Professor T | Interview with Frances De La Tour (Adelaide Tempest)

How have you enjoyed being back on Professor T?

I loved it. I’d never worked with a Belgian crew before, but they were enchanting. When you work with nice people and you like the part, and it’s headed up so beautifully by Ben Miller, then it’s easy to have a very good time.

Was the dog playing Kafka pleased to see you again?

Oh, yes. I seem to end up playing lots of parts with dogs, and they’re a bit of a nuisance when you’re trying to do your work properly, but he’s incredibly sweet. There was one scene where I was shooting paint pellets and I worried about doing it in front of the dog, but they had a silent gun and added the noises later.

Did you contribute any of Adelaide’s paintings of Kafka yourself?

No, I confess that I didn’t. There was a bit of discussion over whether Adelaide’s art is any good, and we decided that, if she’s having an exhibition at a gallery, she either has to be reasonably good or she has just bought out the gallery. That would be possible, but you never get the feeling that they’re a rich family.

How has Jasper and Adelaide’s shared trauma affected them?

We know the unhappiness they both went through, that his father was an abusive alcoholic and Jasper witnessed it all as a boy. Adelaide is eccentric and probably not the greatest mother. You can tell that she doesn’t handle things well because she’s an exhibitionist, but you can also tell that she loves him and he loves her. They’re quite co-dependent because of that shared history.

Are you any good at guessing who the culprit is?

I am rather good at it, actually! I love the Nordic noirs, The Killing and The Bridge and so on, with the similar ingredient of the main character being damaged. Those damaged relationships are so fascinating – the best crime series, going right back to Columbo, are good because they’ve got complex leading characters. If you don’t have that, it becomes a bit run of the mill.

We see in this series that there’s no love lost between Adelaide and Christina (Juliet Aubrey).

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No love lost indeed! That’s another good thing about the writing: Adelaide’s hostility is never really explained, other than the implication that she feels Christina let her son down. Maybe it’s a reflection of Adelaide feeling she might have let her son down, but that brief meeting between the two of them is a lovely moment.

How does Adelaide feel about the Professor entering therapy?

She’s in a complete state about it. She obviously fears that it would disturb him – there may be something even more horrendous that has happened, that we’ve yet to find out. I have to play it moment by moment, playing the concern, the love, the awkwardness, because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the end. You’re living it a bit like the audience are living it.

Do you share any scenes with Juliet Stevenson?

We have a lovely scene at the end of the of the series where the Professor reveals something during a therapy session involving all three of them, and it comes as a surprise to her. We did it at two in the morning when we didn’t quite know whether we were coming or going, which may have added some gravitas!

Have you acted together before?

No, but I’ve known of her all my acting life. My ex-husband (Tom Kempinski) wrote a wonderful play for me, Duet for One, which I did for a year in the West End, and it was very successful. Twenty years later, Juliet did the revival and it was equally successful. It was so lovely that we shared a part written for me, and one that she felt so strongly about. She also has a wicked sense of humour and occasionally so do I, so we hit it off. Occasionally we had to remind ourselves we were doing a serious scene.

Adelaide is quite an advocate of homoeopathy.

Oh yes, she comes out with these lists of daft therapies, which is so typical of her. I saw Ben on a talk show and, because he has a science degree, he thinks it’s a load of nonsense. I think there is something to it. It’s not going to cure cancer, but if it gives people hope and it’s not damaging you in any way, why not? It’s the same for someone who believes in crystals, or eats spinach soup for a week. The danger is if it’s a substitute for proper medical care.

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Did you have input into Adelaide’s costumes?

Oh, those costumes are wonderful. Allison Wyldeck and I worked on them together because you don’t have a lot of rehearsal time, so when you find somebody who understands how she should look, it’s a delight. The character came alive. It was a great marriage between the costume and what was written.

Do you have a favourite scene from the new series?

My scenes are with Ben mainly, where I’m either in the studio painting the dog and having a go at Ben, or shouting at him through the letterbox because he won’t let me in. There’s a lovely scene where I’m trying to talk to him and he’s very slowly closing the door in my face, and a dinner scene where some of his childhood stuff was being revealed and concealed. I was very lucky to have a lot of incredibly fulfilling scenes with him.

What’s next for you?

I don’t do theatre anymore so it’s about the nice bits of television that come my way. There aren’t that many parts for old ladies, but I’m very happy with Professor T. I just need another show like it to come along, but there’s only one Professor T!

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.