'Doctor Who': Matt Smith Q&A
Take a look at the new issue of Entertainment Weekly (left) and you’ll see that the travel-heavy habits ways of a certain Doctor have finally landed him on the cover of EW. Yes, the 49-year-old British time travel show Doctor Who has hit the big time — and in more ways than one, as stars Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill and executive producer Steven Moffat reveal in the cover feature.
Alas, unlike the Doctor’s time- and spaceship the TARDIS, Entertainment Weekly is not “bigger on the inside,” which meant we couldn’t include everything Moffat and crew had to say. But worry ye not, Whovians! Over the next few days we’re going to post Q&As with the Who folks as well as notable super fans Craig Ferguson and Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes.
First up? The “Doctor” himself, Matt Smith, whom I spoke with earlier this month in his trailer while he was shooting a new, Victorian era-set episode of Doctor Who in South Wales. Below, Smith previews the new season (which BBC America will start screening later this summer), discusses his Who future, and recalls filming the final episode to feature the Doctor’s companions Amy and Rory. You’ll find an exclusive, behind-the-scenes shot from that episode at the bottom of the page.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The Doctor’s companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are leaving the show at the end of the first half of the new season, in an episode that was shot in New York and features the much feared Weeping Angels. What was it like filming that show?
MATT SMITH: It was one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve had as an actor. Me, Karen, and Arthur had a whale of a time. Because (a) it’s New York, everywhere you point a camera, it’s going to look brilliant. And (b) I love the Weeping Angels, they’re my favorite monster. And people in America are really getting hold of the show. They really support it. It’s interesting, in America, we’re seeing more children turn up for things. Alex Kingston (who plays the Doctor’s fellow time traveler and girlfriend River Song) was saying that when she picks her kids up from school some of the kids are going, “Hey River Song!” That’s exciting for us. But it’s the last days of the Ponds! [Pretends to start weeping] They’ve gone, everyone!
The first show of the new season features the dreaded Daleks. What was filming that like?
Wonderful! Because I got to meet my favorite Daleks, which are actually from [Patrick] Troughton’s era, I think. They’re the sort of pale blue and whitey ones. They’re a bit smaller actually. I think they’re groovy! I mean, we’ve got every Dalek that exists in the world [in the episode].
Groovy? The Daleks are supposed to be frightening!
Oh yeah, I mean they are frightening. But you can’t help but go, “God, there’s 20 Daleks in a room moving around me!” It’s exciting!
I understand the people operating them have to go to “Dalek school.”
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. People have to go and learn how to be a Dalek. Rule 1: Be evil! Rule 2: Don’t eat chips, don’t drink soda.
You’ve also shot a Western-themed episode?
We went out and shot in Almeria in Spain, where they shot The Good The Bad and the Ugly, a Fistful of Dollars. All the Sergio Leone stuff. Indiana Jones. All these great movies. You know, we’ve done Utah, we’ve done a great big Western, we’ve done New York. I think it’s very exciting to see just where else it can go.
Ben Browder from Farscape is in that show?
He did really well. He’s great in it, actually. He brings that sort of American naturalism which we Brits just don’t have, however hard we try. Yeah, he was great. He makes a good cowboy. He has that great drawl. And the wonderful Adrian Scarborough (The King’s Speech) is in that, he just steals the whole episode. He’s fantastic.
Is James Corden (the star of Broadway show One Man Two Guvnors and repeat Who guest star) coming back this season?
We’d love him to, but he’s pretty busy being a Tony award-winning actor on Broadway and having a baby. But we’d love to get James back.
Steven Moffat said he intended this season to feature less poetic understatement and more Die Hard-type action.
Yeah, it’s kind of a big film-of-the-week. We’ve got dinosaurs on a spaceship. We’ve got a Western episode. We’ve got New York and Weeping Angels. And I think that’s quite exciting. It’s like going to the box office every week. We hope. I think the last days of the Ponds are really strong, I’m really thrilled with those. And I think going into the new season with the new companion is very exciting. Again, Steven is on fine form and he’s playing with time and space in his cool, timey-wimey way.
Next: “The moment the Doctor stops surprising you is the moment that you should hand it over.”
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.