Best known for his roles as the Tenth Doctor in the British television series Doctor Who, Alec Hardy in Broadchurch, Giacomo Casanova in the TV serial Casanova, Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Scottish actor and voice actor David Tennant was born 18 April 1971 in Bathgate, West Lothian. He is the son of Alexander “Sandy” McDonald (1937–2016), a minister who served as the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and Helen McLeod. He grew up with his brother Blair and sister Karen in Ralston, Renfrewshire, where his father was the local minister. Tennant’s maternal grandfather, footballer Archie McLeod, met William and Agnes’ daughter Nellie while playing for Derry City FC. McLeod was descended from tenant farmers from the Isle of Mull.
At the age of three, Tennant told his parents that he wanted to become an actor because he was a fan of Doctor Who, but they tried to encourage him to aim for more conventional work. He watched almost every Doctor Who episode for years, and he spoke to Tom Baker at a book-signing event in Glasgow. Tennant was educated at Ralston Primary and Paisley Grammar School. He acted in school productions throughout primary and secondary school. Tennant also attended Saturday classes at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama;at 16, he passed an audition for the Academy, one of their youngest students, and studied there between the ages of 17 and 20, taking his stage name from the Pet Shop Boys frontman Neil Tennant after reading a copy of Smash Hits magazine. Tennant had to legally change his name to Tennant to meet Equity and Screen Actors Guild rules.
Tennant made his professional acting debut while still in secondary school. When he was 16, he acted in an anti-smoking film made by the Glasgow Health Board which aired on television and was also screened in schools. The following year, he played a role in Dramarama. Tennant’s first professional role upon graduating from drama school was in a staging of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui costarring Ashley Jensen. He also made a television appearance in the Scottish TV sitcom Rab C Nesbitt as a transsexual barmaid called Davina. In the 1990s, he appeared in several plays at the Dundee Repertory Theatre. Tennant’s first major TV role was as the manic depressive Campbell in the Scottish drama series Takin’ Over the Asylum. Where he met comic actress and writer Arabella Weir with whom he lodged in London for five years and became godfather to her youngest child. He has subsequently appeared with Weir in spoof television series Posh Nosh, in the Doctor Who audio drama Exile and as panellists on the West Wing Ultimate Quiz. Weir later guest-starred on Doctor Who itself after Tennant left the series). One of his earliest big-screen roles was in Jude (1996), in which he shared a scene with Christopher Eccleston, (Who also appeared in Doctor Who) playing a drunken undergraduate who challenges Eccleston’s Jude to prove his intellect.
Tennant developed his career in the British theatre, frequently performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His first Shakespearean role for the RSC was in As You Like It. He later portrayed playing Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors and Captain Jack Absolute in The Rivals, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Tennant also contributed to several audio dramatisations of Shakespeare for the Arkangel Shakespeare series, Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors, Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice, Edgar/Poor Tom in King Lear, and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. In 1995, Tennant appeared at the Royal National Theatre, London, playing the role of Nicholas Beckett in Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw.
In 2000 Tennant appeared in the first episode of Reeves and Mortimer’s revamped Randall and Hopkirk Between In 2004 and 2005 he appeared in a dramatisation of He Knew He Was Right, Blackpool, Casanova, and The Quatermass Experiment In film, he appeared in Bright Young Things and later that same year appeared as Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In 2005 Doctor Who was revived starring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. Tennant replaced him as the Tenth Doctor in the episode “The Parting of the Ways” He also appeared in a special 7-minute mini-episode shown as part of the 2005 Children in Need appeal. His first full-length outing as the Doctor was in “The Christmas Invasion”. Tennant had fulfilled a childhood dream by becoming The Doctor. In 2006, readers of Doctor Who Magazine voted Tennant “Best Doctor” over perennial favourite Tom Baker. While In 2007, Tennant’s Doctor was voted the “coolest character on UK television”. Writer Russell T Davies made the decision not to use Tennant’s own natural Scottish accent for the character . However he used his own accent in the episode Tooth and claw masquerading as “Dr Jamie McCrimmon” of Edinburgh. He also had a small role in the BBC’s animated Doctor Who webcast Scream of the Shalka. He has also appeared in several audio plays based on the Doctor Who television series by Big Finish Productions. He appeared in the Seventh Doctor audio Colditz, portraying a Nazi lieutenant guard at Colditz Castle, he also appeared in Dalek Empire III as Galanar, a young man who is given an assignment to discover the secrets of the Daleks and UNIT: The Wasting for Big Finish, appearing as Brimmicombe-Wood from a Doctor Who Unbound play, Sympathy for the Devil alongside Nicholas Courtney, who reprised the character of Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
He also played an unnamed Time Lord in another Doctor Who Unbound play Exile. He also played the title role in Bryan Talbot’s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, recorded The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner, The Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole and The Resurrection Casket by Justin Richards. He made his directorial debut on the Doctor Who Confidential episode that accompanies Steven Moffat’s episode “Blink”, entitled “Do You Remember The First Time?” He also appeared with Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor in a Doctor Who special for Children in Need, entitled “Time Crash” and also performed alongside Davison’s daughter, Georgia Moffett (as “Jenny”) in the 2008 episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”. Tennant featured as the Doctor in an animated version of Doctor Who in The Infinite Quest, and also starred as the Doctor in the animated six-part Doctor Who series, Dreamland. Tennant guest starred as the Doctor in a two-part story in Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures. He played the Doctor in four special episodes in 2009, before his final episode aired on 1 January 2010, where he was replaced by the eleventh doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith. In 2013 Tennant and Billie Piper returned to Doctor Who for the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor” alongside Matt Smith and John Hurt and also appeared in the one-off 50th anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
Tennant portrayed the Tenth Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as former companion Donna Noble in three new stories from Big Finish which also Strax actor Dan Starkey, former Davros actor Terry Molloy, and many veterans of Big Finish, including Niky Wardley, who portrayed Eighth Doctor companion Tamsin. Tennant was also in the ITV drama Secret Smile. His performance as Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, was recorded by the National Video Archive of Performance for the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Collection. In 2006, he portrayed Richard Hoggart in a dramatisation of the 1960 Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial, The Chatterley Affair. In 2007, Tennant starred in the BBC Drama Recovery, Portraying Alan, a self-made building site manager who attempted to rebuild his life after suffering a debilitating brain injury. His costar in the drama was friend Sarah Parish, with whom he had previously appeared in Blackpool. He also starred in Learners, a BBC comedy drama written by and starring Jessica Hynes (another Doctor Who costar, in the episodes “Human Nature”, “The Family of Blood” and “The End of Time”), in which he played a Christian driving instructor who became the object of a student’s affection. Tennant had a cameo appearance as the Doctor in the 2007 finale episode of the BBC/HBO comedy series Extras with Ricky Gervais. In November 2008, Tennant played Sir Arthur Eddington in the biographical film Einstein and Eddington, In 2009, he worked on a TV film version of the RSC’s 2008 Hamlet for BBC Two and hosted the Masterpiece Contemporary programming on ABC And appeared in Rex Is Not Your Lawyer, playing Rex, a Chicago lawyer who starts to coach clients to represent themselves when he starts suffering panic attacks.
In 2010 he starred as Dave, a man struggling to raise five children after the death of his partner, in the British drama Single Father. For which he was nominated as Best Actor at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards 2010. In 2011, he starred in United, about the Manchester United “Busby Babes” team and the 1958 Munich air disaster, playing coach and assistant manager Jimmy Murphy. In 2011, he appeared in a guest role in one episode of the comedy series This is Jinsy, and also started filming True Love. In 2012, Tennant played lead in a one-off drama The Minor Character for Sky Arts and filmed Spies of Warsaw, an adaptation of Alan Furst’s novel The Spies of Warsaw, portraying Jean-François. In 2012, he started filming the 3-part political drama series The Politician’s Husband for BBC Two, playing an ambitious cabinet minister who takes drastic action when his wife’s career starts to outshine his. In 2012 Tennant appeared in the ITV detective series Broadchurch and also presented the new comedy quiz show Comedy World Cup. Tennant also appeared in The Escape Artist portraying a talented, junior barrister who is yet to lose a case. In 2014 Tennant filmed the US remake of Broadchurch, re-titled Gracepoint and a second series of Broadchurch during summer 2014. Tennant also portrayed the villainous Kilgrave in Jessica Jones. He is currently filming Mad to be Normal (previously titled Metanoia), a biopic of the renowned Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing. Tennant ALSO appears in writer/director Daisy Aitkens’ first feature film, You, Me and Him, co-produced by Tennant’s wife, Georgia. Tennant also portrays Cale Erendreich in the film Bad Samaritan.
In 2008 David Tennant joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), to play Hamlet with Patrick Stewart and Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost and appeared at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as Hamlet, In 2011, a photograph of Tennant as Hamlet featured on a stamp issued by the Royal Mail to mark the RSC’s fiftieth anniversary. In 2012, Tennant was appointed to the Royal Shakespeare Company board, on the selection committee interviewing and choosing the new artistic director. In 2013 Tennant returned to the RSC portraying the title role in Richard II at Stratford-upon-Avon and the Barbican Centre in London. In 2016 Tennant reprised his role as Richard II in the RSC’s ‘King and Country’ cycle at the Barbican Theatre in London and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.
In 2007 David Tennant was the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” on Top Gear and also appeared in Derren Brown’s Trick or Treat. Tennant also appeared the radio series Nebulous (a parody of Doctor Who) in the role of Doctor Beep, during the 2008 episode “Holofile 703: Us and Phlegm” And voiced the character of Hamish the Hunter in the 2008 English language DVD re-release of the 2006 animated Norwegian film, Free Jimmy, alongside Woody Harrelson and Simon Pegg. In 2009, Tennant narrated the digital planetarium space dome film “We Are Astronomers” commissioned by the UK’s National Space Centre. In 2009, he presented Red Nose Day 2009 with Davina McCall and joined Franz Ferdinand onstage to play the guitar on their song “No You Girls” on a special Comic Relief edition of Top of the Pops. Tennant also appears in St. Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold and he co-hosted the Absolute Radio Breakfast Show with Christian O’Connell.
Tennant also provides all the character voices for the audio book versions of the Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III stories by Cressida Cowell such as How to Train Your Dragon, including the Norfolk yokel of Norbert the Nutjob, the broad Glaswegian of Gobber the Belch, the hissing and whining Cockney of Toothless the Dragon and the sly insinuations of Alvin the Treacherous. He also played the role of Spitelout. In 2010, he also appeared as George in a one-part BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Of Mice and Men and also appeared with Catherine Tate in the Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre as Benedick for which he he won the BroadwayWorld UK Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play. Tennant also voiced a character in the Postman Pat film. In 2011, Tennant started shooting the semi-improvised comedy film, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger in Coventry.He played dual roles: the main character, put-upon teacher Mr Peterson, and his “golden boy” twin brother and rival. He appeared in a multi-million-pound campaign for Virgin Media. Tennant starred opposite Rosamund Pike and Billy Connolly in a BBC/Origin Pictures film, What We Did on Our Holiday, a semi-improvised comedy from the writers of the popular BBC sit-com Outnumbered.He is the narrator on Xbox One video game Kinect Sports Rivals. In 2015, Tennant appeared on the Radio 4 panel show Just a Minute, becoming the show’s most successful debut contestant. During 2017 Tennant is appearing in Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho at the Wyndham’s Theatre.
Tennant was named “Coolest Man on TV” of 2007 in a Radio Times survey. He won the National Television Awards award for Most Popular Actor in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. He was voted 16th Sexiest Man in the World by a 2008 Cosmopolitan survey. Tennant was ranked the 24th most influential person in the British media on 9 July 2007, according to MediaGuardian. He appeared in the paper’s annual media rankings in 2006. In December 2008, he was named as one of the most influential people in show business by British theatre and entertainment magazine The Stage, making him the fifth actor to achieve a ranking in the top 20. He was voted the third best dressed man in Britain in GQ reader’s poll for 2013. In the expansion EverQuest: Seeds of Destruction for the game EverQuest, a character was introduced called Tavid Dennant, named after David Tennant. In 2008, Tennant was voted “Greenest Star on the Planet” in an online vote held by Playhouse Disney as part of the Playing for the Planet Awards.In 2008 he underwent surgery for a prolapsed disc. He is a supporter of the Labour Party and appeared in a party political broadcast for them in 2005; in 2010, he declared his support for then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In April 2010, he lent his voice to a Labour Party election broadcast. In 2012, he introduced Labour Party leader Ed Miliband at the Labour Party Conference. In 2015, he also lent his voice to a Labour Party General Election broadcast. He is a patron of Worldwide Cancer Research.
In December 2005, The Stage placed Tennant at No. 6 in its “Top Ten” list of the most influential British television artists of the year, citing his roles in Blackpool, Casanova, Secret Smile, and Doctor Who.In January 2006, readers of the British gay and lesbian newspaper The Pink Paper voted him the “Sexiest Man in the Universe”. A poll of over 10,000 women for the March 2006 issue of New Woman magazine ranked him 20th in their list of the “Top 100 Men”.In October 2006, he was named “Scotland’s most stylish male” in the Scottish Style Awards.