Based on the British sitcom of the same name by Julia Davis, HBO’s Camping stars Jennifer Garner (Alias, Love, Simon) and David Tennant (Doctor Who, Jessica Jones).
Kathryn (Garner), the obsessively organized and controlling wife of Walt (Tennant), arranges a camping trip with a group of their old friends, to celebrate Walt’s 45th birthday. However, the excursion ends up sparking intensified emotions, latent tensions and memories they’d all rather forget.
David Tennant, via satellite from New York, spoke about his new comedy at the TV Critics Association. The series premieres on HBO on October 14th 2018. It is written and executive produced by Lena Dunham (Girls) and Jenni Konner (executive producer of Girls).
Camping, 101 - Jennifer Garner, David Tennant
Camping, Season 1 Episode 1 – Walt (David Tennant) and Kathryn (Jennifer Garner) ©2018 HBO, photo by Anne Marie Fox

After Jessica Jones and Bad Samaritan, did you go to your agent and say please find me somebody who’s agreeable and submissive?

If only I were that tactical and clever. No, I didn’t. But then this came in and you go, ‘Oh well, that’s perfect, because you can only play so many psychopaths without taking it home.’ So it was lovely to play someone who’s so sweet and open-hearted and long suffering, and possibly most like the real me that I’ve ever done.

I think the physical manifestation of Walt is how I feel inside much more than some sharp-suited psychopathic villain. So it was hugely appealing to get into that head space and bucket hat. It was quite unlike anything I’ve done before.

Camping, 101 - Jennifer Garner, David Tennant
Camping – Jennifer Garner, David Tennant, Janicza Bravo, Brett Gelman ©2018 HBO, photo by Anne Marie Fox

I thought all Englishmen hated camping, so I’m assuming that you do too.

I’ve always assumed, before I ever did it, I would hate camping because I do quite like home comfort and a shower and not smelling.

I have only been camping once, and it was a disaster. I went to a music festival and we got rained on and when I woke up the next morning there were rivers down either side of the tent we were in. It didn’t really improve for four or five days, and I resisted briefly. And then I just surrendered and part of me kind of went feral and loved it. But I’ve not rushed back. I’m not a natural camper, but there is an area of me that once I can access it, I think I could do that probably quite happily.

Camping, 101 - Jennifer Garner, David Tennant
Camping, Season 1 Episode 1 – Lone Skye, David Tennant ©2018 HBO, photo by Anne Marie Fox

What was it like shooting the camping scenes?

I think we got some of the joy of what that was like, actually, because it was this cast of eight actors basically sitting around a camp-fire every day. But we got to go home at night and have a shower. So, I believe that’s the best way to camp.

Everyone had a different way of approaching a scene and a different way of acting and, yet, everyone brought something so unique to it. It was a really special group to be a part of. It was very exciting to go to work and to do a scene and to just see where that would go.

You’ve worked on both sides of the pond, what differences do you see between the Brits and the Americans?

Do you know what’s funny? I think this was, in many ways, the least different experience I’ve ever had between a UK set and a US set. There was a lot of joy on set in Camping. There was a lot of creativity, there was a lot of freedom.

I do hope that everyone will take this the right way, but not taking it too seriously, and that gives a real sense of creativity. You don’t always get on either side of the Atlantic, to be honest.

Camping, 102 - David Tennant, Bridget Everett, Yimmy Yim
Camping, Season 1 Episode 2 – David Tennant, Bridget Everett, Yimmy Yim ©2018 HBO, photo by Anne Marie Fox

Do you find comedy more challenging to explore than drama?

In terms of the job, I think you’re just trying to always do the same thing, to be truthful. And the more scrupulous you can be about being truthful, the funnier something is. I think that’s true in drama as well. I try to approach the two in the same way.

It’s about the characters, and those characters have got to be believable, and rooted in something real. I do slightly worry that this is closer to the real me than anything I did in Jessica Jones, or anywhere else.

I love playing those parts [and] I love the challenge of that. Walt is me, really. So there’s something liberating and slightly alarming about allowing myself to go there.

David Tennant Soundbyte

I asked David if he had seen the original British series, and how different the humor in England is compared to the US. Click here to listen to his reply

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.