With the twelfth Doctor being unveiled imminently, I thought it would be fun to give some insight into the process of auditioning and finding the perfect actor for the role, as well as what it’s like for the actor passing the baton. While at Comic-Con, Doctor Who co-stars Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman talked about what it’s like to be a part of the iconic show on its 50th anniversary, the enormity of what it’s like to leave the show, wanting the best actor to step into the role, and what they’ll remember most about the experience, while showrunner Steven Moffat talked about having no agenda or specific traits in mind during casting, how much time he’s had to prepare for a new Doctor, how it’s always been a massive news story, how much longer he’d like to stay with the show, and that he wishes the new actor could just show up on his first episode, without any prior casting announcement. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
MATT SMITH: We feel very proud and privileged to be the incumbent pair, right now, because the show is arguably on the ascendency. There’s something very exciting about being part of it right now.
Is it at all daunting to see out the first 50 years, and see in the next 50 years?
JENNA COLEMAN: It’s just exciting! It’s just really, really thrilling! What a year to have landed the job and be part of it. It’s funny because it’s not that I personally have grown up with the show, but there’s such a magic about it and it gets you. It’s a wonderful world to be a part of.
SMITH: You do become a fan, don’t you?
COLEMAN: Yeah, massively.
SMITH: Because I didn’t watch it as a kid either, but they you’re in it, and suddenly you just start becoming a fan. It’s strange.
Steven, would you ever consider a different look or gender for the Doctor?
STEVEN MOFFAT: You don’t cast a part by choosing hair color. It’s going to be the person who’s right for it now, and you try to make that judgement as best you can. It’s based entirely, 100%, on the quality and the special nature of that performer. There’s no political agenda. There’s nothing, whatsoever, except choosing the best possible person for the part.
Are you willing to audition both men and women, to see which person is best for the role?
MOFFAT: I don’t think that would be a sensible thing to do, no. I think you’d have to make a decision on the gender, before you approached it. Within the narrative of Doctor Who, it is possible that the Doctor could be female. But, whether the Doctor will be female, I won’t comment on that.
Do you have specific traits in mind, when you’re auditioning?
MOFFAT: Generally speaking, the way Doctor Who works, and the way any part of this works, is that you are led by the actor. You have to be. It’s a star vehicle. Even though it’s had 11 stars now, each time a new person takes it on, it becomes their vehicle. It has absolutely been all about Matt [Smith], for the last few years, as it was all about David [Tennant], for the years before that. The fundamentals of the Doctor are the same.
Have you been taking your time in finding the perfect individual, no matter how long that takes?
MOFFAT: Well, you can never take as long as you’d like because, at a certain point, you’ve got to show up and make it. But, we’ve had a reasonable amount of time. It’s a weird process. We have a very good casting director. There’s not an infinite number of people that you have to look at, for a part like this.
How long did you have to prepare for Matt Smith’s departure?
MOFFAT: I knew the broad idea was that he’d do three years, which I think is about right. Obviously, as I did with David [Tennant], you try to persuade them, up until the last second. So, I didn’t have that much time. In a way, you shouldn’t have that much time. For the Doctor, it’s a day in his life where his face changes.
MOFFAT: Well, there was for me. People say there’s more fuss about it now than there used to be, but that’s not true. I remember there being a huge fuss. It would be headline news, when a Doctor quit. It was be on the news programs that night. It’s a massive thing. It’s a position of great power and importance, in the UK.
Jenna, you won’t be the newest person on Doctor Who anymore, when Matt leaves.
COLEMAN: I know!
Are you looking forward to teaching the new person the ropes?
COLEMAN: I quite liked it because I kept playing different characters. I kept getting applause at the read-through, when they say your name, because I was the new person. I’ll miss that!
Matt, what was the moment, when you were filming, where the enormity of the fact that you were wrapping up this chapter in your life hit you?
SMITH: Well, I’ve got to go back and film the episode I regenerate in, so I imagine it will be there. I don’t know. It’s going to be very sad. It’s been a transformative experience for me, and I’ll miss it. I’ll miss people actually being interested in what I’m doing, and watching a TV show that I’m in. Not all TV shows are like that. Not everyone watches and supports the things that you do. It’s a very unique and privileged experience to play the Doctor.
SMITH: Look, it’s a slough and it’s hard, but ultimately you’re making Doctor Who, so who cares?! Yeah, I’ll sleep more, but no one will be screaming when I walk into a room full of people, dressed in fezzes. I’ll miss all the cool stuff that comes with it.
Is there anything you haven’t done yet as the Doctor, that you’ll get to do before your time is up?
SMITH: It’s quite hard [to talk about it] without giving something away. We haven’t read the Christmas one yet, so I don’t know. And the 50th anniversary is about a celebration of more than one Doctor, so perhaps that isn’t a story in which we explore new elements.
Matt, what will you take with you and remember the most, from the whole experience of having been the Doctor?
SMITH: The friendships that I have with Steven [Moffat], Jenna [Coleman], Karen [Gillan], Arthur [Darvill]. And that part. Playing that man has just been a privilege. I could write a book.
SMITH: There’s a feeling when you walk through the blue doors that’s like, “Wow, man, look at this set!” And there’s the world and time traveling, and being so close to the wonderful ideas that are in Doctor Who. I’ll miss everything! I don’t want to go!
Steven, because change is a part of this show, do you find yourself reaching the point where your chapter is coming to a close?
MOFFAT: Give up your hopes now! No. Well, I take it one year at a time. I’m doing next year. At the end of that, I’ll decide if I’m going to do the next year. If you take on a job like this, you have to take it on for a substantial period of time, assuming it all works out and you’re not shit at it. That’s what I’d say to the next person. Don’t do it for a year. You’ve got to do it for a big amount of time. But, when the feeling comes around that you’ve had enough and you want to do something else, it’s not ambiguous. You feel it quite strongly. It’s not really knackeredness or tiredness. On the shows I’ve stopped doing before, it’s just a feeling that I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s just as simple as that. I’ve had enough. It’s not that you hate it. I love my old shows. You just don’t want to do it anymore. That’s what Russell [T. Davies] said. He’d just had enough. So, that will come around. It hasn’t happened, even remotely, yet. I’m still having a ball.
Is writing that final story for Matt Smith’s Doctor the biggest pressure you’ve faced, in doing this show?
MOFFAT: The biggest pressure will always be introducing a new Doctor. And I can’t imagine it will ever be tougher than with “The Eleventh Hour” because everything changed. It’s not an ideal way to run television. It really isn’t. That was mad. All the execs left, the producer left, and all the stars left. You think, “Christ, how do you get away with that?!” We’re not in that situation this time, and it’s good that we’re not. People say, “It must have been great and exciting and marvelous that you had all that new stuff,” but not really. But, we got away with it. I just remember thinking, “Are people going to buy that this is the same show, when it clearly is not?”
Do you wish that you could just introduce the new Doctor via the show, when he finally shows up?
MOFFAT: I’d love to, but that’s physically impossible. It was Russell’s plan not to tell anyone that Chris [Eccleston] was going to change in the last episode, but it leaked after one week. I wish it were possible. The fact is that those actors’ agents have to say that they’re available. They have to take jobs. It’s going to leak, so you have to take command of that story. It’s annoying. I’d far rather not tell anybody anything, seriously. If you’re telling a joke, you don’t want anybody telling the punchline before you get to the end. Sadly, I don’t think it’s possible now. Everybody wanders around with cameras now. A few years ago, no one had a camera on them. Now, every little human being goes around with a camera on their phone. How am I going to keep secrets with that?! It’s tough. It can be irritating, but what can you do?