Rory Does Rome: Arthur Darvill on The Lone Centurion

April sees the release of The Lone Centurion, the long-awaited return of Arthur Darvill to the role of Rory Williams. Darvill has been sharing his thoughts with Big Finish’s in-house Vortex magazine and have kindly shared some quotes to tease Rory’s Roman Adventures…

For Rory, The Lone Centurion takes place during his 2000 year vigil of the Pandorica – the Doctor’s bespoke prison turned resurrection chamber for Amy Pond – as seen in The Big Bang. Immortalised in a plastic Nestene body, Rory must navigate political intrigue and the dangers of Ancient Rome without, well, melting…

Legend tells of the Lone Centurion – a mysterious figure dressed as a Roman soldier who stood guard over the Pandorica, warning off those who would attempt to open it; a constant warrior whose story appeared in the folk history of a dozen civilisations.

Only… he seems to have misplaced it.

Travelling to Rome in search of the Pandorica, Rory finds himself forced to perform as a gladiator in the Colosseum… where he attracts the attention of the Imperial household.

The Lone Centurion - Big Finish Productions
The Lone Centurion – Big Finish Productions

First, Arthur reveals what drew him to Big Finish…

“I was really excited to start doing Big Finish as I’m a huge fan of old radio shows – I grew up with radio comedies like The GoonsThe League of Gentlemen, and I used to listen to the old Poirot audiobooks. I really love the craft of it: I like being able to do different voices and the skill involved in that. Something audio does is create such brilliant images in your brain. I get really absorbed in it so whenever I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in anything Big Finish do, I just jumped at the chance.” 

Arthur Darvill

This may not be Arthur’s first time on audio…

“I’ve done Frankenstein, a Dark Shadows, Bernice Summerfield, and I was still badgering [Big Finish producer] Scott Handcock to let me pop up and do a silly voice, even anonymously in a few scenes, as I really love it. It’s always been a real joy as it’s a different type of preparation and there’s a real sense of fun in it. I love the story of Frankenstein – it’s always tempting to make really bold choices, especially with a story like that. I wanted to keep that clinical, methodical approach he has – that’s all in the writing. It’s such a good adaptation, I really loved it.” 

Arthur Darvill

But Rory hasn’t been seen on television since 2012 – other than Rory’s Story, an online minisode recorded last year for the Twitter watchalong of his and Amy’s swansong, The Angels Take Manhattan

Doctor Who: LOCKDOWN | Rory’s Story

So what convinced Arthur that now was the time to resurrect Rory?

“I’ve always been really hesitant to come back as Rory. I felt the work we had done was quite sacred and that story was very precious to me. I didn’t want to do anything that interfered with it at that point…and then I had a proper chat with Scott about it. He pitched the idea [of The Lone Centurion], which I just thought was a brilliant one, and there’s real scope for light and fun. If it was dark and moody, I wouldn’t have been interested. The amusing comedy side of it really appealed to me and I just saw it as such a good opportunity for the writers to have a field day with the material.” 

Arthur Darvill

Arthur attributes Rory’s enduring popularity with the fans, even a decade after he left the series, to how relatable he is to the audience during his first few TARDIS adventures and how he adapts to his life being turned upside-down by the Doctor.

“I think Rory’s such a great character as so often, for so much of it, he’s on the outside looking in. I always saw him as being the audience’s point of view – especially in my first season [of Doctor Who in 2010]. He was questioning stuff with quite a level of panic, so we meet him at an interesting point where he’s been thrown into a big journey of change, and he’s got time to kill. He’s trying to stay out of trouble but he doesn’t really succeed, nor does he fully invest in any of the situations he’s in, which I think really gives scope for a lot of really amusing situations… hilarity ensues!” 

Arthur Darvill

As with many Big Finish productions recorded in 2020, The Lone Centurion was recorded mostly at home by the cast in lockdown. How did that experience differ from Arthur’s previous audio work?

“Well I got to work with my wife, Inès [De Clercq], who’s in one of The Lone Centurion stories, which was great. We recorded them at home because we were in lockdown, but we’ve got quite noisy neighbours! I’ve got a sofa and built a duvet fort around it to muffle the sound. I loved being able to come downstairs and go to work in my little hut. We just had such a laugh – you can’t see anyone but you can hear them, it’s such a different type of acting. Normally when you’re doing them you can see each other, but it required a level of concentration so you are really listening to everyone. It’s amazing what technology can do now, as everyone really went for it and got the tone straight away.”

Arthur Darvill
Lone Centurion - Arthur Darvill 2 (c) Jon Pountney
Lone Centurion – Arthur Darvill (c) Jon Pountney

But it wasn’t just actress Inès De Clercq who was a familiar presence in the production, Darvill’s old friend Hugh Skinner – wilting ex-boyfriend of the titular Fleabag – was also along for the ride.

“For the second story, I got to work with Hugh Skinner who’s been one of my close friends for years, and he’s one of the funniest actors I’ve ever come across. To work with Hugh as Lancelot was just brilliant. He’s been in a few things I’ve written; he’s played the same part in a play that had an alternating cast. We were at drama school at the same time, although at different schools, and had lots of mutual friends. We’ve been really close for years and I just think he’s the funniest person. Doing stuff with him was really difficult as I tried to make it sound like I wasn’t laughing… but I really was. The casts Scott has pulled together are amazing. We were all at home and people were all over the country, so no one had to travel and it was great. He could get people that wouldn’t normally come down for a day.” 

Arthur Darvill

So it sounds like Arthur had a great time recording The Lone Centurion, which is good because he’s back to do it all again next year for volume two!

“I had a really, really good time. The nature of it means Rory is the straight man in a lot of it, in comedy terms, which is a lot of fun to do. It was funny getting back into his rhythms, and the writers did such a good job of capturing his tone. Steven [Moffat] wrote him in a particular way and I added pauses and odd noises at times and the writers really jumped on that and all of them wrote for him in the right way. It was definitely his voice and quite nostalgic in some ways to revisit it, in a really joyous way. The stories are so good. They are such a romp, proper standalone adventures and you think, ‘This could be actually be a TV show.’ I’ve only listened to little bits of it, but it always amazes me how good the sound design is. They always do such a good job. There’s loads of little Easter Eggs in there as well. They’re really silly in places, and we could all do with a little bit of that just now.” 

Arthur Darvill

The Lone Centurion is out in April and available to pre-order now from the Big Finish website.

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