Doctor Who‘s Matt Smith: Talking About Regeneration
The Doctor has regenerated into a brand-new man — Matt Smith, to be exact — and 8 million Whovians checked out his first episode as the Time Lord when Doctor Who aired its season premiere in the U.K. over Easter weekend.
The new season launches on BBC America on Saturday, but fans of the longest-running science fiction TV show in history who are attending C2E2 in Chicago can see a special sneak premiere on Friday.
SpinOff Online spoke with the new Doctor about the World Cup, his off-screen friendship with his on-screen companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and the brilliance of BAFTA-winning writer Steven Moffat, who takes over as Doctor Who showrunner from the reboot’s driving force, Russell T. Davies.
SpinOff Online: So do you wake up every morning, look in the mirror and say, “Bugger and blast! I’m the Doctor”?
Matt Smith: Well, kind of. There’s a constant sense of awe with this job, and a constant sense of wonder, and that never changes. It’s all kind of incredible. I’m the Doctor. And that gives me great sense of well-being, I must say.
How much Matt Smith is in the Doctor?
Well, I think there is plenty of Matt Smith. I’m clumsy. He’s clumsy. Hopefully, none of my physical nature comes through. I mean, of course, there always has to be, I believe, a separation between the actor and the character, but by the same token I am certain some of my personal mannerisms creep in there.
Have you ever worn a bow tie to a wedding or a family occasion?
[Laughs] I think my mum tried to make me wear one when I was a kid and I was reluctant. But I seem to remember having a red one that I used to wear when I was like five. Now, of course, I’m bringing them back and bow ties are cool.
I was going to ask, do you think you’ll inspire a new generation of bow tie-wearing boys in Britain and abroad?
You know what, I really hope so.
You’re the new Doctor and you get a new TARDIS. If you could travel anywhere or anytime in the TARDIS where would you go?
I would go and visit the Lost City of Atlantis. Or I would go and hang out with Frank Sinatra.
I read that you were listening to Frank Sinatra when you found out you had landed the part.
Yeah, when I learned that I got the part, I started walking around town in London because I couldn’t tell anyone about it, so I listened to a lot of Frank Sinatra and I felt like the King of the World, you know? I was walking on clouds for a couple of days.
What’s the strangest reaction you’ve endured from a fan when you were standing in line for a movie or just walking about town since you’ve become the Doctor?
You know what’s been really weird is, I’m in New York at the moment and people are coming up to me here. That seems really strange. I didn’t expect people in New York to be aware of it. But damn, they are, you know, and I guess that’s been one of the weirdest things, actually.
I wanted to ask you about that. You’ve already been through all this hoopla at home in Britain and now you’re having to do it all again here in the U.S. Did you realize how far-reaching the popularity and I guess, globally recognized, the Doctor was before landing this role?
It’s crazy. I didn’t know there was that much of a community out here. Of course, it’s broadcast in 52 countries, which is incredible. I’ve been talking to a lot of Canadian journalists as well, and they are really aware of it out there. And what’s really interesting is that they are aware of the history of it. They’re aware Peter Davison and Tom Baker and everyone else, you know.
Are there any past Doctors who you’ve attempted to channel? Or have you gone back and watched old episodes to pick up mannerisms and such?
No, I didn’t want to pick up any of their mannerisms because each portrayal of the Doctor should be your own invention. But I did go back and look at old Doctor Who episodes just because I kind of like Doctor Who. I really like Patrick Troughton.
The Doctor employs a lot of science when saving the day and delivers line after line of techno-babble in every episode. Were you much of a science geek when you were in school?
No, not really. I wasn’t really studious as a student. I was always playing football and other sports. But I have become a fan of sci-fi. I just love sci-fi now. I guess that’s because I’ve become immersed in it every day. I went straight to the pictures to watch Star Trek and Avatar and all of those types of things. Doctor Who is really in my blood now.
You mentioned football (soccer). Are you getting excited for the World Cup?
Yeah, man. I can’t wait for the World Cup. Whether we’re going to win it or not, I don’t know. I think maybe quarter-finals, semi-finals … I guess I have to faith that we’re going to win it or at least have a chance of winning it but what a summer we’ve got. We’ve got two games a day. That’s amazing to me.
Will the loss of David Beckham hurt the British side?
It’s a shame he was injured, man. It’s a real pity for us because there was a real worry for us whether or not he’d be back to play in his fourth World Cup.
I’ve now watched the first two episodes, and you seem to have tremendous chemistry with your companion, Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan. Can you speak a bit about your relationship both on and off the screen?
We’re great friends, me and her. And we’ve really evolved in these roles together as the series has gone on. And our friendship has grown, as well, with that. We’re really, really great mates. I think she’s really funny. She’s got a great comic bone. And with me, if you make me laugh, we’re friends.
Does Steven Moffat make you laugh?
To me, he’s the greatest British TV writer around at the moment. I really think he’s a genius. And when you see some of the scripts that he’s delivered, and the way he’s played with time in this particular series, it’s really quite extraordinary.
And what he does for you as an actor is that he gives you complete carte blanche to invent, which is just thrilling and exciting. And I couldn’t ask for a bigger, brighter and more inventive brain to deliver scripts to me every week. He’s a joy to behold, Steven Moffat.
Obviously, you can’t give too much away for fear of spoilers but is there one episode that you’re really excited about this season or maybe one plot thread?
Yeah, episodes 12 and 13. It’s a long way away. But I think they are the best things that Steven has ever written. And I think they are the best that we’ve ever made as a team in Doctor Who. Honestly, episodes 12 and 13 are simply extraordinary. And episode 6 is a real cracker and episode 10 is a cracker … we’ve got a few in there. I really hope that you guys enjoy it because that’s what we’re here for.
I believe you are on hiatus at the moment, but when do you start up production on Series 7?
We start shooting the Christmas Special actually in July, so now I’m in New York promoting Doctor Who and then I’m going to go to L.A. And then I’m actually going to go and do something else. I’m going to go and do a different job, but only for a month. And it’s meant to be in Germany, but we’ll see. But I can’t actually talk about what that is, I’m afraid, at this juncture. But I can’t wait to start Doctor Who again. It’s the most brilliant experience of my career to date. And it’s also been the hardest experience of my career to date.
Doctor Who premieres Saturday, April 17, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on BBC America. The Series 6 premiere episode is an extended version with limited commercial interruption. For more on Doctor Who, visit the BBC America website.