Doctor Who-palooza: EW spends time with Jodie Whittaker, Matt Smith, and David Tennant
When I was a kid, the most exciting thing in the world to me was when a Doctor Who adventure featured not just the current incarnation of the titular Time Lord, but also — thanks to the time-wimey nature of the show — previous actors to have played the role. This happened very infrequently, but when it did it was like Christmas and at least three birthdays rolled into one to this prepubescent Whovian.
In short, I did not have to think twice when he was asked if he wanted to interview over Zoom not just one, not just two, but three actors who have played the Doctor — David Tennant, Matt Smith, and current Who star Jodie Whittaker — to mark the long-running time travel show now streaming exclusively on HBO Max.
It was indeed a veritable Who-palooza.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s the one episode of Doctor Who you would recommend potential Whovians watch first?
JODIE WHITTAKER: Don’t say you, David!
DAVID TENNANT: I wasn't going to say me! I was going to say the first one of the new run with Chris Eccleston in it.
MATT SMITH: Yeah.
TENNANT: It explains all you need to know. What was so brilliant about what Russell T. Davies (former Doctor Who executive producer) did when he brought it back, he was bringing back a show that had a huge fan base who were very precious about it, so he needed not to offend and alienate them, but at the same time introduce it to a whole generation, two, three generations who didn’t know what the heck it was. And in the forty-five-minute episode that is "Rose," the first one of that new run, it was sort of a masterclass in how to reboot a beloved series, and bring the old fans with you and develop a whole bunch of new ones. And once you’ve started you can just follow in consecutive order and eventually end up with Jodie!
That sounds like good advice. We’re used to seeing the Doctor traveling through space and time, neither of which is possible for non-Time Lords at the moment. How have you been spending your lockdown?
TENNANT: I mean, in our house!
WHITTAKER: Yeah, I mean, this is the most amount of social interaction I've had in a very long time! [Laughs]
Matt, have you started any hobbies or learned a foreign language or anything?
SMITH: Me? Yes, I’ve learned Swahili! No, I’ve done nothing. Do you know what I’ve tried to do? I've tried to embrace the stillness. And, actually what I have done is, I've learned a lot of poetry. I sort of gave myself at the top of the lockdown a challenge of learning a short poem every day and that’s about as productive as I've been. Apart from that, I’ve just got better at cooking chili and sort of boring stuff like that.
I have found myself oversharing while doing interviews. Jason Schwartzman knows a lot more about my private life than he has any right to, or interest in, but that’s a whole other story.
TENNANT: What can you tell us, Clark? Come on! Don’t tempt us with that little tidbit!
I’m really not going to get into it. In Britain, Doctor Who is part of the fabric of the country. When did you realize that it was a big deal in America as well?
WHITTAKER: My other half’s from Tucson, so I’ve spent a lot of time in Arizona, and when I worked with David on Broadchurch I found out there’s a lot of Whovians in my family. I was like, “Wow, so you watch it in Tucson?” They would go to comic stores and things like that. I don’t know, it’s so nostalgic as a Brit, you’re like, whether you know about it or not, you’ve seen the TARDIS. But to see it in a completely different environment felt really exciting, so I knew before I even joined that David was a massive hit in Tucson. As were you, Matt. [Laughs]
SMITH: I suppose all those trips to New York were really exciting for us. We did those screenings in New York in these old theaters. The guys at BBC America, Devin (Johnson, BBC America publicity executive), and those cats were quite inventive in the way that they were promoting it. I’d never been to New York and it just felt like a real adventure. Suddenly, we went, Wow, god, people like it over here. Yeah, it was a very exciting time.
TENNANT: It was sort of after I’d finished doing it. I think it was when Matt was on it that it moved over to BBC America. Because we’d been on the Syfy Channel at first and nobody really paid any attention. Then it moved on to BBC America which has this wonderful habit of just putting things on rotate. So, every time I went back to America after that, I got less and less anonymous. I started having to start wearing a hat, like I did at home. And that’s when I realized.
David and Matt, you've appeared onscreen together at Doctors. What are the chances of us seeing the three of you in an episode at some point?
SMITH: I mean, you’d better ask the Doctor. I don’t know. Jodie?
WHITTAKER: You’re not invited. [Laughs] I mean, when we all get back on set, I’m inviting everyone!
TENNANT: Listen, I had such a great time when I went back to play the Doctor again when Matt was there. It could have been awful! But he was so welcoming and we just had a laugh. And, obviously, I know how difficult Jodie is to work with already, so that would be challenging.
TENNANT: It’s not really up to us to decide. But we all like hanging out together, so it would be nice to do that.
Doctor Who is available to stream exclusively on HBO Max and future season/special will premiere on BBC America.