Peter CapaldiCan you describe your emotions on your first day on set as the Doctor?
Frightened and excited. On my first proper day I stepped out of the TARDIS into a brand new world, which was exactly what was happening to me. Of course being inside the TARDIS you’re just inside a big box – it’s not really bigger on the inside and you’re in there with Jenna and a prop man who you’ve never met before. It was all a bit cosy. But it is frightening because you have to take on the challenge of the role, but at the same time it’s exhilarating because you are getting to step out the TARDIS as Doctor Who, and that’s an iconic role and a great position to be in.
How are you feeling ahead of the new series starting?
Apprehensive, excited and keen.
What have fans got to look forward to this series?
They can look forward to some scary episodes, some funny ones and a Doctor who is difficult to keep up with. He is more alien than perhaps we’ve seen for a while.
Since the show returned in 2005 have you always hoped the role would come your way?
I was always interested but I never thought they’d come to me. I loved Chris [Eccleston], David [Tennant] and Matt [Smith] - all of them have been fabulous. I was always hoping someone would call me and say, what do you think of being in an episode? But I never thought they would think of me as Doctor Who.
Have you received any advice from any of the other Doctors?
Yes, Matt and David. We are often in touch, they have been very good. David did take me for a coffee before it had been announced, and he just pointed out to me that I would become more visible and that my life would change in some way.
You are a big Doctor Who fan. Is that an added pressure or an advantage?
Both. It does add to the pressure because you’re hugely aware of how well the role has been played by previous incumbents, but at the same time you have a sort of relationship with it that that doesn’t have to be acted. It’s a knowledge and a closeness to it that takes you a long way down the road. You almost instinctively know what it is. You can recognise what it is and what it should be, because it’s in your DNA.
Have you tried to take any mementos from on set yet?
No I haven’t, I don’t need any mementos – I’m Doctor Who!
What has been the best thing so far about being the Doctor?
It’s working with all of these gifted people, because the crew, the designers and the cast are all so good at what they do. To be working with people who are so great at their jobs is a wonderful thing, and the studio is a highly imaginative place when this is all going on. It’s fabulous from the point of view that you’re doing things you would never have done in other television shows. There isn’t another television show like it, where the central character can be blown up, or materialise underneath the sea, or be in outer space. So to turn up every time you start a new episode and be submerged in a totally new world is certainly one of the best things about it. To have the privilege of looking after this character for a while is the best thing about it for me. It’s that you’ve been given this very precious thing, and it’s your responsibility to try and keep him aflame until the next person comes along. You’re looking after the character and it looks after you too.
Has there been a sequence you’ve particularly enjoyed filming?
I’ve just been filming a sequence in which I have to be suspended on wires, 20 feet in the air for a whole day, and people kept worrying about me and saying, ‘Are you OK? Are you alright?’ But it was fantastic! It was like being nine years old. To be carted up into the air on wires to pretend to fly, I was Doctor Who and Superman. It was absolutely brilliant. You know you’re safe and everyone is there looking after you. Where else is a man of my age going to be attached to wires and flung around a room? I think being on the wires is great fun.
How do you feel about being the joint oldest Doctor?
I think you learn to pace yourself and you recognise the dangers. Everybody counselled me about how physical the role is, but that’s great! It’s like exercise, you don’t have to go to the gym. You just come and play Doctor Who and run up and down corridors being chased by monsters, and run away from explosions. It keeps you fit, but obviously when you’ve been around the block a little bit like I have, you can actually say ‘I’m not running over that thing over there, that looks too dangerous.’ You can pace yourself more, and that’s what I’ve done. So touch wood we’re nearly there, and I’m surrounded by a great team who look after me. I think too much is made of my age, who cares? Doctor Who is more than 2000 years old…
What sort of response have you had from Doctor Who fans so far?
My relationship with fans, either when I’ve met them or when they’ve written to me, has all been wonderful and kind and positive. It’s a delightful thing when people are pleased to meet Doctor Who, because Doctor Who is far more interesting than I am. So I get his smiles. The welcome look on people’s faces is because they’re meeting Doctor Who, not me. The fans have been wonderful, those that I’ve met. I’m not a creature of the internet, so I’m not out there finding out what people are saying, but I hope we will meet a lot more people, especially with the world tour. But genuinely the fans I have met have been very positive and a great support to me. That’s lovely. I know what Doctor Who fans are like, because I am a Doctor Who fan myself. They’re good people.
Are you looking forward to the audience reaction?
It depends what it is. That’s the truth. It depends if they like me or not. The thing I do know, because I’m a fan of Doctor Who, is that if there are a lot of people who don’t like me, there will also be some people who really like me, and that’s quite a nice feeling. That’s the nature of the show. People will take sides.
How has it been having Jenna on set to share the experience with?
Jenna has been absolutely brilliant. I think she’s wonderful in the show, and she’s my favourite companion. She’s been so welcoming to me and so warm. I couldn’t have wished for anyone better to welcome me to the show. She’s just been delightful to work with, so I hope we can carry on doing that.
How is Clara feeling about having a new Doctor?
It unbalances her and throws everything up in the air. She has gone from feeling safe - in moments of danger the Doctor would catch her - and thinking she had it all sussed, then suddenly this new guy comes along who she can’t quite access in the same way. He’s removed, he’s not as patient, and he’s much more alien and enigmatic. It’s really hard for her. Her best friend is a changed person, and it is a very difficult for her to accept that and move forward.
What is Clara’s relationship like with the Doctor?
It’s interesting because it’s a really changed dynamic. It’s very funny, there’s a lot of bickering. There’s no one that can wind her up as much as this Doctor can, because he’s just a loose cannon. He has this mad curiosity. It puts Clara out of her comfort zone and totally out of control, so we see the control freak in her really ramp up. What I think is really good about it is that it’s an unlikely friendship. Even if she wanted to leave she can’t, because she’s bonded to him. He absolutely infuriates her. He annoys her. No one else can wind her up quite like it – but she just loves him. The friendship is strange and charming.
Would you say the tone of the show has changed this year?
It feels different. The pace is different, and the tone. It’s definitely darker, but again I think it’s because the Doctor is much more removed and not as accessible to humans. The show feels complex, and the Doctor is complicated. He’s this heroic figure who can’t quite accept he’s a hero. The audience and Clara are getting to know him again, but the Doctor is also getting to know himself. There’s definitely this element of beginning again as there always is with a regeneration. He’s much more of a tough cookie, and there’s a fierceness to it now I think. Peter is just so dynamic as well, he’s a firecracker. That is really interesting for Clara, because when they go on these adventures – yes it’s fun and it is full of adventure – but actually it is dangerous as well. The risk-taking is heightened.
What is in store for Clara this series? Do we learn anything new about her?
You see a lot more of her home life. Clara lives a double life, spending time at home, being a teacher, and then sneaking off and having these mad, wonderful, magical adventures with the Doctor. Actually, it is quite exhausting for her. She’s trying to keep a lid on it, and she arrives back at school soaking wet with seaweed on her shoulder for example, and she has to explain that. It’s a theme throughout the series, lying and why we lie, lying to protect someone you love. It’s this web of lies that she gets herself tangled in.
How have you found working with Peter?
It’s been a joy. He’s so funny and so generous. He was looking after me on his first day, which is testament to the type of man he is. He is the epitome of grace. He is that kind of man that takes care of all of those around him. Despite all of that, he’s just so skilled and so brave and bold in the choices that he makes, and really clever and dynamic. What I love about him is that he’s so prepped and immersed in the job, but then at a moment’s notice he’s not afraid to abandon any plan and try something else. He’s a fearless actor who is generous to those around him. We just have such a laugh as well. We’ve laughed the whole way through the series together.
Did you find yourself showing Peter the ropes?
There’s silly, basic things you can do, like “there’s the canteen”. Silly things like that. What I really wanted to do was be as open as possible to change from the start, and also just make him feel supported and that he could try anything. I’d be up for trying anything. It was about being totally open with each other and trying to get that relationship as soon as possible so that we could get the best out of it. Also to allow him to really be able to explore, because that’s the kind of actor he is. He’s very explorative on set as well, so just being as responsive as I could to that so he could explore and find his Doctor. It’s been amazing to watch actually, especially watching episode one, and to see where he’s got to now having just finished the series. It’s a massive growth.
What can you tell us about Clara’s relationship with Danny?
She meets a man called Danny Pink, a teacher, who’s charming and lovely. He’s that perfect boyfriend and is very supportive, but he doesn’t know anything about this double life she lives. She tries to hide it from him while at the same time falling in love. She becomes very torn between the two. It’s almost as if she’s having an affair, without having an affair, but the lying becomes more and more. Basically she’s trying to manage the two, and have these two men in her life. It becomes quite a hurtful thing and quite a hard thing for her because she’s totally torn between them, and trying to have both at once without being able to do it successfully.
What’s it been like working with Sam Anderson?
He’s a dream. I think he’s going to be really popular in the show. He’s very laid back, very cool and collected, and he plays the trumpet in-between takes as well on set! He’s lovely. I do feel sorry for his character though, as he’s got this girlfriend who is completely stressed every time she comes back from being with the Doctor.