What can you say about the episode you’re filming this week?
Well, we’re doing a Mark Gatiss script. He’s written numerous Doctor Who episodes. We’ve got Diana Rigg, Dame Diana Rigg — Emma Peel! (Rigg played Peel on the beloved ’60s U.K show The Avengers)! I mean, she is one of the first kick-arse women. It’s wonderful. What an actress! What a lady! We’re thrilled to have someone of her caliber on the show.
I think Mark has written a wonderfully sprawling episode. Let me read you a line. This is an exclusive! “Well, thanks a million, you three. Have some Pontefract Cakes on me.” So there we go. I’m giving it all away! It’s a great episode. The Doctor’s in a cool new Victorian costume. I get a hat and a three-piece suit. I’m having a ball!
This is one of the first episodes to feature the Doctor’s new companion, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman. How is she doing?
She’s doing really well. She’s thoroughly prepared, has a lovely nature about her, and I think she really gets Steven’s writing. This show is about change and it’s about regeneration and the only thing you can do is move with it. So we embrace and welcome Jenna and she’s doing really well.
Doctor Who is such a big deal in the U.K. Her life is about to completely change. Did you give her any advice?
Yeah, as much as you can. You say, “The truth is your life is going to change really dramatically in ways that you probably can’t even fathom at the moment. You know, the next time you go to a family wedding, you won’t be left alone.” But to an extent you have to discover that sort of thing for yourself. But it’s all for the good, really. It’s just about being positive. How do you handle anything? It’s part of your job. You never say “No” to children. It’s just part of the remit.
You once described Steven Moffat as “brilliantly cantankerous.” Would you care to expand on that?
He is brilliantly cantankerous. He has very firm opinions about everything — apart from what car he’s meant to get into going from A to B, where he generally looks quite confused. He doesn’t quite know where he should be going once he’s leaving somewhere and going somewhere else.
But, I mean, Steven makes me laugh more than most people in the world. He is acute and funny and ironic and silly and remains, at the ripe and seasoned age of 50, very child-like and ridiculous and good fun. I just read the Christmas special and there’s a bit in it where I’m like, “Where does he get it from? Where? Where does it come from?” Because it’s totally left field as an idea, and it’s magic. The invention through form in this show — I mean, can you imagine having to plot this show?
You’re friends with Andrew Garfield, who actually appeared on Doctor Who a few of years ago. How did you meet?
We did a play together at the National Theatre in London. It was a trilogy of plays called Burn, Chatroom, and Citizenship. I remember at the read-through looking up and going, “Whoah, this kid’s good. Damn!” I was like, “Boy, this kid’s something. I’ve got to raise my game.” He’s an incredible actor and it’s no surprise to me that he’s doing the things that he’s doing. I knew at that read-through. I loved working with him every night and we went to war, you know.
It must be surreal now that he’s Spider-Man, you’re the star of Doctor Who.
It is kind of surreal, I’ve got to say. I knew I’d come across one of the actors of a generation when I worked with him and absolutely that’s what he is. But he’s a good guy as well.
Have you discussed with Steven an end date to your tenure as the Doctor?
Not really, no. We’ve got too much to plan in the meantime. We’ve got the 50th anniversary stuff next year. I take it year by year. Because it’s such a commitment on your life. I don’t think you could do it for 7 years, like Tom Baker did. It would age you too savagely. The great thing about the Doctor is that there’s no stop sign. He can keep going and keep evolving and he can surprise you and the moment he stops surprising you is probably the moment that you should hand it over. But he still surprises me, so I’m still hanging in there.
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