David Troughton interview: ‘Watching dad play Doctor Who on TV was quite normal for us’

David Troughton as Tom Oakley with Elisa de Grey (puppeteer for Sammy the dog) in Goodnight Mister Tom. Photograph: Dan Tsantilis
29 Mar 2016 @ 10.04 pm
| News

David Troughton is one of Britain’s most talented character actors – and York has a chance to see him star in one of our best-loved stories this week.

Grand Opera House, York

Tues Mar 29-Sat Apr 2 @ 7pm; matinees Wed, Thur, Sat


0844 871 3024

More details & book tickets

He stars as Tom Oakley in the classic family tale Goodnight Mister Tom at the Grand Opera House.

He talked to YorkMix about the emotional pull of the story, having Doctor Who – aka Patrick Troughton – as your dad and starring as Tom Archer The Archers with his real-life son Will.

David’s half-brother Mark Troughton is the pastor of York Evangelical Church and David is looking forward to returning to the city.

‘His grumpiness is all me’

Alex Taylor-McDowall as William with David. Photograph: Dan Tsantilis
Alex Taylor-McDowall as William with David. Photograph: Dan Tsantilis

What was it about Goodnight Mister Tom that appealed to you?

It’s a part I’ve always wanted to play ever since I read the story to my children. He’s a very complicated character underneath the veneer of his grumpy nature. His journey from loner to father is a real challenge.

Did you base your characterisation on Tom on anyone?

His grumpiness was definitely me so that was easy! Apart from that, no-one in particular.

There’s death and quite dark drama in Goodnight Mister Tom: does it resonate with modern audiences?

It certainly does. Adults can identify with the awfulness of William’s situation, while the younger audience are carried along with the brilliant storyline.

Both the book and David Wood’s adaptation contain laughter and tears, and the themes the story tackles are universal.

Will Troughton, who plays Tom Archer, and David, who plays Tom's dad Tony Archer (and is Will's real dad…) Photograph: BBC
Will Troughton, who plays Tom Archer, and David, who plays Tom’s dad Tony Archer (and is Will’s real dad…) Photograph: BBC

How do you fit in both this production and your commitment in The Archers?

It takes a bit of juggling but so far it’s worked out well. The Archers is recorded every five weeks, 30 episodes over eight days and my character Tony is probably only in four or five at any one time, depending on the storyline.

What’s it like having a fictional son who is also your son in real life?

It’s wonderful. The father/son bond is already there so it makes acting it much easier.

Do you think that the Archers is a bit too racy nowadays – should we get back to more about the milk yields?

I love the storylines – The Archers has always had events that divide opinion. I think the balance between rural idyll and real life drama is just right.

Patrick Troughton (David's dad) as the second Doctor in Doctor Who. Photograph: BBC
Patrick Troughton (David’s dad) as the second Doctor in Doctor Who. Photograph: BBC

The Troughtons are quite the acting dynasty. Did you believe your dad really was Doctor Who when you were growing up?

No, I didn’t! Watching him playing a part on television was quite normal for us as a family. As he was always saying- it’s only pretend.

How did you approach playing your father as Doctor Who in the audio adventures?

I watched a lot of his old episodes of him as the Doctor. I didn’t want to imitate him, just get a flavour of his vocal rhythms.

Would you like to be the 13th Doctor – and what sort of Time Lord would he be?

Not at all. Anyway, I would never be asked. I’m too old! Besides, the next Doctor will be female!

Your brother lives in York. Is it a city you know well? What do you like and dislike about the city?

He’s my half-brother and I have met him maybe two or three times. It would great to see him again. I have never been to York but am looking forward to hopefully seeing the Flying Scotsman.

For you, what have been the highlights of your career so far?

The fact that I have lasted so long and am still working! There are many parts I have loved doing – Bob Buzzard [in A Very Peculiar Practice], The Venetian Twins, Caliban, Mr Tom… I could go on.

What have been the funniest or strangest things that have happened to you on stage or while filming?

Too numerous to mention. Needless to say, I do like to enjoy myself on stage.

In one film I did, Thomas Hardy’s, A Tragedy of two Ambitions, I fell into a river by accident while doing a take, and carried on with the scene soaking wet. It was only the film crew’s laughter that stopped the action!

How do you rate Yorkshire’s chances in the county championship this year?

As usual, very good. They have a good depth of talent and an excellent coach. But watch out for Warwickshire this year under Ian Bell!

And when are we going to see the return of Bob Buzzard?

Better ask Andrew Davies, his creator! Bob Buzzard has probably retired and is bemoaning the fact that he never quite made it.