Interview with Narrator David Harewood

Category: Press Pack Article

What is the story of Snow Baby?

It's all set in in the quintessential English town of Blackbury. It focusses on a young man called Arthur who is now the caretaker of this wonderful manor and he's very proud of his job keeping it clean and tidy. He wakes up on Christmas Eve and there’s snow covering the town, so he sets off to rescue his granny and realises she’s come to rescue him. Together they dig into the town to hear from one of the townspeople about this huge creature that has terrified him, so they try and track the monster down…

Why did you want to get involved in it?

The opportunity to do a children's Christmas classic! I was emailed about it when I was in Vancouver, fighting intergalactic aliens on Supergirl, and it just seemed so charming and gorgeous – a wonderful script that reminded me of Christmas jumpers and Christmas pudding and Christmas telly. It filled me with joy and when I realised that Julie Walters was going to be involved with it, I leapt at it. Terry Pratchett had a fantastic imagination. Whether it's the devil or some monstrous beast, he seemed to imbue it with a humanity and character, which makes this a lovely parable for where we are today: welcoming strangers into your home, taking care of them and giving them love and attention. Not to get too political, but we've spent the last couple of years kicking people out and demonising people who don't look like us, so I thought that was a wonderful Christmas message.

Children are very emotionally literate about this stuff, aren’t they?

Definitely – young people are far more gender literate and clued up over racism and all sorts of things. When I went out on Black Lives Matter marches last year, it was mainly a young crowd, which was thrilling – they were so engaged. There's a push from the younger generation to not follow the same paths as we did, to push for a cleaner, fairer world. Hopefully the future will be in good hands because they know what's at stake.

You've narrated a few things over the years.

Yes, I narrated my own book [Maybe I Don’t Belong Here] and I've voiced a few documentaries over the last couple years – I guess people have thought, well, that sounds good! I read the audiobook of The War of the Worlds as well.

How do you set about narrating something for children?

Just enjoy it! It’s got to be full of warmth and humour, and it’s nice to be able to use your voice in a different way. My own daughter knows it's something good if daddy’s using his posh voice.

Did you use your posh voice when you read to your daughters?

I used a variety of voices: an African voice, a Cockney… I used to make up stories sometimes, these African stories of elephants. I miss it, actually. For those 20 minutes of a bedtime story, everything else gets put away, because acting is make believe and that’s what I love. I still get that thrill when I put a costume on and step on set.

Would you consider writing a children's book?

It might be next! I've just written a book which is totally at the other end of the scale, so maybe my next book will be a fun-filled Christmas children's classic…

Did your journey to acting start with reading books and having your imagination sparked in that way?

Not really, my journey to acting came from being a class clown. My main goal in school was to try to entertain everybody around me which I guess came at the expense of my education, but I just couldn't help myself. I wasn't particularly academic, but I was inspired by the likes of Leonard Rossiter, Frankie Howerd and Tommy Cooper, their knack for just holding an audience spellbound and making them roar with laughter just by raising an eyebrow. But my teachers spotted a knack for acting and put me in plays.

Will the family gather for Snow Baby?

My kids watch YouTube all the time now, but I shall be glued to it and make sure the tablets are off while it’s on!

Do children want very different things from their entertainment these days? Or do the basic principles hold true?

The one thing I know as an actor is: we still do Shakespeare. It doesn’t matter about genre or age, some things just refuse to get old. There are always new ways of telling stories and something like Squid Game shows we're finally getting to a stage now where it doesn't have to be about telling the binary stories of white guy and white woman heroes. Now it's much more egalitarian, people will watch stories from all over the world as long as they capture the imagination. That's really exciting: people are now prepared to break out of the standard formats.

What’s next for you?

I’m on stage at The Young Vic in a play called Best of Enemies, based on an American documentary that follows Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley. It says a lot about where America is today. I'm been really looking forward to getting back on stage, because it’ll be the first time in about ten years.