The Amazon series The Tick exists in a world where superheroes have been real for decades, and a strange man in a blue suit with antennae, aka The Tick (played with such earnest charm by Peter Serafinowicz), becomes convinced that Arthur (Griffin Newman), an accountant with mental health issues, is the sidekick he needs to save the world from a global supervillain thought to be dead. As they work to uncover the conspiracy, Arthur must learn to break out of his safe and unheroic shell while Tick must overcome his own existential crisis before they can help anyone else.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Peter Serafinowicz talked about becoming The Tick, what he most enjoys about playing this character, putting on the blue superhero costume, how the series evolved after the pilot, the odd couple dynamic between Tick and Arthur, and why this old-fashioned superhero is so appealing.
Collider: How did you come to be The Tick?
PETER SERAFINOWICZ: Well, I was asked to be. When I read the script, I thought, “Wow, this is actually pretty amazing!” For something that had been described to be as a superhero parody, that didn’t sound attractive. It made me think of a sketch, or one of those parody movies from a few years ago. It made me think of something quite straightforward and not particularly sophisticated, and I couldn’t have been more wrong, really. Once I read the script, I was like, “Good grief, this is so beautifully written.” It’s unique. What is it?! It’s a hard show to describe. I don’t really know how to describe it to people, but I’m so pleased with how it’s turned out. I think it’s wonderful. I just love it! I think I would love it, if I wasn’t in it. Maybe I would love it even more! Despite me being in it, I feel very proud to have been asked to be in it and to play this character. It really is like nothing I’ve seen before.
What do you most enjoy about playing The Tick and about getting to run around in a superhero costume?
SERAFINOWICZ: Taking it off, as soon as possible! Probably what I enjoy most about it is speaking the words. They’re so poetic and lyrical and dazzling. Ben Edlund is one of the finest writers I’ve ever encountered, in any medium, so to speak those words is a huge privilege. There’s something surreally Shakespearean about the way he uses language. I don’t know what it is. Even in casual conversations with him, he crafts every sentence with such care and attention, and he tries to make each sentence unusual, interesting, fun and funny, and that’s in his writing. The care that he takes with his writing is quite extraordinary. He’s hugely talented.
What was it like to not only put the costume on for the first time, but to actually see yourself in it?
SERAFINOWICZ: It was a bit of a shock. We all have an inner perception of what we look like and a projection of ourselves, and it’s usually quite a bit more flattering, I would say, than the truth. Being an actor, as well, if I’m playing a character who is a human that’s in human clothes, I have a pretty good, if optimistic, idea of what I look like. With this, I just didn’t, at all. I consciously put on the suit with the muscles and the blue antennae, but that’s not my constant thought, as I’m wearing it. I got used to it, in a way. But physically, I never got used to it and I’ll be psychologically damaged, forever. I didn’t really know what I looked like, but we don’t really know what we look like, any of us. Wouldn’t it be funny or disturbing, if you were to meet yourself? I don’t think many people would relish that encounter because of the projection of self-image that you have. You would immediately spot all of the flaws that you try to hide or not think about or play down. Maybe that helped me with the performance. I was so unaware of what I looked like, and that’s Tick’s character. He has very little awareness of what he looks like and how much he does not fit into the world. He’s got no clue, at all.
You shot the pilot for this, and then you had to wait a bit of time before the series was ordered and you went back to shoot the rest of the episodes. Were there any adjustments made, either to the show and character or with your own performance, during that time?
SERAFINOWICZ: There were adjustments. The costume was completely changed. It was incredibly uncomfortable and restrictive in the pilot. That whole aspect aside, I think the show was the show that everybody wanted to do, from the start. The big challenge for the writers was coming up with a way to have Tick’s character develop and change. By nature, his character is fixed. He has these very simple values with an old-fashioned superhero code for punching bad guys and saving people. Outside of that, he’s like a naive child who wants to learn. He’s like a savant, in the way that he can wax extremely lyrical and his vocabulary is astonishingly varied and poetic, but yet he doesn’t understand very, very basic things about being a human being. I love that about him. I’d love to meet The Tick. He’s so optimistic. I feel like I could use The Tick in my life sometimes.
There’s such an interesting odd couple dynamic between Tick and Arthur. What does The Tick bring out in Arthur, and what does Arthur bring out in The Tick?
SERAFINOWICZ: Initially, Tick is convinced that Arthur has this latent power and superheroism that Arthur, himself, is unaware of. He gives him confidence by telling him that the power is inside of him. He brings that out in Arthur. Tick’s main desire is that Arthur likes him. That’s all he cares about. And once that mission is accomplished, his relationship with Arthur makes him start to question his own existence and he doubts himself. It’s then Arthur who has to help Tick through his own crisis of personality. I loved that whole dynamic. It was lovely to perform because I have such a great relationship with Griffin [Newman]. We just clicked, the moment we met, and I think he’s so talented. I really wanted Griffin to be my friend, and fortunately, he is. There was some initial reluctance, but then I beat him down.
I love how, even though Tick doesn’t really know where he’s from or why he’s doing what he’s doing, he knows he’s supposed to help people. There’s something really pure and beautiful about that.
SERAFINOWICZ: And it’s old-fashioned, as well. That’s something that people have forgotten about that’s so important.
The Tick is available to stream on Amazon Prime.