'Doctor Who': Alex Kingston talks playing the mysterious River Song
Alex Kingston is best known for her lengthy stint playing Dr. Elizabeth Corday on ER. At least, that’s what she assumed until recently. “In America, people come up and to me and I keep thinking they’re going to say, ‘Oh, I loved you on ER,’” says Kingston. “Now it’s ‘Oh, I love you on Doctor Who.’ I thought BBC America was only watched by Brits. What I’m starting to realize is that a lot of Americans are tuning in now.”
Doctor Who fans of all nationalities will be glued to the TV this Saturday night when BBC America debuts the latest season of cult sci-fi show, in which Kingston has a recurring role as the mysterious River Song. The actress talked with EW about the returning show, why it should be compulsory viewing for children, and whether she’d ever pose naked with a Dalek:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did your years on ER stand in you good stead for reciting pseudo-scientific gobbledy-gook on Doctor Who?
ALEX KINGSTON: [Laughs] Well, it wasn’t gobbledy-gook on ER. It had better make some sense! The difference on ER is that there were always medical consultants working on the show.
You don’t have time travel consultants working on Doctor Who?
No. It’s very frustrating. But I always knew exactly what I was doing on ER. You had to be seen to be doing everything exactly right. So, learning the lines, it made complete sense to me why I was saying what I was saying. Working on Doctor Who is a little bit more difficult because but there is a certain amount of gobbledy-gook. [Laughs] Don’t let [Doctor Who head writer] Steven Moffatt hear me say that!
What is the difference between British and American Doctor Who fans?
The one thing I hope is that more children in America get on board. In England, Doctor Who has always been considered a children’s show, at least by children. My daughter and her contemporaries, they feel like it’s their show. Parents are allowed to watch but it’s the children’s show. Whereas here, it’s still very much a show that people who are interested in sci-fi are all over. Children’s programming in America, I think it’s pretty shoddy in terms of lack of diversity. It’s pretty much cartoons and Disney sort of shows. I don’t find any of that stimulating for children. Doctor Who is really challenging and fulfilling on so many levels.
Was it always the plan for River Song to be a recurring character?
When I first did Doctor Who with David Tennant, I wasn’t expecting that at all. As far as I was concerned, it was just a two episode story arc with me being held forever in a computer, or whatever. But Steven always intended that she would come back.
Because it was made clear right from the start that you had met the Doctor many times in the past, or the future, or whenever.
Yes. The really exciting journey for me, and for Steven, is backtracking. The characters keep missing each other. She’s like the Time Traveler’s Wife. In this particular season, and certainly in the first two episodes, what you see is her knowing that she’s on the brink of the moment where the Doctor doesn’t know any more who she is. And I think that’s just tragic, really.
Say one line of your dialogue from this season.
I can’t! Oh, I can’t. I’d give something away. Okay, let me just think if I can give you something that would be a teaser. Mind you, Steven might kill me for it. Oh, I don’t think I can!
Would you ever pose naked with a Dalek? [EW shows Kingston a photo of a former Doctor Who cast member doing just that] In case you’re thinking that’s a sexist question, I’d like to point out that I asked Matt Smith the same thing.
Did Matt say yes?
He said that he would not.
Who is that?
Katy Manning. She played Jo Grant, one of the Doctor’s assistants
[Gasps] She did play Jo. She posed naked with a Dalek? I can’t believe the BBC allowed that.
I suspect the corporation did give its blessing.
They don’t want any of their monsters ridiculed. But the answer’s no. I would not pose naked with a Dalek.