The actor is playing the notorious villain the Master on the time-travel show.
Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC Studios/BBC America

Many actors have played the villainous Master on Doctor Who, from Roger Delgado, who originated the role, to Michelle Gomez, who portrayed the time-traveling maniac during the character’s “Missy” iteration.

But none have approached the amount of deranged energy brought to the part by Sacha Dhawan, who was introduced as the Master early in the current season and will play a major role in the season finale, airing Sunday on BBC America.

“I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this, I’m not even sure if I’m right for this,’” the actor tells EW. “And Matt [Strevens, Doctor Who executive producer] was like, ‘No, of course you are.’ They were like, ‘Don’t worry, turn up on the day and do your thing.’ And I was like, ‘No, no, I can’t do that.’ So what I actually did is, I did a video of myself doing a couple of scenes, just to kind of play around with his chaotic nature, sent it to Chris [Chibnall, Doctor Who show runner] and Matt, who had a look at it, and they gave me some thoughts on it. Then I went away and thought, ‘Right, I’m going to forget this is Doctor Who, and not be intimidated by the universe, and approach this like I would with any other role. That’s when I became really excited about how I was going to interpret the role. I was really keen on making it chaotic and playful and fun, but I also was keen on making him a lot darker than people had seen before. You’ve seen bits of it, but I think you’ll see more of that in the last episode, which I’m excited for people to see.”

Below, Dhawan talks more about the season finale — and why he couldn’t even tell former Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi that he’d been cast as the Master.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get cast in the role of the Master?
SACHA DHAWAN: I’d worked with Matt Strevens on An Adventure in Space and Time [the 2013 TV movie depicting the origins of Doctor Who]. I was filming Iron Fist in New York, the Marvel show, a couple of years ago, and he’d actually called me then to see if I wanted to do a small part in one of the episodes, and I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t available. Then, about a year or so later, I got the call asking if I wanted to play the Master, which was amazing, and actually I’m glad I wasn’t able to do the other part because I wouldn’t have been able to play the Master.

How many people did you tell that you’d gotten the part?
I think my mum and dad knew and that was it. Actually, when I got the role I was doing a play reading in London, coincidentally with Peter Capaldi. So I got the call at lunchtime, but what made it really difficult, I was sworn to secrecy, and the one person I really wanted to sit down with and ask, “What do I do? What’s it like?” — I couldn’t say anything, I just had to sit across the table. He must have been thinking, “Why is this actor just staring at me?” But hopefully now he knows.

What was the shoot like?
When I got the call they were like, “Oh, and by the way, you’re flying to South Africa next week.” I was like, “Oh my God!” So we filmed in South Africa for two weeks, and that’s kind of where I met everybody and met Jodie [Whittaker, who currently plays the show’s titular time traveler]. She’s lovely. She’s really welcoming. So we shot in South Africa, and the rest was shot in Cardiff.

What was the next day like after your first episode screened, with the surprise revelation that you were the Master?
I’d kind of spoiled myself and checked myself into a spa. I’d seen the episode already at a private screening, but I put my phone away until the episode finished and then kind of saw the response. It was quite scary because you’re not sure if people are going to like the take on your character. But people were so supportive and then I was like, “Okay, I’m happy for episode 2 to air now, for people to see another strand to the Master.”

What can you say about the season finale?
That really important statement that I said to the Doctor, which is “Everything you think you know is a lie” — hopefully that question will be answered. But more answers lead to more questions. The Master has so many different sides, but you’re going to see a side to him that you’ve not seen before, and you’re going to see a side to the Doctor that you’ve not seen before either. Yes, it’s pretty chaotic and action-packed, in one sense. It’s also incredibly emotional as well.

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