Arthur Darvill is thrilled to be back in the Roman robes in The Lone Centurion – Volume One: Rome, due for release in April 2021
Speaking exclusively to Big Finish’s Vortex Magazine, Doctor Who star Arthur Darvill 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, My White Best Friend) and close friend Hugh Skinner (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Fleabag).
So, Arthur, what first drew you to working with Big Finish?
“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.”
You’ve previously worked on some of our other releases – what was that like?
“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.”
What made you want to return as Rory Williams?
“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.”
In your opinion, what draws audiences to Rory?
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 [of Doctor Who in 2010]. 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!”
What was the experience of recording in lockdown?
“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.”
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?
“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.”
What was your overall experience of recording this box set?
“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 [on Doctor Who] 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 – From the Worlds of Doctor Who
Legend tells of the Lone Centurion. A mysterious figure dressed as a Roman soldier who stood guard over the Pandorica, warning off those who would attempt to open it; a constant warrior whose story appeared in the folk history of a dozen civilisations.
Only… he seems to have misplaced it.
Travelling to Rome in search of the Pandorica, Rory (Arthur Darvill) finds himself forced to perform as a gladiator in the Colosseum… where he attracts the attention of the Imperial household.
The Lone Centurion – Volume One: Rome, starring Arthur Darvill as Doctor Who’s Rory Williams, is now available as a collector’s edition CD (at £19.99) and also as a digital download (at £16.99), at www.bigfinish.com.
Plus, Arthur Darvill returns for more adventures from the worlds of Doctor Who in The Lone Centurion – Volume Two, due for release in July 2022 and currently available to pre-order as a collector’s edition box set (on CD at £19.99.) It’s also available as a digital download (at £16.99). Big Finish listeners can also save money by ordering both volumes together in a bundle for £38 on CD or £33 on download.
Please note that Big Finish is currently operating a digital-first release schedule. The mail-out of collector’s edition CDs may be delayed due to factors beyond our control, but all purchases of this release unlock a digital copy that can be immediately downloaded or played on the Big Finish app from the release date.