This is the second of four BBC America press interviews with Doctor Who cast and crew, counting down to the premiere of the show’s new season on BBC America, April 17th @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST. Enjoy!
IT may be the eleventh time an actor has taken on the iconic role of the Doctor, but Matt Smith hasn’t let that stand in his way of creating his very own vision for the character. Here, he explains what it was like to land the role and talks about his dream trip in the TARDIS.
“It was quite weird news to receive,” says Matt Smith, the youngest actor the play the title role of the hit show, Doctor Who. “I mean, at that point it was a piece of information I couldn’t share with anyone, so it didn’t feel tangible, but needless to say I was very pleased.
“I actually ended up walking around London listening to Sinatra on my iPod,” laughs the 27-year-old as he tries to explain the moment he found out he had won the much-coveted role of the Doctor. “Funnily enough, my mum had texted me to say she thought I should play the Doctor a week before my agent asked me to audition, so she was delighted I got the part. I was also abroad when it was announced on the BBC and my phone went mad – the bill was enormous!”
Spanning five decades, Doctor Who has been a part of British culture for nearly 50 years. Since its successful return in 2005, both Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant have played the title role and made their own mark on the eccentric Time Lord. Now it’s Smith’s turn to give his own portrayal of the iconic character; a challenge which some young actors may have shied away from.
“I think these things are only as intimidating as you allow them to be,” explains Smith. “It’s a real privilege to join such a successful show; it’s a bit like joining Manchester United [soccer team]. It’s good to be part of something strong and long may it continue. Plus I couldn’t have inherited the role from a nicer man. I guess it’s like anything really, the more you do something the less daunting and intimidating it becomes.”
Smith admits, however, that his first day of filming, which took place on a beach in wet and windy conditions, was both daunting and challenging.
“It was very tough because we were up against the tide and could only film until 3 p.m.,” reveals the actor. “It felt like being in a twilight zone because there were so many people watching and dozens of paparazzi around! It was nice that Karen Gillan [who plays the Doctor’s new companion, Amy Pond] was there as well, though,” he continues, “because we were both going through the same experience. We were also surrounded by Doctor Who fans and every time I had to nip to the toilet they followed me. I’ve now learnt this is the norm on Doctor Who.”
Central to the story is the TARDIS, which transports The Doctor across time and space to a wonderful array of worlds and universes. The TARDIS is a living creature and regenerates along with the Doctor in the opening episode of the new series. The details of the new TARDIS will remain an onscreen surprise for viewers, but Smith confesses he was like a boy in a candy store when he first set foot in it.
“It’s like a Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche all molded into one!” exclaims the excited actor. “It’s so incredible because the TARDIS is an icon of our cultural history and suddenly I’m the one who’s flying it. I am quite clumsy, though, so I kept breaking parts of the console and the poor production team had to keep fixing it,” chuckles Smith. “But the TARDIS is a magic concept and it provides a constant source of wonderment and adventure for both the Doctor and the viewers.”
There have been 10 previous incarnations of the Doctor, each with their own traits and quirks, but what can viewers expect from this bow tie wearing Doctor?
“He’s still the same man, but I think my Doctor is a bit more reckless; he’s a thrill seeker and addicted to time travel,” reveals Smith. “The Doctor is the mad buffoon genius who saves the world because he’s got a great heart, spirit and soul, but he also doesn’t suffer fools. I hope all of these things come across, but I think I’ve also injected a bit of my own personality into the role. I also helped choose the Doctor’s costume which was great fun. Steven Moffat [series executive producer] is very keen that the outfit isn’t seen as the overriding factor of the Doctor’s personality, but we still needed to find something that felt right. We tried on lots of things but kept reaching a dead-end. We dismissed a number of items including a long leather coat, a long blue coat and some short punky stuff! But then one day I brought in my braces and a tweed jacket and it went from there. Soon we had the whole outfit, although something still felt like it was missing and I asked if I could try on a bow tie – at that point the execs all bowed their heads in concern, but luckily when I tried it on we agreed it worked and it has sort of become the signature of my Doctor now.”
Joining the Doctor on his adventures throughout time and space is new companion Amy Pond, played by redheaded beauty Karen Gillan, and Smith admits the pair of them found it difficult to remain serious when filming scenes together.
“I always used to look forward to us being in make-up together because we would just make each other crack up. I think that’s important because it forms part of the energy of the show,” explains Smith. “I also think the Doctor and Amy share a sightly mad relationship; she’s a handful and he likes the fact that she challenges him and can sometimes act a bit bonkers. The way they are introduced to each other is truly magical and they form a deep affinity for one another.”
Throughout this series, Amy and the Doctor go on some truly extraordinary adventures.
“I loved filming the vampire stuff in Croatia, which doubled for Venice,” notes Smith. “I had to climb a huge bell tower with a rain machine pummeling water at me. It was freezing cold but I absolutely loved it! I also enjoyed filming part of episode 10 when I was yanked through the air on a harness after being hit by an invisible monster. However, my favorite scene to film was in the first episode when I ate fish fingers and custard with the character of Amelia. Luckily, they were actually breaded cakes so it wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds. I had to eat a lot of them, but it was an enchanting scene, so it was worth it.”
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