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Countdown to Doctor Who: More with Series Star Matt Smith


The eleventh hour is upon us as the US premiere of Doctor Who, overseen by new head writer/executive producer Steven Moffat and starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, is set for tomorrow on BBC America. (I caught up with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Steven Moffat, and Russell T Davies at last night's fantastic BAFTA/LA screening, Q&A, and cocktail party here in Los Angeles.)

I had the opportunity to speak to Doctor Who's Matt Smith (who replaces David Tennant as the Time Lord known only as the Doctor) and Steven Moffat a few weeks back for a feature piece for The Daily Beast (which you can read here in its entirety), but I wanted to dive back into both interviews to bring you the stuff that you didn't get to read in my original feature. (You can also read my review of the first two episodes here.)

With Doctor Who set to premiere on Saturday on BBC America (with an extended-length episode with limited commercial interruptions), I thought I'd apply even more Who goodness with the rest of the transcript from my one-on-one interview with new series star Matt Smith, who talks with me about getting advice from David Tennant, working with Steven Moffat and Karen Gillan, when it hit him that he was the lead on Doctor Who, and where (and when) he'd like to take the Doctor, among other things. (Part One--more from my one-on-one interview with Steven Moffat--can be found here.)

Televisionary: Did David Tennant give you any advice about stepping into the role of the Doctor?

Matt Smith: Well, we didn’t really talk specifically about the character or stuff like that, but he said, ‘Look, mate, just go and enjoy the ride, because what a ride it is.’ I think with things like this you have to carve out the part in the way you play it yourself.

Televisionary: You and Karen Gillan are both new to the series. Was it less scary to have someone else in the same position as you?

Smith: Yeah, I think that’s quite a nice thing, actually, that we get to share it together. And, my, what a journey we’ve been on. And, of course, there have been huge highs and huge lows. I’m very fortunate because I get on very well with her, which is a real bonus, because if you didn’t get on with the girl who plays the companion, you’d be in real trouble.

Televisionary: How would you describe the Eleventh Doctor in terms of him as a character?

Matt Smith: The Doctor is always The Doctor. But I think this particular Doctor has got a kind of recklessness about him. He’s a bit of a thrill-seeker, a bit of an addict. He has a real lust for time-travel and a real sort of madness, a [sense] that he’s living on the edge.

Televisionary: What did you base your Doctor on? Did you consciously try not to emulate the 10th Doctor or make your Doctor different from all of the incarnations that have come before?

Smith: Yeah, I don’t think you can think about what’s come before you. I think it just has to be an instinctual response to the text that’s in front of you. I tried to do it as clearly and honestly as I could on my terms, in my way, without thinking about any previous incarnations of it. Of course, you wouldn’t want it to be exactly the same but the head writer’s changed as well so the flavor of the show is slightly different as well. But the Doctor is always the Doctor.

Televisionary: What is it like working with Steven Moffat? How would you describe his creative style?

Smith: He’s a genius. I say that unequivocally: he is a complete genius. Russell [T. Davies] made the TV series the most popular show and did that brilliant but I think that Steven [Moffat] has made it the most magic. He’s really turned it into a fairy tale and a magic one. The way he plays with time is extraordinary--actually. It really is--and structurally what he does with it. There are little details in the first episodes that come back up in Episode 12 and you think, how has he managed to weave that into the arc that succinctly and brilliantly? He’s got such wit and intelligence and humor. Steven is truly brilliant.

Televisionary: When was the moment where it hit you that you were actually playing the Doctor?

Smith: Oh, god. I dunno, really. That’s a good question. The first day was really bizarre because I was on the beach and the TARDIS was there and it was quite extraordinary. But I guess it’s when you start thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch: when you forget that you’re sort of saying, “Hello, I’m the Doctor, and I’m this and I’m that,” and you just start doing it instead of thinking about it, really. There have been so many moments. That first day when you shoot [in] the TARDIS, you are unmistakably aware that you’re about to play the most famous part in British television.

Televisionary: What is your favorite part of doing the show so far? What’s been the scariest?

Smith: The first day was pretty scary, to be honest, in terms of days I look back on and go, “Ooof!” But my favorite part? Oh my God, there’s been so many. Karen’s been amazing, the scripts are just so inventive and ingenious. We did some filming out in Croatia for Episode 6, which is about vampires and is brilliant. Richard Curtis wrote a script for us; that was exciting. There’s been so many. They are vast and varied. I could talk about them all day, the highlights.

Televisionary: This season you end up battling vampires in Venice and Van Gogh shows up. What would you like to see happen to the Doctor? Is there anywhere or anywhen you’d like him to travel to?

Smith: I’d quite like him to go to the lost city of Atlantis at the bottom of the ocean. But I think, production-wise, that would cost an absolute fortune, so I don’t know that they ever will. But I’d like to go there and I’d like to visit the dinosaurs. They would be great. If there was some mad dinosaur episode, that would be cool. And Atlantis, if you had to take the TARDIS down into the sea, that would be amazing.

You can read the finished feature for The Daily Beast here, and be sure to read the first part of this series, my in-depth Q&A with Steven Moffat.

Doctor Who premieres Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT on BBC America.


Bella Spruce said…
An Atlantis episode would be amazing! Thanks for the great interviews with Matt Smith and Steven Moffat. I'm really looking forward to seeing where the two of them (and Karen Gillan) will take the Doctor Who legacy.
ted23 said…
Great interview and nice to get some more from Matt that didn't make it into your feature article. He seems really cool and down to earth and genuinely in love with the show. Nice to see that in an up and coming actor.
Mazza said…
It is possible to be in love with Matt Smith as the Doctor without seeing a single ep yet? 'Cause I am.

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