David Tennant on the ‘Moment of Madness’ of ‘Around the World in 80 Days’

David Tennant in Around the World in 80 Days

A dynamic Victorian trio team up to circumnavigate the globe in this colorful reimagining of Jules Verne’s 1872 adventure novel. Although this telling from writer–exec producer Ashley Pharoah, filmed in South Africa and Romania, is injected with a modern sensibility, it keeps the setting and basic story: A posh, middle-aged British gentleman, Phileas Fogg (David Tennant, above), reads a newspaper article about advances in travel and makes a bet with friends that he can circle the earth in record time.

“It’s a moment of madness,” Tennant says. “He’s ill-equipped to go on this kind of adventure. But Ashley has given him more of a backstory.” His added motivation: He’s just received a postcard from his long-lost love bearing only one word—“coward.”

As in the book, Fogg is joined by valet Jean Passepartout (Ibrahim Koma), now a street-smart, resourceful, courageous ladies’ man—everything Fogg is not. Nixed is the character of Detective Fix, a policeman who pursued Fogg for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s been replaced with Abigail “Fix” Fortescue (Leonie Benesch), a persistent young journalist who, Benesch says, “wasn’t wanted as part of this journey” but sees it as “her opportunity to make her mark in a man’s world.”

We’ll just sit back and enjoy the hot air balloon and camel rides.

Around the World in 80 Days, Series Premiere, Sunday, January 2, 8/7c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)