'Doctor Who' actress Michelle Gomez talks about her mysterious role
Who is Missy?
That is the question which has been troubling, perplexing, and generally bedeviling Doctor Who fans this entire season of the long-running British time travel show. As played by Scottish actress Michelle Gomez, the character of Missy has periodically popped up to welcome recently deceased characters to what seemed to be some version of the after-life. Her precise identity has remained oblique, and Gomez’s recurring role has prompted a clutch of theories. Is she some different iteration of Jenna Coleman’s character, Clara? Is she a Satanic riff on the similarly-attired Mary Poppins? Is she a female incarnation of the Doctor’s fellow Time Lord and diabolical foe, The Master?
Fans who plumped for the latter explanation may by this point have a sore back from having patted it too much. In last night’s episode, “Dark Water”—the first half of this season’s two-part finale—it was revealed that Missy is indeed The Master. And a Doctor-kissing Master to boot!
Below, Gomez talks about the episode, how she landed the gig as the Doctor’s archenemy, and what is was like to lock lips with Peter Capaldi.
EW: How did you get the part?
MICHELLE GOMEZ: Well, I was offered another part earlier in the season, which I couldn’t physically attend. I can’t be in two places at once because I don’t have a TARDIS. I was doing this other show called Psycho Bitches, so I couldn’t do it. I was heartbroken, because being on Doctor Who as a young, budding actress was on my hit list and I thought I’d missed my moment.
So, I wrote to the very wonderful, amazing, incredible Mr. Steven Moffat—who should be given a knighthood by now, by the way—and said, “I can’t believe that I can’t do it and if you have any space in the future for a Scottish woman with high cheekbones who’s very good at playing witches and bitches, please please consider me.” And then thankfully, a few weeks later, I got this offer, which I grabbed with both hands.
You’ve appeared in a few episodes throughout the season. Did you have to keep on popping down to Wales to shoot your scenes?
Oh, no. No, no, no, no. I live in New York. So they basically compressed everything into one sort of character chunk, and they shot me out, they shot Missy out. I was in and out within a few weeks or so.
Did you follow the theorizing as to the identity of your character?
I heard some it. My favorite is that I’ve been likened to Mary Poppins. But then of course I have to take that one stage further and say, “Are we saying that Mary Poppins is the most evil woman in the universe?” The problem is that, with me dressed as Mary Poppins, with this face, it’s just going to look a bit evil anyway.
I’m from the U.K., so I’m fully aware that not all Scottish people know each other. But did you know Peter Capaldi beforehand?
Well, Peter and I have a mutual friend, [the actress] Lindy Whiteford, and I feel like I know Peter. Both Peter and I are from Glasgow, so we kind of have an immediate shorthand with each other. We’ve got a similar sense of humor. There’s nothing like a Glaswegian sense of humor. So, we kind of felt like we knew each other and I was delighted when he was made the Doctor. It just made total sense. Of course he should be the Doctor. He’s age appropriate and he looks great in a three-piece suit.
He certainly does. And indeed your character initially seemed very sweet on the Doctor. What was it like kissing Peter Capaldi?
It was like kissing the Glaswegian version of David Bowie. Well, it was hell on earth, really. And I say it was hell on earth, only because obviously Missy would have liked to have taken it further. In fact, she had to pull herself together. That was the hellish part. But maybe it will be revealed in this final episode.
What will be?
That she gets to take it further!