'Doctor Who': Michael Smiley talks Capaldi, Daleks and 'Luther'
Yesterday, we introduced you to new Doctor Who cast member Sam Anderson. Now tonight’s episode, which screens on BBC America, will find another person losing his Who-virginity: Michael Smiley. The actor and comedian is no stranger to much-loved cult TV, having appeared in both the Edgar-Wright-directed sitcom Spaced and the Idris Elba cop show Luther. He also starred in the deranged 2011 horror movie Kill List, whose director Ben Wheatley oversaw tonight’s ominously-titled episode of Doctor Who, “Into the Dalek.”
“It was just a call out of the blue,” says Smiley. “Ben was asked to do the first two episodes and he gave me a ring and he said, ‘What’s your view on Doctor Who? If a part came up that would be right for you, would you be interested?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ It’s part of your life, Doctor Who. I remember Patrick Troughton! I also really like the new incarnations. I was a big fan of the Christopher Eccleston one. And when I heard Peter Capaldi was going to be involved in this one, I found that really exciting because he’s brilliant.”
Below, Smiley talks more about tonight’s show, the scariness of seeing Daleks up-close, and the possible return of Luther.
EW: Tell us about your role on tonight’s show.
SMILEY: I play a character called Colonel Blue. He’s got his own ship and has been up there, traversing the universe, for a while. His nephew and a niece are part of the crew—and he’s got a secret on the ship.
We know the episode features Daleks. What’s it like, as a fan, to be on the set and to see these famous sci-fi monsters in real life?
What was amazing was: You go on the set, meet everybody, and put your costume on. And then you walk into the studio and there’s just 30, 40 of them lined up. It’s like you’ve walked into a stormtroopers’ convention. There’s something quite unnerving about it, even though you know it’s not real. I’m quite a realist. I come from Northern Ireland. There aren’t many things shock me or scare me. But it was like, “Wow, look at those bad boys!”
How was working with Peter Capaldi?
He’s got some real meat to his bones, you know what I mean? He’s been an actor for a long time. He’s very generous, and is a good laugh, and he’s down for having a good chat about life, the universe and everything. He’s not precious. He’s completely focused on what he needs to do but at the same time he’s a really interesting man, too. It was a real joy to work with him. And I’m a massive fan of The Thick of It. I love him.
The films you’ve done with Ben Wheatley — Down Terrace, Kill List, A Field in England — are very much adult movies. Was it strange to be working with him on something that, in many ways, is aimed at children?
Well, I think the remit for this new series was to make it a bit more scary, a bit more real. Even if Ben is making a kids’ TV show, it’s still going to have a wee bit of edge about it. I’ve got kids myself and kids love to be shocked and frightened. That’s part of the fun and excitement of it. Ben has a knowledge of what’s expected from the Doctor Who fans but at the same time he wants to keep people on the edge of their seat. That’s what makes it exciting for me.
What do your own kids think about you being on Doctor Who?
I didn’t tell my 8-year-old, Patrick, until last week. We were out shopping for school shoes for him and there was this kid arguing with his mother about whether it was the Eleventh or the Twelfth Doctor. Patrick was overhearing it and I went, “Are you going to watch Doctor Who when it comes on?” He says, “Yeah, yeah, I’m going to watch it with mum. I’ve watched a couple of episodes, I do like it.” I went, “Well, you should watch this series.” He said “Why?” I said, “Because I’m in it.” He went, “Oh, you’re going to be the coolest dad in school!”
You’re probably best known for appearing on Luther. Is there going to be a movie version of that, as has been rumored?
There’s been talk of a movie and there’s been talk of the series coming back. I think we will see it again in some form. But I’m a movable prop. They’re certainly not ringing me going, “We’re thinking of making an executive decision here, we just need you to agree and then we’ll green-light it.” [Laughs] “If only Smiley would agree to another series, goddamn his eyes!”
You can check out the trailer for tonight’s Doctor Who, below.