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Bad Omens: David Tennant cast a Shakespearean curse at NYCC 2023

‘I think we should say the word Macbeth. Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth!’

David Tennant speaks onstage wearing a striped cardigan during the Spotlight on David Tennant panel at New York Comic Con 2023 Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for ReedPop

“I hold no truck with such superstition,” said David Tennant on stage during his spotlight panel at New York Comic Con, moderated by Popverse’s Tiffany Babb. He’s about to start rehearsals of The Scottish Play at the Donmar Warehouse in London and was happy to share his “Shakespeare geek point of view” with the crowd at NYCC. “I think we should say the word Macbeth,” he said. “Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth!”

Because of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, the Scottish actor was unable to discuss many of his current or past projects. “Come on SAG” became Tennant’s refrain as audience members shouted out questions about Doctor Who, Good Omens, and other things he couldn’t talk about. Tennant did, for what it’s worth, sneak in a shout out to Ncuti Gatwa, who will assume the role of the Doctor in the next season of the series, while talking about drama school. They both attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now known as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

And that doesn’t mean Tennant couldn’t discuss the broad strokes of his career, the benefits of New York pizza, his many years voicing the How To Train Your Dragon audiobooks, the mostly Zoom-set BBC series Staged with his Good Omens costar Michael Sheen, and lots and lots of Shakespeare.

“I’m trying to learn [the play] before I start,” he said. “That’s what I was doing this very morning.” Tennant will star as the titular tragic hero alongside actor Cush Jumbo (The Good Wife, Torchwood) as Lady M. “The cast is all assembling and it’s very exciting,” he continued. “I don’t want to have to be holding my script too long. That’s the sum total of my preparation, really.” Tennant said that it’s difficult to prepare for a play that one has seen so many times already, in different productions good and bad, but that when Macbeth goes wrong, it “often goes wrong in performance.” And since rehearsals have yet to begin, “right now it’s fine! It hasn’t started yet. Right now, it’s a perfect production. It’s going to be the best production of Macbeth that’s ever been.”

Clearly he doesn’t believe in jinxes, either! But he did admit to making one mistake already. “When you do something like Macbeth,” Tennant said, “some people have gone before you [...] There was one day I started going from version of one speech by Ian McKellen, to Patrick Stewart, to actors I’d never even heard of.” A greater modern access to past performances via film lead him down a “wormhole,” the actor said, that was “fascinating and completely useless.”

Ultimately, his Macbeth will be specific to him. “[Shakespeare’s plays] exist in the moment they’re being performed,” he said. “One of the things that makes Shakespeare tenacious [and why] his plays are being performed as much now as they ever have been, if not more, is that he had such an understanding of what it is to be a human that whenever you place one of those plays, things come out of them anew. Things sing out.” That’s more important, he said, then what words the old titans of Shakespeare like Kenneth Branagh or John Gielgud did and did not stress in their performances.

New York Comic Con isn’t necessarily where one would expect to hear references to Richard II. But it’s not too far off course. So many of the actors he mentioned, like McKellen, Stewart, Branagh, and Whishaw, are all household names in the nerd sphere for their involvement in The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, James Bond, X-Men, Harry Potter, Thor — and the list goes on. Tennant may not have been able to talk about how he is a titan of science fiction and fantasy like them, but he fits right in.

You can check out the rest of Polygon’s coverage of all of New York Comic Con 2023’s news, trailers, and highlights right here.

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