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David Tennant on the joy and ‘awfulness’ of parenting in ‘There She Goes’

Scottish actor David Tennant returns to British TV this summer for a second season of There She Goes, a brutally honest dramedy TV series inspired by the real-life experience of two parents raising a daughter with a rare learning disorder.

Tennant and co-star Jessica Hynes play stressed-out parents Simon and Emily, while Miley Locke plays their daughter, Rosie, and Edan Hayhurst plays their son, Ben.

The show grapples with the everyday trials, bitter frustrations and sweet victories of raising a daughter with an undiagnosed chromosomal disorder. It also finds genuine humour in that struggle by showing two parents who can laugh at themselves and their lot throughout the experience.

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In one of the new episodes, for example, Simon and Emily spend much of their time trying to downplay — and then meet — Rosie’s demands for an impromptu, out-of-season Christmas celebration.

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The first season of the show was met with critical acclaim back in 2018, when Hynes won a BAFTA award for her performance and Locke was widely praised for her portrayal of Rosie.

The show returns to BritBox Canada this summer on Aug. 18.

Global News recently sat down with Tennant, Hynes and the show’s married writers, Shaun Pye and Sarah Crawford, who based the series on their experiences raising their own daughter, Joey.

The actors and creators shared some of the lessons they learned from Season 1 and what they’re excited about in Season 2.

Tennant, who is best-known for starring in Doctor Who, also explained why he joined There She Goes before it had been officially picked up for Season 1.

David and Jess, tell us about the genesis of this project.

David Tennant: We did. It was about 10 minutes long. And it was a collection of scenes that more or less appeared in the first series somewhere. It was three days and we just had a go at it. I think lots of people, including ourselves, felt like, tonally, this is unlike anything people have known before.

It was quite a delicate thing to get right, and that balance between the comedy, the drama, the real life, the veracity of real experience, can it be entertaining — all those things.

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Also, how to represent Rosie? It was something that everyone felt a real responsibility to get right.

Jessica Hynes: And I think that’s what the key thing is, Miley Locke’s performance (as Rosie), and the way she responded to the part and the direction was amazing. It was spellbinding. We were all blown away by her, and I continue to be blown away by her.

David Tennant is shown with Jessica Hynes, left, and Miley Locke in a scene from Season 2 of ‘There She Goes.’
David Tennant is shown with Jessica Hynes, left, and Miley Locke in a scene from Season 2 of ‘There She Goes.’. BritBox Canada

Shaun and Sarah, tell us about casting Miley Locke as Rosie.

Shaun Pye: We came to the conclusion that it was too much for an eight or nine-year-old with a learning disability to take on. We decided we’d look for a child without a learning disability who could put across that much emotion and empathy without having any words to say.

The way she gives the physical actions, the emotion that she gets over, all of it, it’s like watching our daughter on screen. And the biggest testament to that is that Joey (our daughter) loves watching Miley on screen.

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JH: Because Miley has no lines to say, it’s not true to say that what she does is easy in any way. In fact, I think one of the hardest things an actor can do is to appear to be out of control, and yet be totally in control.

Shaun and Sarah, were you two worried about putting your own life up there on the screen?

SP: Yes, very much. It’s an aspect of life and family life that a lot of people wouldn’t know anything about, and we had the opportunity to give an accurate portrayal of what that was like. And so we felt a huge responsibility to get it right … and not shy away from the bits that paint us in a less good light, because I think that’s the only way it would feel real.

‘There She Goes’ creator Shaun Pye is shown on the set of Season 2.
‘There She Goes’ creator Shaun Pye is shown on the set of Season 2. BritBox Canada

David, you’ve said you thought it was brave of Shaun to paint himself not always in a flattering light?

DT: Almost never! That’s the thing that always struck me. My sense of reading that first script was just how painfully honest it was. You almost felt like you had to look away.

It’s about parenting a very unique child, but it’s also just about parenting and how hit-and-miss that is, and how any one of us as a parent never feels that we’re getting it right … Parenting is often sentimentalized and cleaned up for consumption. Parenting is very scattered and hit-and-miss, and full of triumphs and disasters. I think any parent recognizes the honesty of Shaun and Sarah and their story. I think that’s the killer.

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Jessica, I’d suggest it’s a very joyous series. Would you agree with that?

JH: Life doesn’t exist without darkness, and the light always is brighter when you experience darkness, and that’s what this show encapsulates.

Emily (Jessica Hynes), left, is shown with Rosie (Miley Locke) and Simon (David Tennant) in a scene from ‘There She Goes.’
Emily (Jessica Hynes), left, is shown with Rosie (Miley Locke) and Simon (David Tennant) in a scene from ‘There She Goes.’. BritBox Canada

David, how do you bring your own touch to Simon when you work so closely with Shaun, whom he’s based on?

DT: I suppose because my character’s called Simon, that gives you enough space. So I don’t have to  — well, I sort of do dress like Shaun. There were a few times on set when we were wearing exactly the same clothes. But I’m not trying to be Shaun. You’re trying to say the words as they’re written … and somewhere in that, you hopefully find a new truth.

What has the reaction to the show been like?

DT: Before the first series came out, there was a sort of prickle from certain areas, that this was perhaps inappropriate, that this was not the way.

And then you meet families in similar situations and they are thrilled and delighted and moved that their life is finally being reflected in a way they’ve just never seen before. The imperfection of it, the difficulty of it, the fact that sometimes it’s just awful, and then other times it’s joyous, and it doesn’t all necessarily end with happily-ever-after. It gets into the roughness of real life, and that’s been the thing that’s made it so particularly worthwhile.

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Jess, how about you?

JH: Very much the same, not just from parents in situations similar to Sarah and Shaun, but just parents. I think that there’s something very truthful about the struggle that parents face sometimes, how hard it is to not lose sight of each other when your role as parent takes over.

Shaun, is there hope for a Season 3?

SP: Joey is writing stories on a daily basis. She is literally coming up with them quicker than I can write them in our notepad, but let’s see how this one goes down.

You can watch ‘There She Goes’ on BritBox Canada beginning Aug. 18.

[This interview has been edited and condensed.]
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