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David Tennant's Most Memorable TV And Movie Roles

As the star of the landmark British series "Doctor Who" for three seasons, David Tennant largely defined the science fiction adventure series for many viewers, with his portrayal of the Doctor proving indelible for legions of fans. But Tennant is so much more than merely the intrepid traveler of space and time, having starred in a number of acclaimed dramas, thrillers, comedies, and cartoons over the course of his long career. 

From a young and aspiring Scottish actor to an award-winning international superstar, Tennant's career has spanned decades. And while he may be known best for his iconic sci-fi role, those who don't know him from "Doctor Who" likely know his work in shows like "Broadchurch" or movies like "Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire." Comic book fans will recognize him from his sinister role as the villain Kilgrave in "Jessica Jones," while younger audiences may know his voice as Uncle Scrooge in the 2017 reboot of "Ducktales."

Often known for his high energy, charm, and sass, Tennant's roles have run the gamut. He's played wide-eyed adventurers, cunning villains, and mild-mannered men of meager means. From fantastical wizards and hard-boiled detectives to the daring Doctor himself, these are David Tennant's most memorable TV and movie roles.


Ironically an American remake of a British original, HBO's "Camping" is a mini-series written by Lena Dunham that stars David Tennant, Jennifer Garner ("Elektra"), Juliette Lewis ("Lost Highway"), and Ione Skye ("Covington Cross"). In the show, Tennant plays Walter, a middle-aged man unhappily married to his overbearing wife, Kathryn (Garner). 

For his 45th birthday, Walter plans a peaceful, relaxing camping trip, but it proves to be anything but when his wife's sister Carleen (Skye) tags along. They in turn are soon joined by Miguel — a friend who's just separated from his wife — and several other oddballs who make Walter's so-called vacation nothing short of a disaster.

Though audiences didn't love the American reboot, Tennant is as good as ever, impressing in a different sort of role than audiences are generally used to seeing him play. Far from the charming heroes, playful rogues, and world-weary justice-seekers he's known for, Tenant's Walter is a meek and tired husband — under the thumb of a controlling wife and always at the mercy of obnoxious friends and family.  

Duck Patrol

Long before he was a household name, David Tennant starred in the 1998 police comedy series "Duck Patrol." The series takes place in and around the Ravensbeck police station, which sits along the River Thames and plays host to a ragtag bunch of quirky law enforcers. The series is led by Richard Wilson — who would go on to play Dr. Constantine in the classic "Doctor Who" episode "The Empty Child" — as PC Roland Rose, nicknamed "Prof." Tennant played Prof's stalwart young counterpart, Simon Brown, aka "Darwin."

Together with a group of other offbeat officers and a bumbling boat-fearing boss, the crew tackles everything from bootleggers and boat thieves to sheep-stealers and mermaid sightings. An under-appreciated sitcom in its day, it was quickly concluded after just one season of seven episodes. Of course, "Duck Patrol" received some retroactive attention after Tennant gained fame as the Tenth Doctor.

The Decoy Bride

In the 2011 romantic comedy "The Decoy Bride," David Tennant stars as best-selling author James Arber, soon-to-be husband of American superstar actress Lara Tyler (Alice Eve). The pair are hoping to have a nice private wedding on a remote Scottish island, but that becomes nearly impossible when the press catches wind of the upcoming event. In an attempt to keep the wedding from becoming a complete circus, Tyler hires Katie (Kelly McDonald), a down-on-her-luck local, to act as a decoy to fool the paparazzi.

Unfortunately, the ruse doesn't work, and the newlyweds-to-be must race to stay one step ahead of the media. At the same time, Katie — pretending to be James' fiancee — soon finds herself falling in love with him, which understandably complicates the nuptials. A romantically comical caper, "The Decoy Bride" is definitely one of Tennant's lesser-known films, but it's worth a watch for diehard fans.

Secret Smile

The psychological thriller "Secret Smile" is a two-part TV film starring David Tennant and Kate Ashfield ("Shaun of the Dead"). Ashfield plays Miranda Cotton, a young architect who meets the handsome and charismatic Brendan Block (Tennant) while attending a friend's party. A cocky womanizer, Brendan charms Miranda into spending the night with him, but what seems at first like a playful evening soon turns into a horrifying nightmare.

Brendan continues to show up in Miranda's life, even romancing and marrying her sister. Though she becomes more and more convinced of his dark intentions, her protestations are ignored by family and friends. Even the police dismiss her concerns, writing her off as a jealous former lover. Intent on proving her claims, Miranda takes matters into her own hands and plots to expose Brendan, but with few options left, she resorts to drastic measures. 

Though "Secret Smile" isn't especially remarkable in its genre, it's solid, and Tennant's performance as the slimy stalker is a definite highlight. It's an early example of his ability to play a nefarious and creepy villain, which would come in handy later in his career.

Fright Night (2011)

A remake of the classic 1985 horror film of the same name, 2011's "Fright Night" stars Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots, and David Tennant as a British vampire expert. Yelchin plays feisty high schooler Charley Brewster, who comes to believe that Jerry (Farrell), a newcomer to the neighborhood, is actually a vampire lord. With the help of his girlfriend Amy (Poots), Charley seeks out help from Peter Vincent (Tennant) — a wealthy and eccentric magician who knows a thing or two about vampires. The character's name — kept the same from the original film — pays homage to classic horror movie stars Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, whose influences can be felt in Tennant's own performance.

Though initially skeptical, Peter ultimately joins the young couple in doing battle with Jerry. Twists and turns abound, leading to an explosive and deadly final showdown. A chilling action-horror film, "Fright Night" succeeds largely due to the performances of its talented cast, with Tennant being an unsurprising standout.


Aired on Fox in 2014, "Gracepoint" is a gritty murder mystery set in a small coastal town. When a young boy is found dead, everyone in town becomes a suspect. If that premise sounds familiar, it's probably because the series is an American remake of Tennant's own "Broadchurch," the acclaimed crime drama whose first season had aired just a year before. 

Making the trip across the pond to star in his own show's remake, Tennant plays Detective Emmet Carver, an outsider who comes to Gracepoint just as the murder case becomes major news. While the victim's family grapples with trauma, Carver is partnered on the case with longtime local detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn of "Breaking Bad"), who resents his arrival. As they begin questioning potential witnesses, family members, friends, and acquaintances, scandal erupts throughout the small town and threatens to turn neighbor against neighbor.

Though it's a fairly faithful translation of "Broadchurch" and a decent crime drama in its own right, the fact that "Gracepoint" arrived so soon after the BBC version's debut — and also starred the same actor — made many wonder why it even existed. Tennant is still strong in the role, but it can't measure up to his performance in the original.

Spies of Warsaw

Based on the 2008 novel by author Alan Furst, the 2013 BBC Four miniseries "Spies of Warsaw" sees David Tennant take on a new kind of role — that of a high-ranking military intelligence official. In the show, he plays Jean-François Mercier, an operative of a French spy agency called the Deuxième Bureau. Set just before the Second World War, Mercier's latest assignment takes him on an undercover mission to the French embassy in Warsaw, where he poses as a military attaché. The story moves from Poland to England, Paris, and even Berlin as Mercier matches wits with his German counterparts.

While caught up in the high-stakes world of international espionage, Mercier also finds himself romantically linked with a young Parisian lawyer working with the League of Nations. As their passion heightens, so too do the tensions on the global stage. Praised by critics for its gripping drama and stellar execution, "Spies of Warsaw" is a thoughtful, deliberately paced thriller, rather than a pulse-pounding action-adventure. 


One of the stranger entries in David Tennant's filmography is the seven-episode BBC series "Blackpool." A musical drama, the show stars David Morrissey ("The Walking Dead") as Ripley Holden, an eccentric and ambitious arcade owner who harbors dreams of revitalizing the Blackpool region of England. His plan to do so? Building a massive Las Vegas-style casino and resort. But when a murder occurs on Ripley's doorstep, he becomes the prime suspect and the obsession of local detective Peter Carlisle (Tennant), who will do whatever it takes to prove Ripley's guilt.

Make no mistake, this series isn't just a drama with a few songs. It's a full-on musical, with each episode featuring three or four unique numbers, all woven surrealistically into the story with elaborate dance routines. A cult favorite produced before Tennant became the Tenth Doctor or Morrissey became the Governor, "Blackpool" has a lot that's worth seeing, from the songs and silliness to the solid mystery at the core of its story. 


Written by "Broadchurch" creator Chris Chibnall, the 2013 telefilm "United" recounts the incredible story of Manchester United's promising team of superstar athletes in the late 1950s. It also relays the tragic Munich Air Disaster that cut the team's run of sports dominance short. David Tennant stars as the team's assistant manager, Jimmy Murphy, who works under acclaimed football manager Matt Busby (Dougray Scott).

Following a major title win, the team begins to have success internationally and competes in the European Cup. But a nightmare unfolds when their flight from Berlin crashes, killing a number of players and leaving Busby in critical condition. Murphy is left to pick up the pieces, but he's more determined than ever to field a winning team and prove how strong in spirit the club really is. Though criticized by the Busby family, "United" earned high praise from critics, with Tennant's performance earning a particularly positive response.

The Politician's Husband

A belated spiritual sequel to "The Politician's Wife" (1995), screenwriter Paula Milne's "The Politician's Husband" (2013) stars David Tennant as Aiden Hoynes, a lifelong bureaucrat and Senior Cabinet minister. His wife Freya (Emily Watson), a faithful and loyal partner, is now a doting mother, having put aside her own political dreams to raise their children. However, when Aiden leaves his post to focus on bigger aspirations, Freya steps back into her old role and joins the cabinet in his stead. It's not long before Freya comes to prominence as a skilled and respected government leader in her own right.

Soon, though, Freya and Aiden find their political ambitions at odds, leading to a series of conflicts and an ever-complicating relationship dynamic that largely plays out in the media. A startling political drama with a compelling personal storyline at its core, the series was unfortunately overlooked a bit upon its initial airing. That may be in part because it was overshadowed by Tennant's highly acclaimed "Broadchurch," which ran around the same time. Of course, those who saw both series were able to appreciate just how skilled a talent Tennant truly is.

Single Father

In one of his first roles after walking away from "Doctor Who," David Tennant plays the titular protagonist in the four-episode miniseries "Single Father." A heartfelt and complex family drama, the show focuses on Dave Tiler (Tennant). Dave and his partner Rita each have older children from past relationships in addition to the ones they have together, making things even more complicated when Rita tragically dies in a car accident. 

While the family grieves, Dave finds himself growing closer to Rita's best friend Sarah. His troubled emotions are then compounded even further when he learns that he may not be the father of their three children after all, forcing him to come to terms with Rita's possible infidelity. Dave also has to deal with Rita's oldest daughter Lucy, who's interested in finding her own birth father. It all boils over when Sarah's partner discovers her affair with Dave, who must decide where his future really lies. 

Einstein and Eddington

A co-production between the BBC and HBO in 2008 resulted in the British telefilm "Einstein and Eddington," which centers on the friendship between renowned German physicist Albert Einstein and his British counterpart, scientist and philosopher Arthur Eddington. Tennant plays the role of Eddington, while "Lord of the Rings" alum Andy Serkis stars as Einstein. Recognizable actors like Rebecca Hall ("Iron Man 3") and Jim Broadbent ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows") round out the cast.

On opposite sides of the pond, the two friendly rivals have opposing missions: Einstein has set out to develop a new theory of relativity, while Eddington has been tasked with defending the Newtonian physical model that Einstein is threatening. But while Einstein works to upset the world of physics, the First World War begins in earnest throughout Europe. The two men of science are also pacifists, and they struggle to align their personal ethics with the need for their services to support the war effort. Now the two unlikely friends — a German and a Brit — find themselves on opposing sides of both science and war.

Takin' Over the Asylum

While only in his early 20s, David Tennant starred in the BBC Two drama series "Takin' Over the Asylum." In the show, he plays Campbell Bain, a 19-year-old with bipolar disorder who works at a hospital radio station in Glasgow. After years of struggling to find balance in his life, Bain discovers his love and passion for radio during a stay at the hospital, and he later tells his family that he wants to pursue a career in the medium. Other characters weave in and out of the story as well, painting a broader picture of the hospital's patients, politics, and employees

Though the series didn't receive too much attention upon its release in 1994, it's become more widely watched thanks to Tennant's rise in popularity, and it was later adapted into a successful stage play. For Tennant diehards, it's a great glimpse into the actor's younger years on screen.

Deadwater Fell

In the 2020 series "Deadwater Fell," David Tennant plays a doctor of the medical variety whose entire family is tragically killed in a house fire. A beloved member of an idyllic Scottish community, the well-respected doctor Tom Kendrick becomes the police's prime suspect, turning the village upside down.

As the investigation into Tom continues, it's revealed that the picture-perfect family life he seemed to have led may have had a number of dark secrets, which extend to his friends and neighbors. With a strong cast that also includes Cush Jimbo ("The Good Wife") and Matthew McNulty ("Domina"), "Deadwater Fell" is a good watch. Tennant turns in another great performance, and writer Daisy Coulam delivers several stunning moments as well. Though the short-lived series didn't prove to be as successful as the strikingly similar "Broadchurch," it more than satisfied viewers looking for more of that same kind of energy.

There She Goes

"There She Goes" is a compellingly earnest dramedy series starring David Tennant and Jessica Hynes ("Spaced") as married parents Simon and Emily Yates. Their daughter, Rosie, is neurodiverse and has a learning disability. There are no big stories here, as the series largely (and effectively) focuses on the seemingly ordinary everyday struggles of the parents.

In between the day-to-day moments we see, there are also flashbacks to Rosie's early life, when Simon and Emily were still learning how best to raise their daughter. In the past, their marriage was tested by Rosie's struggles, with Simon finding it particularly hard to accept that she's not the child he originally envisioned having. Described by The Guardian as "a gentle comedy with a disarming frankness," "There She Goes" succeeds on the merits of its good humor and its graceful approach to storytelling. Well-reviewed, it received a second season in 2020, which further explores the Yates family's evolving relationships and dynamics.

The Escape Artist

In "The Escape Artist," David Tennant plays a seasoned English barrister named Will Burton, whose slippery skills have built him a reputation for getting even the worst criminals acquitted. Through a legal workaround, he gets accused murderer Liam Foyle (Toby Kebbell) off scot-free, but his success turns into a nightmare when Foyle targets Burton and his family in the aftermath of the trial. After Burton's wife is murdered, Foyle winds up on trial yet again.

Burton's legal protege Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo) takes up Foyle's new defense, determined to prove she's just as good as Burton. But when Foyle makes Gardner his next intended victim, Burton takes matters into his own hands to stop him. Willing to do anything to keep the killer from repeating his crime once more, Burton soon winds up in the crosshairs of the law himself.

An enthralling psychological drama with a stellar cast, "The Escape Artist" puts the justice system under a microscope. It's a nail-bitingly suspenseful thriller with a great performance from Tennant.

Around the World in 80 Days

The 2021 Amazon original series "Around the World in 80 Days" adapts the classic Jules Verne novel of the same name. David Tennant stars as one of Verne's most famous characters — ambitious adventurer Phileas Fog. Quite the wealthy man, Fog makes a mammoth wager with the members of his social club that he can circumnavigate the globe in a balloon in just 80 days.

Along for the ride is Fogg's faithful servant Jean Passepartout (Ibrahim Koma), and intrepid newspaper reporter Abigail Fix (Leonie Benesch) follows along as well to get the scoop and chronicle Fog's many misadventures. This includes being bamboozled by local desert guides, an encounter with the British Army in India who he must convince to let a wanted man go free, and escaping authorities in Hong Kong who believe Fogg to be a criminal. Though the miniseries takes significant liberties with the source material, "Around the World in 80 Days" dazzles with its stylish production and a brilliant cast of talented actors. Tennant looks especially great in his Victorian-era suit and mustache. 


David Tennant has done his fair share of voice acting over the years, and arguably his most significant role in that field is that of Scrooge McDuck in the 2017 reboot of "DuckTales." The classic 1980s cartoon centered on Huey, Dewey, Louie, and their rich uncle Scrooge was a favorite in its day, and Tennant proved to be the perfect choice to take on the role of the penny-pinching Scottish fowl in the remake. Like the original, 2017's "Ducktales" proved to be a big hit, leaving behind three seasons and 69 total episodes by the time it concluded in 2020.

Uncle Scrooge leads his three nephews on a number of misadventures, which often involve money-making schemes. In addition to its classic brand of cartoon comedy, the show also has strong character arcs and builds out the larger world of Duckburg in fun ways. Nominated for a number of Daytime Emmy Awards over the course of its run, "Ducktales" is modern animation done right, and Tennant's performance as the irascible mallard Scrooge is a big part of its success.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

"Harry Potter" added David Tennant to its film roster of English stars in the franchise's fourth entry, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." In the film, Harry returns to Hogwarts and is surprised to find he's been nominated to enter the prestigious Tri-Wizard Cup, a tournament usually reserved for older students. As the danger of the Dark Lord Voldemort increases, new professor Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson) takes an interest in the young wizard and secretly rigs the contest in Harry's favor.

However, it's later revealed that Moody is a fake –  a devious wizard criminal in disguise named Barty Crouch Jr. David Tennant brings the villain to life at the end of the film, who hopes to guide events at Hogwarts in service to Lord Voldemort. Though Tennant's role in the film is small, consisting merely of a flashback and the film's finale due to his character's mystical disguise, he still does a great job. His version of Crouch Jr. is appropriately slimy and sinister, with gnashing teeth and piercing dark eyes. The iconic trenchcoat worn by Tennant in the film is also noteworthy, as the star later donned a similar look in the role of the Doctor.


Written and produced by "Doctor Who" showrunner Russell T. Davies, "Casanova" tells the story of the eponymous Italian adventurer, played at different ages by both David Tennant and screen legend Peter O'Toole. The three-episode miniseries follows the 18th-century author and all-around playboy through different periods of life and his many romantic entanglements.

Though the series begins with O'Toole's older version of Casanova, much of the story occurs in flashbacks to his younger days. Tennant plays the illustrious ladies man in his prime, who woos women and seeks excitement through a series of misadventures. The story takes him across Europe in pursuit of his one true love, the ravishing Henriette (Laura Fraser), who's also sought after by the Duke of Grimani (Rupert Penry-Jones).

A lavish and over-the-top production, "Casanova" isn't necessarily the most historically accurate show, but it is a lot of fun. It's a classic English costume drama of the highest order, with a young David Tennant running circles around the sets with high energy and devilish charm.

Good Omens

Based on the acclaimed fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, "Good Omens" features an all-star ensemble cast that includes David Tennant, Michael Sheen, Jon Hamm, Miranda Richardson, Nick Offerman, Michael McKean, Jack Whitehall, and Mireille Enos. The series tells the story of religious figures and various angels and demons who are preparing for the coming armageddon on Earth.

Two friendly beings — the demon Crowley (Tennant) and an angel named Aziraphale (Sheen) — have become fond of their time on Earth and agree to do what they can to stave off the end of the world. To do it, they have to stop the arrival of the Antichrist — a young boy named Adam. Their plan also brings them into conflict with various beings like Hastur (Offerman), an agent of Hell, and the archangel Gabriel (Hamm), both of whom are working towards bringing forth the apocalypse.


A dark and gritty psychological crime drama, the U.K. miniseries "Des" stars David Tennant as real-life Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen — one of the most notorious murderers of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Tennant's performance sits at the center of the series, where he gives a chilling portrayal of the cold, unrepentant killer. 

"Des" recounts Nilsen's lengthy confession as he describes his gruesome crimes in a series of interviews with Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay (Daniel Mays). Through diligent police work and Nilsen's own words, every detail of his brutal killing spree is revealed. Never once denying his crimes, Nilsen slowly and meticulously reveals the dark details of his many murders. There are no graphically violent reenactments, however, as the point is not to sensationalize the horrific crimes, but rather to dig into the mind of the sociopathic madman himself. One of Tennant's finest performances, it would net the actor an International Emmy. Publications like The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal all raved about the star's brilliant portrayal of the infamous Nilsen. 

Jessica Jones

In the critically acclaimed first season of Marvel's "Jessica Jones," David Tennant takes the villainous role opposite the title character. Based on the comic book character called the Purple Man, Tennant plays Kilgrave, a devious and vile criminal mastermind with the power to control the thoughts and actions of others. Kilgrave has a dark and twisted history with Jones, the details of which left her deeply traumatized. Now, years later, Jones operates as a private investigator whose latest client has gone missing. She discovers that Kilgrave is involved, despite previously believing him to be dead. 

Often voted one of the best live-action Marvel villains, Tennant's version of Kilgrave is deeply terrifying. Though the villain eventually meets his end in the "Jessica Jones" Season 1 finale, the producers couldn't let go of Tennant, bringing him back for an episode of Season 2 to torment Jones once again in the form of her own personal demon.


Arguably the quintessential modern British crime series, Chris Chibnall's "Broadchurch" is a sobering crime drama about a detective investigating the murder of a child in a small coastal English village. David Tennant stars as outsider Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, who's put in charge of the case in Dorset, England. While the parents of the young victim struggle to hold their family together, the boy's mysterious death rocks the once-peaceful community. While Hardy and his partner, local DI Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), continue to dig for the truth, uncomfortable questions about the family's friends and neighbors threaten to expose everyone's darkest secrets. 

Celebrated by both critics and audiences, "Broadchurch" quickly became a sensation. Two more seasons followed after the first, detailing more elements of the murder and revealing additional skeletons in Dorset's closet. In addition to Tennant and Colman, the show features a star-studded supporting cast that includes David Bradley, Jodie Whittaker, Arthur Darvill, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. "Broadchurch" won three BAFTA Awards, and for good reason.

Doctor Who

It's basically impossible to be a science fiction fan and not know "Doctor Who," the long-running British series about an eccentric adventurer who travels space and time. The lead role of the Doctor was played by eight different actors from 1963 to 1996, and after an extended hiatus, the show was revived full-time in 2005 with actor Christopher Eccleston taking the mantle. However, Eccleston departed after just one season, and showrunner Russell T. Davies recruited his "Casanova" star David Tennant to take over the series.

Though many doubted if the 34-year-old Tennant could suitably portray the wise and ageless Doctor, he quickly made the role his own. A vibrant, energetic, and downright silly Doctor, Tennant became the definitive version of the character for a generation, and he still consistently ranks among the best to ever play the role. In many ways, Tennant's take on the Doctor influenced all who've followed since. The iconic and career-defining role turned Tennant from a little-known British actor into a household name, catapulting him to international superstardom.

Tennant would remain in the role for three full series' and a number of specials, departing on January 1, 2010 to make way for the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. He later returned for the show's 50th-anniversary special.