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Doctor Who: Jenna Coleman interview on leaving the BBC show

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Last week, Jenna Coleman announced that she is leaving Doctor Who, BBC America’s long-running time travel show on which she plays monster-battling schoolteacher Clara Oswald. So, why, exactly, is the British actress leaving behind Peter Capaldi’s Doctor — and the TARDIS — now? “Conversations have been going on for a while in terms of where is the best place, how can we tell the best story, time-wise,” Coleman tells EW. “We decided last year, it had only been one season with Peter, and there was a lot more to do. So that’s what it was, really. It was just about telling the best story we could. So, I’m hoping that’s what was done. I’m really pleased with it. I think it’s really cool. People will have to wait and see what happens!”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I believe you thought about leaving at the end of last season, and then maybe after the special Christmas episode. This time around, did Steven Moffat [Doctor Who executive producer] say, “Are you really really, really sure?”

JENNA COLEMAN: My contract was up at the end of last season, so that initiated conversations of, “Okay, when and how?” I don’t know how a story was leaked that I was leaving — it was because the contract was up. There were just ongoing discussions about how to end Clara’s story, as it were, in the TARDIS, and this is where it ended up.

Can you say anything specific about when we will see your character leave the show, assuming we haven’t already [at the end of last week’s episode Clara was seemingly exterminated by those dreaded, armor-clad mutants, the Daleks]?

I can’t. But I’m hoping it will be a surprise, and I’m hoping it will stay a surprise. Yeah. [Laughs]

What kind of response have you received since making the announcement you were leaving?

People tweet at you but it’s been really warm and lovely, in fact. I have to say, it’s kind of a relief because, having known for such a long time, it’s really nice to be able to say it. 

What was it like shooting your last day on Doctor Who?

It did not feel real at all. I mean, it’s become more my home than my home actually is. It was just really weird. But we film out of sequence as well so, my last part with Peter, I couldn’t quite look at him because it wasn’t supposed to be a sad part. It’s hard to go into detail without telling you anything, but I was really overwhelmed. I recognize that it’s a special part of my life. The storytelling is so dynamic, and big, and whimsical, and magical. You feel like you’re in a fairy tale and it’s really hard to walk away from that. It’s a lot more than just a job — the friendships I have with the crew and Peter, it’s very hard to say goodbye to it.

I know you keep in contact with Matt Smith, who played the Doctor before Capaldi. Have you spoken with him about life after Who?

Yeah, I’ve spoken to Matt a lot. I speak to Matt all the time anyway. He’s been around and he had obviously been through the same things. What happens when you stop chasing monsters and traveling through time and space? I don’t know yet. I’ll have to wait and see.

Although he’s in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. So I don’t know that he has stopped chasing monsters.

No. Maybe I never will.

Personally, I want to see a Doctor Who spin-off show with Clara and Michelle Gomez’s character, Missy.

Wow, that would be good, right? She is absolutely brilliant. I love Michelle. The problem is, I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not supposed to like her, because she’s just so funny, and you get so drawn in by her, and you’re like, “Hang on, you’re the bad guy!” To not [crack up] with Michelle is a real skill that I had to acquire otherwise we would never have got any shooting done.

When you look back, what will be your fondest memory of working on the show?

Just moments, I think. Moments with Matt and moments with Peter. I mean, literally, you’d laugh the whole way through. You laugh every single day. The production sent me this video of outtakes and things gone wrong, and I sent it to one of my friends, and she just replied, “Your job is ridiculous!” And it is! But it becomes so normal. You start living this other reality that becomes normal to you. I now can’t see Peter outside of work doing normal chores because it makes me laugh too much. I’m so used to seeing him with his screwdriver, running down corridors. Yeah, it’s unique.

Would you be happy to come back and guest on the show, as Billie Piper did for the 50th anniversary episode? 

Yeah, I would always be happy if there was a good story. But I think we’ll have to see what happens. How many times have I said that during this interview. “We’ll have to see what happens! We’ll have to see what happens!”

Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America. 

For more on Doctor Who, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on newsstands now, or available for immediate purchase here.

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