INTERVIEW: Peter Serafinowicz & Griffin Newman [The Tick]

The Tick returns with the end of its first season February 23 on Amazon Prime Video.

‘TV and City’ had the privilege of chatting with the stars of The Tick over the phone. Here’s what Peter Serafinowicz, who plays the titular hero Tick, and Griffin Newman, who plays sidekick Arthur, had to say about the new episodes and the show’s everlasting appeal.

Were you familiar with the comic or old show before being cast or did you need to do research for the role?

Griffin Newman: I was a big fan of the previous shows. I hadn’t really gotten into the comics, and then when I got the first audition for this, I started digging into the comics, because I’m obsessive and needed things to work on so thing wouldn’t feel futile while I just waited for them to decide if they would hire me. At this point I’ve sort of become an obsessive completist with all things The Tick.

Peter Serafinowicz: I was only marginally aware of the character. After I got the part, I realized what a big deal it was… and thereby, I am.

GN: Yeah, Peter gained like two feet in height after getting the role.

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What do you think is so appealing about your characters?

GN: There’s something so genuine about The Tick and Arthur as characters – they’re so fully themselves.

PS: They’re sincere.

GN: The thing I love about Arthur, that always appealed to me when I was young as a very nervous, scared, overwhelmed child, was that Arthur didn’t try to pretend he wasn’t nervous, scared, overwhelmed. We’ve seen a lot of comedy with anxious characters trying to maintain their fake cool, and Arthur was very open with his vulnerability. To see someone like that still put themselves into danger…

PS: It’s not fashionable, and hasn’t been for quite a long time, the kind of pure goodness that Tick has. There’s no other angle to it besides “I want to protect people and beat up bad guys.” I think that was a huge part of the original appeal superheroes had, which has kind of been neglected lately.

GN: Yes! What always connected me to superheroes is yeah, the costumes are cool and the superpowers are cool, but the reason they’ve stuck as mythos in American culture is the idea of people choosing to do good. That’s the thing that really hits on an elemental level: People in power choosing to the right thing, fighting people who choose to do the wrong thing. Arthur and The Tick are such pure distillations of that. Someone without power who still chooses the right path, and someone with all the power in the world who is only driven by a sense of unwavering goodness. I think they represent an id or ego of how we all want to function. Not to get too heavy about it. [Laughs]

PS: Well, thanks for saying that. [Laughs] You could’ve started with that!

Do each of you have a favorite moment from the new episodes?

GN: I will admit, I haven’t seen the full season yet, but my favorite scene to shoot was in this first new episode back. I got to do a big scene with Jackie Earle Haley, who I’m such a big fan of. He’s such a big shadow over my character and it took months – a year after I met him on the pilot – before we actually got on screen together. It just felt like such a culmination of everything Arthur’s building up to, getting the proof that this guy is alive.

PS: He’s extraordinary, just extraordinary. That’s probably my favorite bit I think – when he tries to sound threatening. I can’t remember how he dismisses you, but it’s along the lines of “Don’t do that.” In the hands of other actors I think it would be mishandled and cheesy, but when Jackie does it he pulls it off. You start to sympathize with this man who wants to inflict pain on people.

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GN: It’s almost like watching an Olympic figure skater. There’s a precision to his craft. And it’s such a difficult character, The Terror. What I still don’t understand is how he pulls off simultaneously being genuinely scary and threatening, and deeply funny. Usually those things are contradictory. You can a funny villain, or you can have a scary villain. One undercuts the other. He does that magic trick at all times.

This next question is for Peter… I’ve always wondered, is it hard to do an American accent?

PS: Not particularly. There are occasions where I ask Griffin to read a line just so I’ll be sure how to pronounce it. British people’s mouths kind of shake words in a different way. Americans’ tongues move differently. The actual perceived difference is very superficial from what’s really going on. It’s not difficult, but it is fun.

GN: Peter is also an incredible mimic and is endlessly fascinating by people’s ticks – pun intended. He enjoys the challenge of cracking into a new vernacular, a new dialect, vocal pitch.

PS: Griffin’s also an amazing mimic. In fact, this is Griffin talking right now!

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