two. In the first, we are in Venice of 1580 and Guido (Lucian Msamati) has brought his daughter Isabella (Alisha Bailey) before Signora Rosanna Calvierri (Helen McCrory). He wants for her to be a part of Calvierri’s school, so that she can have a better life. Since we’ve all seen plenty of “Doctor Who” at this point, we know this isn’t going to end well for Isabella, and since we’ve seen the previews we also know that Calvierri, as well as her son, Francesco (Alex Price), are vampires (or are they?). So there’s precious little that’s surprising or of interest about Beginning #1, although the sequence ends with a lovely little smash cut from Isabella screaming to Rory (Arthur Darvill) screaming at his stag party, which is Beginning #2, and the point at which I was won over. The two beginnings are also the jumping off points for what end up being the episode’s A and B plots, but more on that later.

Ah, the stag party! Drunken friends, cardboard cakes and the clichéd sound of “The Stripper” wafting through the proceedings. The Doctor may rescue the human race from all manner of grotesque alien creatures and life threatening situations, but this is the first time he’s rescued a human from this occasion that’s grotesque in an entirely different manner. From the moment Matt Smith pops out of the cake, he’s bloody brilliant, simply because he chooses to play it straight, in what’s a thoroughly absurd setup. Many actors would’ve mugged and tried to add to the already ridiculous situation, but Smith (or perhaps freshman “Who” director Jonny Campbell?) allows the scenario to happen around him, and in the process the joke becomes about five times funnier than it has any right to be. I’ve been trying to figure out for weeks now how to explain precisely what it is about this actor in this iconic role that I find so very appealing, and this scene offers up the best example yet of why this guy is the perfect Doctor for his time. Smith’s very much the anti-Tennant, which isn’t to bag on Tennant, but the series really needed this kind of change coming off Tennant’s tenure, and it’s a decision that’s shaping up to be the best one Steven Moffat made for his inaugural season.

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A Chat with Aidan Turner, Russell Tovey, and Lenora Crichlow of “Being Human”

One of the most consistent pleasures of the TCA Press Tour for an Anglophile such as myself is the opportunity to get the scoop on the latest UK imports to arrive on BBC America. In 2007, I was introduced to “Jekyll” and “Torchwood,” and in 2008, I very quickly fell in love with “Gavin and Stacey” and “Primeval.” This time around, the picks to click were “The InBetweeners” and “Being Human,” and although I’ll be waiting a bit to offer up my conversation with the folks from the former, I’m running a bit late in posting my chat with the cast of the latter. “Being Human” actually made its BBC America debut when I was still in Pasadena, but now that I’m playing catch-up, I wanted to share with you the lovely courtyard conversation that I had with the show’s trio of stars: Aidan Turner, Russell Tovey, and Lenora Crichlow.

Join us now as we embark upon…

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TCA Tour, Day 2: “Being Human”

Be honest: if someone told you about a new TV series about a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost who share an apartment, wouldn’t you think it was a cartoon? Or, at best, a wacky tweener sitcom, a la “The Munsters”? Given that I grew up on such Saturday morning series as “Drac Pak” and “The Monster Squad,” I could actually get behind either of those things, but “Being Human,” the new TV series in question, is actually an hour-long drama, one which made its Stateside premiere on BBC America on July 25th.

I could hear a lot of you suddenly exhaling with relief after reading where the show was airing, and it’s understandable. The concept sounds positively ridiculous, but there’s something about the knowledge that it’s airing on BBC America that lends credibility to even the most ludicrous of premises, simply because you know they’re going to treat it seriously. You might not know how, but you know they will. And, of course, it adds immeasurably to the show’s credibility to know that it was created by Toby Whithouse, who’s written for “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood.”

Still, it’s comforting to know that the cast of “Being Human” – Russell Tovey (the werewolf), Aidan Turner (the vampire), and Lenora Crichlow (the ghost) – were equally uncertain when they were pitched the idea of the series.

“We’ve been asked the question quite a bit about how we felt when we first heard it,” said Crichlow, “and even when I explain now to people what the show is about, I see them…”

“Glaze over,” chimed in Tovey.

“To be honest with you, it’s in the scripts and in the characters,” Crichlow continued. “I mean, it just works. But it’s almost the most ridiculous idea in the world. I remember getting the call, and I didn’t know if it was comedy or drama or what the hell it was. But I was two or three pages in, and, ‘Oh, wow, I get it now.’ It’s the fact that these guys want to be human, that it’s steeped in this realism, and that makes it work so well. It’s a credit to Toby. He just made it very easy for us. This was a job that you couldn’t say ‘no’ to. First on, we knew it was something quite special and different and, dare I say, even kind of original in some ways.”

“Yeah, it’s an actor’s show,” agreed Tovey. “The characters go through so many emotions, and there’s so much you can do. I mean, I’m screaming one minute and naked the next minute. I’m crying. I’m laughing. Naked again, screaming again. It’s just such an amazing writing and a great concept and exactly what you want to do as an actor in your mid-20s.

“Oddly enough, I think we’re playing real people in this as opposed to playing supernatural,” said Turner. “That’s why it’s so interesting for us to play a vampire, to play a werewolf, and not the sort of typical way, if there is one, which wouldn’t be as interesting as playing these real characters with real afflictions and real problems and real issues. It’s just so much fun.”

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