Matt Smith Interview Doctor Who 50th Anniversary & New Companion
Matt Smith greeted long lines of devoted and delighted Doctor Who fans at last weekend’s Entertainment Media Show. During a fascinating question and answer session Matt spoke about everything from landing the biggest role in TV science fiction to the recent departure of Karen Gillan & Arthur Darvill.
Matt shared his favourite Doctor and talked a little about working with new companion played by Jenna Louise Coleman. He ruled out a return for The Ponds in any future episodes but hinted that Steven Moffatt has yet to decide whether or not the 50th anniversary episode will indeed feature a return for any of the past Doctors .
You can read the full transcript below:
What do you think is the magic of Doctor Who that’s allowed it to endure for so long?
Well for starters you have a show that isn’t bound by space or time. It’s not bound by logic, genre or place. So you can tell any story. Add to that, you have a main character that comes into dangerous situations with like a boiled sweet and a toaster and solves it. He still manages to wear a fez in the middle of it. There’s the magic of time travel, it’s such a brilliant televisual conceit. To regenerate the main character was also very very clever. That came about because William Hartnell couldn’t carry on for another season so they had to change it up and in came Partick Troughton.
What’s your favourite Doctor Who episode you’ve made so far?
I like an episode called the 11th hour, my first one, because I thought it was quite magic the way Steven Moffatt introduced the companion. Recently I like the Angels take Manhattan and Asylum of The Daleks. I think Steven’s on brilliant form with those.
Speaking of 11th hour did you enjoy eating fishfingers and custard?
Yeah it’s nice. It’s not that bad. It really is okay!
Aside from yourself, who is your favourite Doctor?
Well, it’s tricky because I sort of love so many of them. I love David Tenant. Christopher Eccleston is also really brilliant. I mean form the previous incarnations of the show I think the second doctor Patrick Troughton is magnificent because he’s peculiar without ever asking you to find him peculiar, which I think is the cool thing with the Doctor. He has a wonderfully Doctory face. It’s hard isn’t it! John Pertwee, Colin Baker they’re all great and I feel proud to be part of that legacy of gifted actors.
Did you get any tips from David when you were taking over the role?
Well the thing is with this part. It has to be your version of the part. So I don’t think you could pass it on to another actor and say do it this way. It’s a bit like playing Hamlet. It has got to be you way of doing it. I mean we talked before I took over but he just said he’d had the time of his life and I would too. I did it’s been extraordinary. But I didn’t get any tips in terms of acting and stuff, you have to invent that yourself.
When you play a character for this long what keeps it fresh? And how much of yourself do you inject into the role?
Well it remains fresh because the part is so brilliant. I mean he’s over a 1000 years old. He’s strange, beguiling, mad. There’s just an infinite number of possibilities of things you can put into that character. The writing is so good, the quality of writing continually challenges you and I’m nowhere near the quality of man that he is, you know the Doctor is extraordinary and I’m just a normal human being so it keeps it alive because you’re constantly clutching at this brilliant man and his astonishing mind.
The costume is such a big part of The Doctor’s personality, how much involvement did you have in creating that?
It took like three days to come up with it. I was going to wear a completely different outfit. I went to the audition in a tweed blazer which I can never wear ever again. Then it took us about three days to finally get there. I wanted there to feel like there’s an element of the professor. I didn’t want him to feel too cool. I was very much part of the process.
The Doctor has such a wide emotional range, what does that offer you as an actor?
You get to play comedy, drama, tragedy; he gets to be angry and he gets to be ridiculous. He’s the cleverest person in the room and the most stupid in the space of two or three lines. I remember when I started I used to get excited at how he can go from A to Z and miss out every other letter. No other character can do that. He can go from A to Z then back to A in the space of four or five lines. When you read the script he’s happy, serious ad then back to being really ridiculous again. It’s rare that you can find characters that can change that quickly and that drastically.
Do you ever look back on scenes and wish you could change any part of your performance?
Of course, I think the Angels episode and a couple of the others I looked back and thought about it. But you always do that. But it’s just a case of woulda, shoulda, didn’t. You have to be prepared an detailed in the moment and just hope for the best.
How do you feel about Amy and Rory leaving the show?
I was very sad, because I love the ponds and I love Karen & Arthur. I didn’t want them to go. But the thing about Doctor Who is that it always changes. You’ve got to get used to it. Some people have been fans for longer than others and have seen a lot of people come and go. That’s kind of how it goes with this show you know.
Do you think you’ll ever be filming another episode that features the Ponds in any way?
No I don’t to be honest with you. Steven Moffatt doesn’t want or like companions coming back. He’s not that into that. So I think they’re gone for good.
Does constant media speculation about when you may leave the show bother you?
No it doesn’t because it’s part and parcel of being involved in this show. People are always going to speculate about those things and you’ve just got to go with it. I mean there are worse things to put up with I suppose. I could have someone moaning at me for dropping glasses in a restaurant which would be more annoying.
What can you see yourself doing after Doctor Who?
Just being miserable that I don’t do Doctor Who anymore! That’s what Steven Moffat says. He always says after Doctor Who it’s just a slow demise. You’ll see me at fan events going I was Doctor Who once… please come and let me sign an autograph for you!
I mean seriously I’d love to do theatre. I quite fancy a bit of directing. I’d quite like that. So I don’t know really. Karen’s out in A so maybe go out there and see her for a bit. Get a dog. I don’t know.
Arthur’s just started in the West End have you see his play yet?
I have actually I went the other night with David Tenant. It’s great and he’s fantastic he’s very different to Rory Pond.
You’ve said you’d like to go back on the West End, are there any particular productions you’d was to be cast in?
I don’t know I’m a fan of new writing s something based around that would be quite interesting. But then they do great productions of old classics at the national, so something between those two would be great.
If you had to pick a companion form the previous companions who would you go for?
I’d probably want Rose. I’m really good friends with Billie Piper so she’d be fun to work with and she was one of the hottest ones I think.
If you could choose any actor to be a companion who would it be?
That’s a good question; I’d have to think about it. Who would I choose.. there’s a wonderful actress called Felicity Jones, she’s very interesting. I’ve got to think about it though, who can I pick, who’s really funny… Have you seen the show Nighty Night? Julia Davis from that show is great. I don’t want to jump into an answer though so next time you see me you can ask me again.
What if anything can you tell us about the new companion?
Not really much, she comes in Christmas in an episode with Hugh Grant as the dastardly villain. There’s a lot of snow but I can’t really say much more than that to be honest. It is really good though.
What’s Jenna-Louise Coleman like as an actress?
She’s a fantastic actress, she has movie star eyes. She’s very detailed and she’s been getting very detailed about the character. Because it’s quite a big show to jump into and you know what who fans are like as well. It takes us a while to accept change, even though we know it is coming. So she’s doing very well and I think everyone is going to love her.
With the 50th anniversary next year what would you like to see happen? Would you have any suggestions for the writers?
It’s a tough one. The thing is I would never try to presume that I would have a better idea than Steven. He’s cleverer than I am so I just let him get on with that and he gives me a script. I don’t know but it’s got to be something big and epic, it’s got to feel like it moves some sort of pivotal event in the show.
Will we perhaps finally see all the Doctors reunited on screen?
That’s a good question but I’m afraid I can’t answer it because I don’t know. They don’t tell me anything! But it would be really fun if they could. But I don’t know logistically I think getting it together nowadays would be very difficult. I’ve asked the same thing of Steven and I don’t think he knows at the moment or he just doesn’t tell me.
Would you like to see a new master or the old master?
Again it’s a tough one that because John was so brilliant, I like him and he’s such great actor. I don’t know though it’s sort of exciting to think there could be a new master out there sniffing around somewhere. It would be interesting, I’d quite like to face the master and whoop his ass! I don’t know what but I know that Steven will come up with something brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!
If you could film on location anywhere in the world where would you like to go?
Rio De Janeiro. My friend is over form Brazil and Rio is my favourite city the world. Then New York and London. London is pretty hard to beat.
If you had a TARDIS in real life where would you go?
I’ve always wanted to do an episode in the lost city of Atlantis so I’d probably go there or else I’d go see England win the world cup.
Now that the Doctor Who confidential is no longer with us what’s the best way fans can stay up to date with life behind the scenes on the show?
Well online and twitter I guess. But Karen and Arthur were the only ones on Twitter. I haven’t been tempted myself. I think the clue is in the title, it’s Twit… errrr… Perhaps I suit the twitness but it’s just not for me really.
What advice would you give to young fans who’d like to go into acting themselves?
Join the National Youth Theatre. Go online tomorrow and join that, it’s a great start and a great way into acting. It’s an education in performance. Then go to watch plays, see as many stage productions as you can. Obviously watch films as well, just really try and study it from an early age.
Speaking of fans, what shows are you a fan of?
I love Breaking Bad, I love The Walking Dead, I just love Zombies! I’ve been watching a lot of Dexter lately, which is cool. He’s a cool character.
How would you feel about seeing the Doctor turn darker?
That’s a question for Steven really, I wouldn’t want to assume story wise what he would put off. But if you consider the history of the man all the empires and people he’s lost along the way. I mean his own race he basically pressed the button. So there’s a lot of blood on his hands. Which is why I think ultimately he’s so daft and happy!
It means so much for fans to meet you but have you had any weird, special or memorable fan encounters yourself?
Oh yeah, Loads. When I first started and the majority of the Whovians out there in the world hated me, these people called the 11th Doctor club sent me this book of letters, before they’d ever seen me say a word on screen. I’ll never forget it actually, it was full of letters of encouragement telling me don’t worry we think you’re going to be alright and we support you. I’ll seriously never forget that. I think there’s been so many special encounter though because I do think Doctor Who fans are the best in the world really. They’re always the loudest anywhere you go.
Generally people are really enthusiastic, although I did meet one lady today. She must have come round like ten times to meet me, with five things for me to sign each time. Then someone next to her said “Have you been enjoying the new series?” and she said “No, I’m boycotting it because I don’t like you as the doctor!”. It was like why are you getting things signed then? But that’s just the nature of the beast. Not everyone is going to like you. But generally the support and enthusiasm of people is just glorious and it means a great deal to everyone on the show.
Have you ever had any scary Doctor Who style dangers to face in real life?
No not really and I don’t think I’d face them with the same silliness and courage that he does. He’s such an extraordinary man. Of course I’ve been afraid and exhilarated but the great thing about him is that when he’s meant to be really afraid he’s actually really excited. Everyone else is afraid and he’s just smiling.
Steven always says to me that if the Doctor isn’t funny then he’s nothing at all. He’s got to be funny; he’s got to have that sense of humour about him. He’s like a child in so many ways. I think that stuff is interesting. But that’s the great thing about the part really, that’s why you can keep reinventing it.
What does scare you in real life particular when you were growing up?
I was exposed to Friday The 13th far too young which was just horrific. That scared me! With Doctor Who people say the Angels scared them the most from the recent series. That’s a very interesting question though because I think for children to be scared early on has an interesting value about it. What’s great about the show is that when young fans watch it they’re scared and then hopefully when the Doctor arrives that fear becomes less because they know that character is there to resolve it.
In The God Complex what did you see in that room?
That’s a good question do you really want me to tell you… the thing is we don’t know what we’re supposed to be seeing in there but trying to be cryptic about it… what I imagined he saw was ten men hanging from ten nooses but one noose free or an 11th man, so that’s what I thought he saw.
Before you started attending fan events had you ever gone to get anyone’s autograph before?
No I haven’t but I would now. Today I totally went and had a photo with Frank Bruno and Mike Tyson. It totally made me realise actually when you go a queue up to have a photo, how important that few seconds is. I walked off thinking wow amazing I just met Mike Tyson. I hope you’ve had a nice day in a similar way with me.
If we ever get a first female Doctor what would she need to be?
She’d need to talk quickly, always appear cleverer than they are and always be funny! And sexy actually if you’re going to be the first female doctor I think she’s got to be pretty sexy.
People seem to come to Doctor Who to be reminded that live is beautiful and magic, but what do you think we should take form Doctor Who?
We’ll that. You’ve just nailed it. I think you should take pure fun TV you can watch on a Saturday night with your Grandma, son, nephew or mates. Hopefully it should always remain slightly barmy and slightly silly. But I don’t know, people take different things form it but I like that it’s a big mad adventure every week and you never really know what you’re going to get. At the heart of it is someone who essentially has all the good stuff that you look for in an adult but who isn’t cynical, that’s such a wonderful trait to still have in adulthood.