Arthur Darvill is currently making his New York stage debut in "Once, the Musical" on Broadway, but he needs no introduction to avid fans of British television here in the U.S.
In "Doctor Who" and more recently "Broadchurch," Darvill has become a household name to the growing U.S. fanbase of these two very different but acclaimed British shows.
But in a step away from the roles that have won him fame right now Darvill’s playing a lovelorn Irish musician in the Enda Walsh-penned musical "Once" based on the film of the same name.
‘I've been doing it for about six months now and I'm here till Christmas,’ Darvill tells IrishCentral. ‘It's one of the longest runs I've done. There's always that wariness about something that's really long commitment wise but actually it's been brilliant and the time's flying by.’
The ensemble production reflects the closeness of the troupe of actors onstage, Darvill says.
‘It's like a real family. I've never taken over from a role before, and I thought oh God they'll be so stuck in their grooves, but they were so welcoming and generous as performers and people.’
But playing a down-on-his-luck Irish singer seems like such a sideways step character wise - what made him interested in the role?
‘I'm a musician as well as an actor,’ Darvill explains. ‘Once is one of those stories that are bizarrely universal because it's not necessarily a love story, it's a story about personal growth and getting over yourself in order to be happy. I think it's very realistic . The meeting of these two people made me think of people you meet not even necessarily romantically - who change your life in a profound way and they don't even know it. People who have that influence over your life. I think it's a really beautiful non-patronizing story.’
It's a Broadway musical without being a razzledazzle Broadway musical, Darvill says. ‘The music really appeals to me and I love Enda Walsh's writing anyway. This is different to his work but the fact that he did the writing for this was interesting to me too.’
He did have some stipulations. Being British, he knew he’d have to go to Ireland to work on his Irish accent.
‘I said there's no way I can do this without going back to Dublin. Me and my girlfriend went the weekend before I came over here. My best mate is from Ireland and we just did a play together. His name is Cian Barry. He's proper Irish. He just told me everywhere I needed to go. He just gave me a list of pubs and we did that. We went to Howth and did the walk and it was really great to see it with my girlfriend. I hadn't been for three years and I'm planning to go back when I get to the UK because I just love it there.’
Meanwhile the success of "Broadchurch" (in which he plays Reverend Paul Coates) took Britain and the U.S, by surprise, but Darvill says he knew it would be a hit for an unusual reason.
‘It's an ensemble piece and I take no credit for it whatsoever. I'm so proud of it and I was really lucky to be involved with it. The writer Chris Chibnall is amazing and he's the reason I got on board with it in the first place.’
There was one aspect in particular about "Broadchurch’s" production that encouraged him to sign on, he says.
‘Early on I knew it was going to be good because Chris said to me there's going to be a no t--ts policy. Everyone has to be nice and good. That really filtered through the production.’
The success of "Broadchurch" should be send a message to the studios he says.
‘It's a real testament to the writer being allowed to write. Chris was very much left alone by producers. I think that shines through. I think when people trust the writer on television then good things get made.’
Darvill has heard the rumors of a U.S. production again starring David Tennant and himself but his own casting has not quite been confirmed yet.
‘I think that's amazing. I don't know how that's going to work but it obviously is because he (Tennant) is doing it. I think the fact that Chris is involved is good.’
Fans of "Doctor Who" have often written that they’d have liked to see the Doctor (played by Matt Smith) take Rory William’s (Darvill’s character on the show) on board the Tardis as a companion in his own right. Playing the pair as a bickering gay couple has been a feature of entire forest acres of fan fiction, does Darvill realize that?
‘Maybe,’ he laughs. ‘We're not far off that anyway. We (Smith and Darvill) really lucked out with each other. We'd done a play a few years before together and we really got on. It was always our plan to play brothers. We'd always get together and get drunk and say we should really play brothers. Then "Doctor Who" came up and it couldn't have been a better thing. I respect him so much as an actor and a friend. With my first day on "Doctor Who" with Matt it was clear he knew exactly what he was was doing.’
One of Rory’s finest hours was as the Roman Centurion who waits 2000 years to be reunited with his true love Amy Pond. It’s one of the most romantic tales ever told on "Doctor Who," or indeed anywhere. Darvill says he still hears all about it.
‘So many people have said to me you know that that character has ruined the expectations girls have of their boyfriends now for everyone. I said yes I know. It's also difficult for me to live up to anything close to that. Thanks (showrunner) Steven Moffat.’
And a final world on "Once, The Musical?"
‘It's a proper play with music and it has real heart. Be prepared to turn up and bawl your eyes out in a good way. It's unlike anything anyone has seen on Broadway.’