David Tennant says he felt ‘responsibility’ of playing Alexander Litvinenko after meeting spy’s wife Marina

Actor will portray former Russian spy in forthcoming ITV drama

Isobel Lewis
Thursday 12 May 2022 12:02
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Des trailer starring David Tennant

David Tennant has opened up about meeting Alexander Litvinenko’s wife Marina before playing the late Russian spy in a forthcoming TV series.

The Doctor Who actor will star in ITV drama Litvinenko, which tells the story of his fearless widow Marina (played by Margarita Levieva), who fought tirelessly to convince the British government to publicly name her husband’s killers and acknowledge the Russian State’s role in his murder.

Litvinenko was known as “the man who solved his own murder” after he helped lead investigators to the Russians who poisoned him with a rare and hard-to-detect radioactive substance, Polonium-210, at a London hotel in 2006.

During police interviews from his hospital bed, he provided investigators with meticulous details of the events leading up to his illness, which helped them to track down his killers. Litvinenko died 22 days after being poisoned.

Speaking on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Interval Drinks podcast, Tennant said that playing Litvinenko, a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin, had affected him after filming as he had spent time with the real-life Marina.

“Litvinenko stayed with me because of meeting Marina and being so aware that this is the life she is still living,” he said.

“We are recreating something that happened relatively recently, that was devastating to her and to her life and has entirely transformed what her life since has become. I felt the responsibility of that, of getting that right. Just the horrors that she lived through and that that story signifies, our world is still living through.”

Marina Litvinenko in 2020

Describing the story as “so recent” and “so raw”, he added: “It’s so relevant to the world we’re living in, what happened to that man and the things that he spent his life talking about and that his wife Marina, who is an extraordinary human, is still doing. The reason we tell that story is because it’s so raw and vivid and important.”

Litvinenko, which is the brainchild of Lupin creator George Kay, follows Tennant’s critically acclaimed performance as serial killer Dennis Nilsen in ITV’s Des.

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In a statement, ITV said the forthcoming series was being created with the support of “many of the key individuals involved in the investigation and subsequent public inquiry”.

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