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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Robin Hood returns to BBC One – David Harewood as Tuck

David Harewood as Friar Tuck

Traditionally, Friar Tuck is depicted as a chubby, bald and jovial monk, so when David Harewood was first offered the part of Tuck in the third series of Robin Hood, he found it all rather amusing.

"I actually laughed at first and thought it was ridiculous!," chuckles the actor, who last year starred as Freddy Graham in BBC One's compelling thriller, Criminal Justice. "But they sent me the character breakdown and it was very different from what I expected." And, as he explains, viewers can expect a very different incarnation of Tuck. "It was a welcome change and something I really felt was going to be exciting.

"Funnily enough," laughs David, "when I first saw Robin Hood when it started three years ago, I thought they'd missed a trick and that they should have had a black character in it. It turns out that I am the black character, so I think it's adds a modern dimension to it, as well. I think viewers will really take to it – at least I hope they will!"

In the opening episode, Tuck arrives on the shores of England with one thing on his mind – to resurrect the legend of Robin Hood.

"He wants England to be a place of hope but he comes back to find that the people are slightly broken," explains David, "much like they are now with the credit crunch! The people need a hero and that's what Tuck very much wants – to stand behind a symbol of good."

But the Robin Hood that Tuck finds is a broken man – one who has given up on life following the murder of his wife, Marian, at the hands of Robin's mortal enemy, Sir Guy Of Gisborne. A frustrated Tuck soon realises that his mission is going to be a lot tougher than he had first anticipated.

Tuck rescues Robin, bringing him back from the brink, and shows Robin how much the people need him. Tuck needs a new plan, however, and tells Gisborne that Robin's body is buried at Dead Man's Crossing, whilst also "betraying" Robin's gang by telling him that he is alive and wants to meet them at the same place. An excited, but cautious, gang turn up only to be arrested by Gisborne.

"Throughout the series Tuck has to work hard and gain their trust," explains David. "I think it's exciting, though, to have a Tuck that's a bit of a loose cannon – somebody that can do his own thing."

Tuck's intentions are genuine, however, and he doesn't have an ulterior motive – as viewers might first be led to believe.

"If he did have an ulterior motive, I think it would be to make the country a republic," says David. "He's not necessarily in love with the country at all. He's very much for the people, by the people, and, if it was up to him, he'd get rid of the monarchy and make it a republic – he wants the people to govern and the people to be happy.

"Tuck is very much his own person – many times he will go against Robin, argue with Robin and talk Robin into doing things he doesn't want to do. I think he's going to be a challenge to the whole group."

David underwent some training in preparation for his role, although he has done a lot of fighting before.

"My stunt double was a kind of a Capawara champion, and there's quite a lot of martial arts that my character does later on in the series – which was really, really fun to do and very physical."

David enjoyed the whole filming experience in Hungary, and is very proud of his involvement in the series.

"It was a really, really good romp. The guys were really good fun, it was a fantastic setting and the cast and crew were great – it was really good fun to do."

Having experienced a taster of life back in medieval times, is that a time David would have liked to live in?

"No!," he laughs. "I think life was even tougher back then. What would we have done without our mobiles or Blackberries?! I think it would have been quite a shock, so I am more than happy to be living in modern times."

David has just come back from South Africa, where he filmed a new drama, commissioned by the BBC, about Winnie Mandela, the controversial wife of the first black South African president. He plays Nelson Mandela alongside Oscar-nominated actress Sophie Okonedo, who stars as Winnie Mandela.

But, for now, it's back to life in medieval times and Tuck.

"I really enjoyed making Robin Hood and I think viewers are going to be very surprised by Tuck – he's just a very different incarnation," says David.

"It's fantastic, action-packed and it has something in it for the ladies and something in it for the guys – it's just a very entertaining show. There's a lot of comedy, but the ending is extremely moving. I can't wait to see it on screen."

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