David Tennant and Emily Watson talk The Politician’s Husband

Tennant and Watson star as a husband and wife balancing the world of Whitehall and the politics of their marriage in a new drama from Paula Milne

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David Tennant on why he took the role…

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I love a bit of political drama; The West Wing is probably my favourite television series of all time. There’s just something about that world. There are very few areas in life where the stakes are so high; where the power struggles influence not just the lives of the people involved, but also the lives of everyone they represent. It’s almost Greek in that way, in terms of the stakes being so monumental and the power struggles going on in that world being so petty – and yet so universally important.

On his character, Aiden…

The character I play in the drama is Aiden Hoynes. He’s a member of the cabinet and he’s very well regarded. He’s clearly seen as a potential leader of the future. It’s probably not helpful to find real-life political candidates to cast him as – I didn’t base him on one particular individual (which is probably just as well because I don’t think that would have done anyone any favours!). But he’s certainly a man who’s doing very well for himself.

On Aiden and Freya’s marriage…

Aiden has a very solid marriage with Freya, played by the magnificent Emily Watson. She’s also an MP and doing quite well for herself, though she’s playing second fiddle to Aiden, who is the high flier. But they work very well together and they’ve always supported each other. In fact we learn quite early on that she writes Aiden’s speeches. They have two kids, Noah and Ruby, and a very happy family life. It’s made slightly difficult by the fact that Noah has Asperger’s and struggles a little bit with his parents’ public, high-stress lifestyle, but they manage to cope and they have a support network around them. But when the wave of support they expected to carry Aiden to his coronation evaporates in front of him, the roles are reversed.

On a couple under strain..

Aiden loses his frontbench job and Freya finds herself brought into the cabinet. And a marriage which had seemed so strong and impregnable suddenly finds that its fault lines have been exposed, and they have to cope with this very different power structure within their relationship… As things go on, however, we find that Aiden and Freya aren’t quite the golden couple they believed themselves to be, and that comes out quite violently within their relationship at one point, and in quite a shocking way.

On his sleek hairdo…

I had a certain amount of say in Aiden’s look. Looking at a lot of the political faces we see regularly on the news, I was struck by how coiffed they are. They often seem to go for a sort of Eighties soap star kind of look. But then of course that’s what is expected, isn’t it? You’re expected to look sleek and slick. And I guess you also need a look that you can contain through a day when you’re doing four different things at once. So I wanted to find something that gave a sense of that.

David Tennant has starred in Doctor Who, Spies of Warsaw and Single Father. He is currently playing DI Alec Hardy in ITV crime drama Broadchurch.


Emily Watson on why she took the role…

The first thing that attracted me to this was that it was a cracking piece of writing. It’s just a gripping story between these two characters. I also think Freya is quite an unusual female character. She’s strong, faithful, sexual, political, ambitious, she’s a mother; all of that rolled into one. She’s a lot of different things that are usually compartmentalised into different packages in female character

On her character, Freya…

When we first meet her, Freya is the junior education minister. She’s seen as a high flyer with big prospects. We also know that she met Aiden and Bruce at university. So the story I constructed in my head was that they were probably all at Oxford together – all very brilliant, clever young people. In the beginning I think Freya probably wanted to change lives; I think that’s innate in her. But I think they also quickly learned to embrace the political way of thinking. They’re people who came through the Westminster system from a young age. They probably started off as interns and have learned how to work the system.

On Freya and Aiden’s marriage…

Outwardly they look like a normal family with a nice suburban home, a couple of kids and successful careers. But that only scratches the surface. Their sexual relationship is quite interesting, put it that way! Their sexual tastes are slightly to the left of usual; quite edgy and aggressive. I think they’re the sort of couple who, if they have a problem, solve it in bed. They don’t necessarily talk about things in the way they should. I think that’s one of the interesting things about this drama. It takes a public couple and then shows you what happens behind closed doors, to reveal an archetypal power struggle between two individuals.

On playing the mother of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome…

I did quite a bit of research after taking on the role… We met with a mother whose son has Asperger’s. She was a brilliant and very impressive woman, but you could see how distressing it had been for her family – what an enormous challenge it had been for them. To her it felt like something that had landed in their lives that they weren’t equipped to deal with. They were just having to cope with it on a daily basis and it was never going to change, never get any better. When she turned up she basically said, “Look, I decided on the way here that I’m not going to beat around the bush – I’m going to be honest with you about how hard it is. I won’t do the soft sell on it. I’m just going to tell you what it’s like.” And we were in tears by the end. It was really distressing. You could see how destructive it can be on family life.

On her favourite part of the series…

For me, one of the most interesting moments in the drama was being interviewed by Kirsty Wark. In one scene in episode one, Freya agrees to an interview with her, and she gets a grilling. Obviously Kirsty filmed those scenes herself. It was amazing to meet her. I’ve followed her career and feel like I’ve grown up with her. And she was lovely. In the scene she basically turns on me and goes in for the kill. I have to say that felt quite real.

Emily Watson has recently appeared in War Horse, Anna Karenina and Appropriate Adult.


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The Politician’s Husband starts on Thursday 25 at 9:00pm on BBC2