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New 'Doctor Who' Matt Smith Looks Forward to a New Era

by Nick Zaino, posted Apr 16th 2010 1:01PM
Matt Smith as Doctor WhoTomorrow's new episode of 'Doctor Who' is more than a season premiere (BBC America, 9PM EST). It's the beginning of a new era. Matt Smith steps into the Doctor's shoes, Karen Gillan is the new companion, Amy Pond, and Steven Moffat ('Coupling,' 'Jekyll') takes over as lead writer and executive producer. David Tenant will be a particularly hard Doctor to replace, but Smith hits the ground running, almost literally, arriving on Earth with a malfunctioning Tardis with only 20 minutes to save the planet from obliteration.

Smith, 27, is the youngest actor to take on the Doctor so far, although he points out no actor could ever really get close to the character's age (he's roughly 900 years old). He has been attending screenings in New York and Los Angeles this week, meeting and greeting fans, and trying to swim through an ocean of interviews and press coverage. I caught up with him by phone Thursday shortly after he touched down in L.A.

Have you gotten a lot of fans challenging your 'Doctor Who' trivia knowledge at these screenings?

Not really. They're all just very encouraging, to be honest. They've been really welcoming. New York was incredible. I've never seen anything like it.

So you step on the set and you're looking at TARDIS, are you thinking of your favorite 'Doctor Who' moments, or are you thinking, 'I get to drive that now?'

I didn't really watch it as a kid 'cause it wasn't on television. So it isn't as though I had a whole sort of back catalogue of favorite moments as a kid. I mean, I went and watched it after I got the part. It's a bit of both, really, but you're also thinking about, I don't know, the energy in which you have to go in or out of it, or what you're running from. You're generally thinking about the scene. But I see your point. It's a magical idea, the TARDIS, and that sense of awe never really leaves, actually. I kind of have that most days.

Having not grown up with it, are you much concerned with putting your own stamp on the role? You don't have a couple of decades of history watching it like some of the other folks might have.

I've since gone back and watched the episodes and I've watched the Tom Bakers and the Patrick Troughtons - he's my favorite, actually. I mean, it's like anything, if you watch the first episode of the new 'Doctor Who,' you never need to have watched an episode in your life to get and understand what it's about. It reinvents itself in the present and they're very present stories. I just try to do it my way as clearly and creatively as possible.

Doctor Who and new companion AmyThe relationship between Amy and the Doctor is different than the Doctor's previous relationship with his companions. What do you get a sense of where the relationship is going?

I think what's interesting about this particular relationship is that she's a real challenge for him. I think that Steven's written, to my mind, the best companion, because she's... I don't know, she's the greatest challenge that the Doctor's had in a while, I think. She really doesn't give him any room, which is brilliant. And of course there's this deep bond, this deep affection, because he met her when she was quite young and kept leaving her. And I think he feels a great sense of responsibility towards her. But that relationship will evolve, and it goes on a wonderful journey, because that's really the heartbeat of the show. It's full of great detail and great madness, because they're brilliant together. They feed off each other's madness.

The Eleventh Doctor seems a bit clumsy out of the gate, is that just residuals from regeneration or is that part of the character?

I think it is definitely part of the regeneration, but also in life, I have to confess, I'm terribly clumsy. And sadly, that has translated into the Doctor.

Are you looking forward to seeing the Eleventh Doctor action figures?

I've seen them, actually. Yeah, that's quite a significant moment in your life, I've gotta say. It is. Suddnely there's this twelve-inch plastic you and it looks like you and it has the kind of shape of your legs and your arms. It's quite baffling.

How is it working with Steven Moffat?

Oh, I've got a list of superlatives that I usually launch into but he's sat right next to me, so I'm not sure if I can, really. No, it's a pleasure and a treat. It really is. He's a genius and we're very fortunate to have his mind and his imagination. I've never met anyone like him. I think he's the best there is.

Did you two consult on how you'd conceptualize the Eleventh Doctor?

Yes, we did that together. He kind of gave me the colors and the canvas and said, well, you go and paint it. Which I'm grateful of, because I think actors need freedom and I've certainly had that in this role.

How do you think the new villains, the vampires and Smilers and such, fit into the existing 'Doctor Who' universe?

I think the vampires just make it a whole lot sexier, and the Smilers make it a whole lot creepier. We've got some brilliant new monsters, we really have. The vampires are one of my favorites, I've got to say. We've got a Dream Lord played by the exquisite Toby Jones, who's rather brilliant. And of course, there's the Silurians, they're back after having made an appearance years back before it got taken off. I'm really looking forward to all the new monsters, actually. I really am.

Moffat has said you come across as old and young at the same time. Do you feel that about yourself as an actor?

I would hope so. There was a great deal made about my age and me looking too young, but the fact is, he's 907, there's not a man on the planet who could play him. Actually, it's sort of interesting, the bane in people's side to begin with I think is actually going to work in my favor because I hope as the series progresses, the weight of time and the troubles of the universe all come out in my performance as the Doctor. And I think there's something interested about seeing those things on a young face, you know. Or a young skin. And that's all it is, it's just skin.

Doctor Who and Amy on board TARDISThe visual style seems a bit different this year, as well. How would you describe it?

Well I think we've used a different camera, and as a result, I think it feels more filmic. The colors feel more filmic, the shots feel more filmic, and just the pacing of it, generally. That's something I'm personally very proud of, because I think it's step in the right direction for 'Doctor Who.'

Doctor Who is an oddly inspiring character - you never know when he's going to come out with an inspiring moment, they come out in odd places. Was that an overt challenge with the role? It's not something you can always predict, and I don't think when people list their favorite parts of the character, they wouldn't necessarily list "inspiring," but I think the character is that.

Oh, I think they would list "inspiring." He's definitely inspiring, and his unpredictability is something I reveled in as an actor. It gives you a chance to play because you're never set into one idea or one set of rules or mode. And the Doctor can be anything and can go anywhere and can think in any way. And that's been hugely liberating.

What's your favorite part about the new TARDIS?

I think it's really exciting. It's bigger on the inside. It feels very much like a mad scientist's lair in the belly of the TARDIS, which I quite like. It's fully of gadgets and knobs and twisty things. It adds something to the way that my Doctor's brain works. It's all quite mad and ad hoc and disheveled. And that's not conscious, that's just me placing my idea on it. It's quite mad, which I like.

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While I'm excited for a new Doctor, I'm more exited that Moffatt is taking over the show.

I wasn't to keen on the Tennant incarnation - although it's most likely due to Davies' mark than Tennant's ability.

With the exception of the Moffatt episodes, I rarely found the stories compelling.

I think Eccleston worked because of the sheer joy that Doctor Who had returned.

While I'm grateful to Davies for bringing our favorite Time Lord back to the airwaves, he just didn't produce plausible scifi

April 19 2010 at 9:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Matt Smith is great as the Doctor! He seems less hammy than Tennant (who I still liked) & his buffoonery seems to fit well with the new setup.

Karen Gillan is probably my favourite assistant, speaking from both her acting & her looks ;-)

April 16 2010 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I downloaded the first two episodes from the UK and as someone who was slightly worried about the loss of RTD and Tennant, my fears were put to rest. Great stuff. Not sure why they waited two weeks behind the UK.

April 16 2010 at 1:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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