TV Interview: Andy Gathergood – Professor T, Or Giving Rabbit A Run

August 17, 2021

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Every aspect of Professor Jasper Tempest’s (Ben Miller) life is precisely calibrated and rigidly structured. Impeccably dressed and meticulously punctual, he lectures daily at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, teaching students imaginatively, if pedantically, about the science of crime. And each evening, he returns home to his apartment, which is as sterile and systematically ordered as a science lab. Thanks to this strictly regimented approach, his OCD and germaphobia are under control. But Professor T’s buttoned-down world is slowly undone when he is persuaded by one of his former students, Detective Sergeant Lisa Donckers (Emma Naomi), to assist her in investigating a serial rapist who has started attacking young women again after a 10-year hiatus. The Professor’s encyclopaedic knowledge of criminal psychology and his brilliant mind prove invaluable to the under-resourced CID team, but the cracks in his carefully constructed emotionless carapace also begin to show. Professor T (available on Britbox)is a classic crime procedural, featuring a brilliant criminologist and amateur sleuth who solves a succession of quirky and baffling cases. At the same time, it explores the complex private lives of a diverse and engaging cast of characters, not least Professor T himself and the troubling effect that childhood trauma invariably has on adult psychology.

In the series, Andy Gathergood plays Detective Inspector Paul Rabbit.


Who is Paul Rabbit?
Paul was a model cop with a really good career. He’s been successful over the years. He has always done things by the book. He’s a good detective and is respected within the force, as well as being known as a reliable, decent bloke. The twist is the trauma that has come into his life. He lost his daughter to a hit and run incident and that changed his personality, affecting his ability to do his job. He’s good at what he does, but he’s not coping well at the moment. His loss has a much greater impact on his judgement and conduct than you can ever imagine.


How does this affect his relationship with his colleagues?
He’s always had a good relationship with his team. They work well together and balance each other out. Christina, his boss, is talented and supportive. She has continued to support Paul through his trauma. She knows him well and she’s aware of what’s going on at home. She tries to help him but he doesn’t particularly want to accept that
help. With regards to Lisa and Dan, they stay out of Paul’s way. He’s becoming more erratic and they take the decision to step aside and not get involved. They know that Christina will deal with anything that is clearly inappropriate or dangerous. As a result, Paul gradually becomes paranoid. He thinks people are doing things behind his back and talking about him. That isolates him, makes him feel even more lonely and leaves him to deal with everything on his own.


Do the viewers get a glimpse of the old Paul?
I needed to make sure that there would be moments where the viewer cares about him. I don’t expect them to like him, because they haven’t seen him before the loss, but I needed them to care, because he’s fundamentally a good bloke. Everything that’s difficult to watch about Paul Rabbit I put down to the trauma. Before that, I am confident that he did like a joke and a laugh, and that he did have a good sense of camaraderie within the team. I
don’t see him as a difficult boss in general – I clung onto his past. When I first read the script, I was looking for places to make him smile or show vulnerability. He can’t have a grump on all the time, because it’s not fun
to watch.


How would you describe Paul’s relationship with Professor T?
Paul feels undermined by Professor T’s arrival. He’s already feeling weak, and now his authority is being challenged by the professor. Tempest looks at cases from different angles and that’s something that Paul can’t contribute to because he works by the book, that’s what he’s good at. He solves cases successfully by doing things the right way, and everything that Professor T does is ‘the wrong way’ and can’t really be justified or qualified within a policing perspective. So you risk ruining the case by advocating some of the things Professor T does and Paul cannot stand that. A lot of work goes into these cases, and someone coming in with maverick ideas could wreck it at a moment’s notice. Paul’s frustration is he thinks the Professor is just getting lucky and his methods are going to fail at some point. When that happens he thinks it’s going to be horrific – that the Cambridge Police force will be in serious trouble and its credibility irretrievably damaged.


What made you want to be part of Professor T?
I watched the original Belgian series, which gave me the flavour of the show, with the fantasy dreamscapes alongside a police procedural drama. And it was those fantasy sequences that drew me to it. They made the series feel different and I found them really cool – I’d never seen anything like it before. I loved that they had retained those in the British version because the possibilities are infinite, and they allow you to see what’s going on in Professor T’s mind. The stylised nature is brilliant. Sadly for me Paul Rabbit isn’t in those bits, but I can live with that! The other thing that stands out is the character of the Professor. He’s a high functioning individual with OCD, so what’s going on in his mind is different to what’s happening in yours or mine, and we get access to his thoughts. I don’t see that happening in a lot of TV shows that are out there now – specifically going into the minds of intelligent people as they handle stressful situations in their own specific way. Hopefully viewers will engage with these two different worlds running in parallel – what’s going on in his mind and the detectives solving the cases. Plus, there’s a lot of comedy that adds to the fun, so you’ll smile a lot despite the severity of the cases.


Would you be a good detective in real life?
No! I’m not good at spotting a liar or picking up on people’s tells, so I really don’t have that perceptive nature that a high level detective needs. I’m so impressionable and even as a kid I just believed everything that anyone told me – if a criminal told me a complex story I would just think it must be true! I’d end up being an office-based copper at the desk crunching the numbers.

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