British actor David Tennant vividly recalls seeing an image of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko lying in a hospital bed in the news in 2006.
It’s a photograph he’s recreated, with support from makeup artists, prosthetics professionals, and the art department for new miniseries Litvinenko. The drama, written by George Kay, follows the investigation into what happened after KGB agent turned Putin critic was poisoned to death in London.
Tennant says the team behind the show were driven to get the story right and felt the “weight of responsibility” of recent history upon them.
“The ripples of this moment are still felt in the pond we’re still swimming in,” she said.
“Everyone wanted to approach this with a respect for the material, which perhaps goes beyond what one might more easily expect.”
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Litvinenko died in London after drinking tea laced with radioactive material polonium-210 in a hotel with two Russian men. He spoke to police from his hospital bed, launching an investigation into what would have been his murder of him.
“There were so many unpredictable elements and elements that were part of this story that could easily have never been told,” said Tennant.
“The very fact that Sasha (Litvinenko) had to survive against adversity, overwhelming odds, for as long as he lived, to be able to identify what his venom was, where it came from, how it happened, why not there were precedents.”
Last September, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the findings of the 2016 British inquiry, according to which Russia was responsible for the killing of Litvinenko.
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Tennant said the new series has never been more relevant.
“It’s about a state or a man or a man’s state and how that affects our lives around the world,” he said.
“And that certainly makes us think. It’s alarming. And we can’t let him (Putin) off the hook.”
Litvinenko debuts on AMC+ and Sundance Now in the US on December 16.
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