The David Tennant Podcast goes global as he dips into the world of American politics to chat with Stacey Abrams
The second season of David Tennant Does a Podcast with… continues to see the former Doctor Who actor rise to new challenges as he talks to politician and activist Stacey Abrams. And, sure, last series he talked to Gordon Brown. But it’s clear that interviewing someone actively involved in politics, rather than a retired Prime Minister, presents very different challenges.
Among her other accomplishments, Abrams was one of those on many people’s short lists for a potential Democrat nominee for Vice President. Biden has since announced Kamala Harris as his final VP pick. But Team Tennant recorded this when Abrams was still in the running for the role. So it’s certainly the first time Tennant has run into the political speak of “I will need to refer any questions on that to…” And although Abrams declines to comment on the vetting process, deferring to Biden’s official spokespeople for all questions on that, she’s remarkably candid elsewhere.
A massive Doctor Who fan, Stacey Abrams has even called upon the show for comfort at times of political need
Her candor is part of her character, and one of the secrets of her success. Abrams mixing a balanced, mature view of political divides, yet never afraid to express that view without compromise. But perhaps it helped that she’s such a Tennant fan. The discussion covers her childhood growing up watching Tom Baker era Doctor Who on PBS. And also her excitement when Russell T Davies revived the show. And the total enthusiasm she and her two sisters share for the Tenth Doctor, in particular.
It’s remained a touch stone in her life to the extent that when called upon to deliver the Democrat rebuttal of Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last year, she centred herself before hand by watching half a dozen or so episodes of Doctor Who, covering Martha’s departure and Donna’s arrival. Though it’s tempting to imagine that she may have been drawing on the storyline for inspiration too. After all, weaponizing humankind’s better nature to overthrow the Master’s regime seems even more appropriate now.
And now a little word from our sponsors
Blogtor Who needs to mention another change from the last series of David Tennant Does a Podcast with… There are now ads featuring David and Georgia Tennant dropped right into the middle of the podcast. They are, in truth, a little disorientating at first, with the Tennants having a casual chat in which they happen to repeatedly mention the greatness of the products (in this case Skillshare and Harry’s razors). So it takes a moment to adjust to the sudden departure from the interview. Once you do, though, they’re gloriously twee in the very best way. Though they’re crying out for an interruption from Michael Sheen, in Staged mode.
A former Democrat candidate for Governor of Georgia, Abrams is passionate about the need to combat voter suppression
But while Abrams may admit it may have been pure geographical distance that stopped David Tennant dealing with three stalkers from Atlanta, Doctor Who is just one of her many passions. She’s the author of ten books for instance. These include serious political tomes like Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America. But also, as Selena Montgomery, her romantic fiction like The Art of Desire. She’s founded multiple organizations aimed at improving life in America, most prominently Fair Fight Action, devoted to combating attempts to suppress voting rights. Abrams’ 2018 campaign to become the Governor of Georgia underlined the need for action. She lost by only 50,000 votes at a time when her rival Brian Kemp, in his then role as Secretary of State was responsible for supervising the election he himself was taking part in. He purged hundreds of thousands of voters, most of them likely Democrats, from the electoral register. Meanwhile he also blocked the registration of 53,000 people wanting to vote.
Describing her feeling about it, Abrams cites Bruce Banner in the first Avengers movie. “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.” Hers is an anger which doesn’t explode uncontrollably. Instead it’s a steady engine powering the work she does with such seeming calm. And the picture that emerges of the activist under Tennant’s gentle probing is of someone refusing to get lost in the unproductive haze of political vengeance or tit for tat politics.
“The glass is half full. Of poison.”
Tennant asks for instance about the difficulty of tackling Donald Trump. After all he’s a man apparently incapable of being shamed or being made to feel like he’s in the wrong. And Abrams responds with a warning against getting sucked into caring about making him feel anything. For her, the focus has to be on the people, and what they feel and think and need. And rebutting Trump’s rhetoric is a part of that, but all attempts to hurt his feelings are pointless and wasteful.
The same principle informs her discussion of her time as the Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, and almost everything she does. Abrams comes across firmly as a woman constantly busy, motivated by a passion for correcting injustice. But one rarely indulging in the luxury of outrage. She’s certainly no blind optimist either. (She describes her worldview as “the glass is half full. Of poison.”) But she’s certainly a believe in the capacity of people to overcome, and dedicated to being part of the process. (“But I’m going to have to drink that water at some point,” she continues, “so I’m working on the antidote.”)
Stacey Abrams is determined to make a real difference, in whichever role she needs to accomplish it
Similarly, she’s no standard career politician. Neither the type to pick up a paycheck for quietly snoozing at the back of the chamber, or one obsessively questing for power for its own sake. She has no interest in running for jobs just to look good on her C.V., she declares. Even a position in a hypothetical Joe Biden cabinet isn’t something she would automatically accept. Only if she believes she can use it as a vehicle for progress on the issues most important to her.
David Tennant, at times given to far more energetic language than his guest, describes this November’s election as a chance to “restore some semblance of democracy” to the United States. And he signs off wishing both the Democrats and Abrams, in particular every success. And, on the evidence of this week’s podcast, that hypothetical Biden cabinet would be all the better for the presence of a Secretary Stacey Abrams in it. Now all we need is a network of fifteen satellites…
Next week two universes collide, as the Tenth Doctor meets Captain Hikaru Sulu! Yes, it’s time for Doctor Who and Star Trek to come together for David Tennant Does a Podcast with… George Takei!