Arthur Darvill is a cool customer. It’s Friday afternoon and the 34 year old British star of Legends of Tomorrow and Doctor Who companion reclines back on the lounge in his hotel room.
The first thing I notice about him is his blue striped socks peeking out from his shoes, which are tied with bright red laces. For an actor who is now a well-known face on the BBC (and ABC) he says he wasn’t comfortable on television at first. “My first foray on television was terrible! I really didn’t know what I was doing” he admits with a laugh. “Being on stage has definitely helped me work my way through” Darvill says of his beginnings as theatre performer. “I never really thought I’d do any TV work, I was such a fan of theatre and was trained in stage acting and that’s where my love is”, but he says that TV is now a process that he revels in, having held regular roles as Rory Williams in Doctor Who, Paul Coates in Broadchurch and now Rip Hunter in DC Comics’ Legends of Tomorrow.
Darvill’s fondness for the live stage hasn’t dissipated since, as he still reminisces of his time managing his own theatre company with friend Richard Atwell, which he started in 2001, and still works with Atwell to this day. “We grew up in Birmingham, and when we left school and before drama school we were looking for theatre projects to do and Richard just went ‘why don’t we set up our own company and put on our own stuff?’” Darvill says of his first forays into stage acting. He describes his time with Fuego’s Men as “a bit of an awakening” and the added aspect of it being a personal project resulted in both Darvill and Atwell putting their all into it.
One of Darvill’s most interesting stage experiences also saw him train in stage combat, the art of “being able to fight without hurting anyone”, which he says was actually part of his training. “Since leaving, I’ve done more fighting on screen and stage than I thought I ever would” he muses. He recounts a story whereby an imaginary bowling ball was thrown at his legs during one lesson and he spent half an hour simulating the following pain. “This is your pain lesson” he says, imitating his American tutor, laughing about what was, in hindsight, relatively traumatic.
Darvill’s time on the stage eventually translated into television appearances, which lead to his casting as Rory Williams, one of The Doctor’s companions on long-running BBC sci-fi Doctor Who. ‘The Last Centurion’, as he was coined, joined Karen Gillen’s Amy Pond and Matt Smith as The Doctor in almost 3 seasons before a heart-breaking final episode saw his and Gillen’s characters killed off. “The reaction to it [Doctor Who] has been amazing, the fact I’m still talking about it now it testament to how well people reacted to it. I have nothing but love for it. It’s been amazing.” he says. Winning the part of Rory came at a pivotal moment for Darvill, “I was learning a lot about myself as an actor and a person, and I got to really learn through that job” he says. The amount of time he spent with Smith and Gillen also forged lasting friendships that he still holds dear today. “It was just a great part and a joyous experience.”
Nowadays, Darvill has once again donned the mantle of a time traveller, in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, as Rip Hunter, a rogue Time Master seeking vengeance for the murder of his family. “Legends of Tomorrow has been an amazing journey so far. I’m so glad to be part of the DC Comic book universe” he says of his time so far on Legends. He describes the show as taking the unique direction of a ‘superhero comedy’. “What’s so great about Legends is now, finally, in the second season I think it holds a unique place in television… it’s really worked out what it is.” After the heavier tone of the first season, where Darvill says his character had to undergo a more serious journey, he is glad of the change to a lighter tone. On the idea of more well-known DC characters making an appearance in the show he believes Legends would lose an element of it’s charm. “What I like about the show is it’s about a lot of characters people haven’t heard of. We sit with the DC encyclopaedia on set and look up all the strange characters that have appeared in 3 or 4 comics and go ‘oh I wonder if this guy could make it!’”
Darvill is remarkably down to earth about his stage and television career and is happy to have a joke about everyday life on set. When not gallivanting through time he says he tries to take time off to spend with his family. He often sings with wife, walks his dog and eats a lot of food. Even his favourite hero, Indiana Jones, is a far more grounded choice than most superheroes. “I’m a massive Harrison Ford fan, I grew up wanting to be Indiana Jones” he jokes, and says even his dad looks a little like Ford. After his time travelling days are over maybe we’ll see Arthur Darvill one day donning that famous fedora.
Photos by Simon Tubey & The BBC