Class returns to Big Finish this month with Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince. BlogtorWho spoke with writer Blair Mowat and actors Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo about the new release.
Big Finish brings us another audio release for the Doctor Who spin-off Class, the young adult drama created by Patrick Ness about four human teenagers, an exiled alien prince and his Physics teacher/last of the Quill attending the Coal Hill Academy. The short-lived programme last aired on BBC One in December 2016. Big Finish then recorded another four volumes of full cast audio adventures with the first release in August 2018.
Once again Big Finish returns to Class, bringing back the critically acclaimed series with a new audio drama written by the Blair Mowat (the composer of Class’ musical score). Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince features the return of Greg Austin as Charlie Smith, the prince of the Rhodians and his boyfriend Matteusz Andrzejewski played by Jordan Renzo.
In the second part of our interview BlogtorWho spoke with actors Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo, who joined writer Blair Mowat to delve behind the scenes into the new release, their roles as Charlie and Matteusz and why the couple resonate so well with the audience.
Back to Charlie
Unlike other actors who featured in the series, Greg Austin continues to return to his role as Charlie Smith so we asked what resonated so much with this character that he wanted to keep exploring;
“It was pretty seminal as a role for me. It was the first time I’d ever really stepped into a lead role in any big fashion. It’s still memorable to me in the sense that it was probably just the biggest family I’ve found on set. The people I worked with on that show and the enthusiasm and love we all brought to it was quite unique for me. I’ve not quite experienced that since in any other project I’ve done. So, it’s partially that sense of community and sense of belonging to something that I keep coming back for.
I love the people that were a part of it and they keep doing cool stuff and they keep bringing me back on, so I keep wanting to come back and doing it with them. Beyond that, being part of the Doctor Who universe is obviously a really cool thing to be able to say. And any way I can interject myself back into that world I will probably take!”
Expanding Charlie and Matteusz’s history
Also returning for Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince is Jordan Renzo as Matteusz which provides an opportunity to expand on Matteusz’s relationship with Charlie and those initial moments which we never saw on screen as Jordan Renzo discussed with us;
“It’s a chance to flesh out all the conversations that you didn’t get to see in the show between the two of us and how we met, well, not how we met, but before the stage that we were at even before the first date. There’s some lovely moments that you just wouldn’t get the time. There were so many stories to flesh out in the TV show that if it had continued, then we would’ve probably gone back into that.”
The diary format suggests Charlie’s perspective but the exploration of the relationship that was a popular element of the show is key, as Greg Austin explains;
“It’s being narrated by Charlie, so you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s got his spin on it, which I think a lot of it has. But I think you’ll often see things taken from a third eye perspective when we flesh out any of those extra moments you haven’t seen in the show. So, it’s up to you whether you decipher those as Charlie putting his spin on it or not. But yeah, we get to flesh out their relationship a lot more, which is as Blair says one of the great successes of the show (see the first part of our interview), how much everyone seemed to love our relationship, and we’re very appreciative for that.”
With the relationship of Charlie and Matteusz at the heart of Class, both young men are also outsiders in a manner of speaking. One is from another planet and the other is an immigrant to the country. Matteusz also had conflict with his family, his sexuality, and all of those things that are really relevant to the young adults today. But these challenges pale in comparison to Charlie being an outsider from another world as Renzo told us;
“I think it’s easier [for Matteusz] because Charlie’s literally an alien from a different planet. But I think it makes Matteusz appreciative of the fact that he’s from Earth sometimes, compared to Charlie who is so out of this world. It’s like that thing, you have sympathy in numbers, right? So, it’s easier to relate to how far off he is, even though I’m distant, but it makes Matteusz feel more connected to Earth because he’s so far off, if that makes sense.”
That commonality of being outsiders certainly drew Charlie and Matteusz together and writer Blair Mowat developed as a theme in this story;
“I think it’s one of the reasons that they found each other and were attracted to each other. There’s a kindred spirit of not quite fully belonging in that space. We even pick up on that actually in the script. Charlie mentions that in his diary. He alludes to that a little bit. So, I think that’s definitely there.”
Greg Austin was also in agreement and grateful for that being the centre of their relationship rather than their sexuality;
“Yeah, absolutely. It’s really nice having a story where that’s the focus rather than the ins and outs of their sexuality. That’s something quite revolutionary for Class, I think, how not weird their sexuality was. Patrick [Ness] was very keen, and Blair has continued that through this story, that the sexuality isn’t necessarily the point of their relationship. It is just a part of their characters. Things like their alien-ness, being transplanted from a different place, that’s more key to them rather than commenting on their sexuality. So, that’s something I really appreciate about their relationship.”