Interview extra

Pearl MackieApril 11, 2017

Doctor Who
Peter Capaldi & Pearl Mackie in Doctor Who

This Saturday, the sci fi series makes its long overdue return to television, with Bill Potts, who comes crashing into the Doctor’s life. TV newcomer Pearl Mackie tells TV Choice about taking on the role, and how she’s approaching the prospect of worldwide fame!

How would you describe Bill Potts?
She’s a real kind of girl. Just like a normal young woman. She’s quite like me, she’s quite inquisitive. She’s cheeky. She’s very interested in the Doctor, and the way his mind works. It’s something she’s never experienced before. She allows people who haven’t potentially watched Doctor Who to kind of come into it with her. And as she enters into the world, they can enter into it too, and see it through her eyes.

We first meet her in a university canteen where she’s serving chips…
Yes, she does serve chips but that isn’t her lot. That’s not what she wants to do. She isn’t sitting around going, ‘Cool, I’ve achieved all of my goals’. You know what I mean? And meeting the Doctor is an amazing opportunity for her to explore all of space and time, which is pretty massive.

What was it like the first time you went onto the TARDIS set?
Oh, it was amazing. I think the first time I did it was also the day we were shooting Bill’s first time. So that was… it’s incredible. No acting required, really. I’m just like, ‘Cool – this is really exciting.’ But, yeah, it’s phenomenal. Everything!

What kind of dynamic is there between Bill and the Doctor?
Obviously, the Doctor is very, very clever and very worldly and quite headstrong. I think Bill is inquisitive and quick-witted. Between the two of them, there’s a lot of mutual respect for their approaches and the way they look at things.

How’s it been working with Peter Capaldi?
It’s amazing. For me, this is the first massive job I’ve had in terms of exposure, but he’s been so generous with his time and the way he approaches scenes. We rehearse them in quite a lot of detail and he’s always asking, ‘How was that for you? Did that work for you?’

How much of a fan of Doctor Who were you before you joined the show?
Well, it wasn’t really on when I was a kid. I was 16 when it came back in 2005, so I’d kind of missed it for my whole life. I remember seeing those TV countdowns of the 100 scariest monsters, that kind of thing, and Doctor Who would be on a lot of those. But it’s all quite new to me, as well as being new to Bill. When I joined it was suggested that I didn’t go back and watch old episodes, because they liked the freshness I was bringing to it.

This is your first big TV role, and it is big! Is there any way you can prepare yourself for the kind of attention you’re about to receive?
Oh, no, I don’t think so. In a way, if you are prepared for it, you’re setting yourself up for a fall, really. Personally, it’s very exciting, but I’m an actress, that’s what I want to do. Fame – if that’s what it is – is a by-product, although it’s something that’s great in terms of enabling many more career opportunities, so that’s fantastic. I guess that is the way I’ve prepared myself for it, if you know what I mean? In terms of not preparing myself for it at all!

Have you got to have coping strategies for fame?
I guess what I’ve always said is, ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously, really’. I think that’s what it’s all about. But as soon as you start to believe your own hype, that’s your downfall.

What will you be doing on Easter Saturday?
I haven’t even thought about that yet. That is terrifying to think of it coming out on TV. I will definitely be watching it somewhere. But I don’t know where yet.

BBC1, Saturday

Graham Kibble-White 

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