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Interview : Pearl Mackie, Doctor Who

Interview : Pearl Mackie, Doctor Who

Photo : Pearl Mackie – Doctor Who’s new companion Bill Potts | Credit : BBC/Des Willie

We’ve really enjoyed the first two episodes of BBC One’s classic show Doctor Who. The Doctor has a new companion for the tenth series, Bill Potts – played by Pearl Mackie. Before landing the role in the iconic TV show, Pearl appeared in daytime show Doctors and she performed in the National Theatres West End production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

What have we got to look forward as series 10 develops?

There’s a lot of excitement in store – new and exciting adventures, new monsters and some old monsters coming back. We’ve got a team that see the Doctor through new eyes. I think with series 10 it’s a great place to start if you’ve never watched Doctor Who because Bill is so new to the world of Doctor Who – you kind of see everything through her eyes. So as she learns about it, you can learn about it too which I think is very exciting. We’ve got some danger in there too – there are some pretty hairy moments but we’ve got some humour as well. I hope you enjoy it!

What is it like working with Peter?

The first time I met Peter was at the recall for this job in the hotel. I met Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin and Andy Pryor (casting director). Obviously I was reading with Peter. It was mental – obviously I was sworn to secrecy so I couldn’t tell anyone what I was doing or where I was going so I turned up to the hotel in a baggy T-Shirt, a pair of jeans and a pair of bright yellow trainers. We read the first scene (Peter and I) and we read it sitting down. It’s one of the first scenes in the first episode. For the next scene he said shall we stand up as we were going into the TARDIS. So I said “OK” but I’ve been taught for camera auditions you sit down and move your face as little as possible so standing up was new for me. But obviously it was in the TARDIS so Peter was running around pressing buttons and pulling levers that aren’t there and I didn’t know what was going on. But luckily Bill’s supposed to be doing that in the scene anyway so that worked in my favour!

What makes Doctor Who unique?

Well it’s been running for such a long time I think is one of Doctor Who’s unique selling points. One of the ways it succeeds in doing that is the whole regeneration of the Doctor and then bringing in new companions along the way. It’s a character you’re familiar with but then there are different interpretations of the character so it allows people to relate to the Doctor in different ways and relate to the different companions and everyone’s got their favourite ones – either the one they grew up with or the one they watched when they were older or that kind of thing. I think in a way what makes Doctor Who so different to all other shows is that it can be completely personal and everyone has their own personal relationship to it. I think that’s why it’s so successful and lasted so long.

Did you have an idea of the global impact of Doctor Who?

I had some idea that it was a big show. I didn’t know how many countries it was big in before I got the job. I knew it was shown in America, I didn’t know it was one of the widely watched shows on Christmas day in America. It’s massive and has such a massive global following. Even from Twitter I get messages from fans in languages I don’t even understand which is great but I wish I knew what they were saying! Going to New York was incredible; I’d never been to New York before. Going to Comic Con was amazing – there were people dressed up as me already. It’s super cool – I think the fans on this show are so dedicated to it, it’s amazing, I’ve had such a welcome so far. People dressing up as me and I haven’t even been on screen yet!

Photo : The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Bill (Pearl Mackie) & Emojibot | Credit : BBC/Simon Ridgway/Stuart Manning

“She asked a lot of questions – she’s very inquisitive and she’s very smart so she calls The Doctor out on a lot of things that he hasn’t necessarily had to answer for a while. I think that’s the way she navigates through things – by asking him what’s going on an assessing his answers and she says things how she sees them.”

Who is Bill Potts?

Bill is cool – she’s quite young, doesn’t really know much about the world. She’s very real – she’s not had a very easy upbringing and whilst she doesn’t really let that affect her day-to-day life, it’s there under the surface – she can be quite defensive. She’s fun, she’s excited, she’s a bit geeky – she quite likes sci-fi stuff, she’s into space and that type of thing so when she does go on adventures with The Doctor and discovers aliens are real and that kind of stuff it blows her mind which is really cool.

Can you describe the relationship between Bill and The Doctor?

It’s quite interesting at the beginning – their relationship is very much tutor/student. It has an Educating Rita vibe about it at the beginning when they first meet each other. There’s a definite fascination for Bill in terms of the Doctor – she’s really interested in the way his mind works – he’s supposed to be doing a lecture on science and ends up talking about poetry and he says they’re the same thing. Clearly his mind works in a different way to anyone else she’s ever met which I think is really fascinating for her. One thing he likes about her is that she’s not scared about all the things she doesn’t know – she always wants to know more – she’s keen to get involved which is one of the things that draws him towards her.

Are you excited for Matt Lucas’ return in Series 10?

Matt’s brilliant – he’s a great guy to have around. He’s always upbeat – we both really like musicals so we spent a lot of episode one singing various musical theatre tunes at each other.

How do you deal with the physical side of working on Doctor Who?

I think yesterday I walked about 3km! I’ve done a lot of running – not as much as I thought, actually, but we haven’t filmed the whole series yet so there may be a lot more to come. But it’s cool I like the physical element of the role – I did quite a physical show before this so I think it stood me in good stead for running away from monsters.

How does Bill learn to deal with all the extraordinary things she sees when she’s with The Doctor on his adventures?

I think she jumps in and is happy to get involved. She asked a lot of questions – she’s very inquisitive and she’s very smart so she calls The Doctor out on a lot of things that he hasn’t necessarily had to answer for a while. I think that’s the way she navigates through things – by asking him what’s going on an assessing his answers and she says things how she sees them. She has an open and honest nature which is how I think she gets through.

Doctor Who airs on BBC One at 7.20pm on Saturday evenings. You can catch up on iPlayer.

About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He is a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards.

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