Meet the Actor: Matt Smith

Doctor Who - Series 7B

Doctor Who – Series 7B (Photo credit: Doctor Who Spoilers)

The Regent Street Apple Store was awash with Fezzes*, bow ties and sonic screwdrivers this Tuesday when Matt Smith appeared for a Meet the Actor session. In a few short weeks he is back on television to reprise his role as the 11th Doctor, armed with the canonically impossible new companion Oswin/Clara played by Jenna Louise Coleman. The assembled fans were desperate to hear even the slightest hint of what was to come though there were also some who were only just keeping it together at the prospect of the sight of their idol in the flesh.

“And he’s mad again.”

Smith’s manner, like that of his Doctor, danced on the edge of manic as he welcomed his fans. Gone will be the hard, post-Ponds Doctor of the Christmas Special, he assured us. Instead we can look forward to cybermen, a Neil Gaiman episode, the Ice warriors, an alien market and a finale like no other going into the 50th Anniversary Episode – all the important things in a Doctor Who series.

“A sort of space safari park where he’s collated mad animals from throughout the universe”

We also get to learn more about that the TARDIS herself in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS though it still leaves some to the imagination. Of course, fans met Idris, the human incarnation of the TARDIS (and, for my money, the only woman for the Doctor), in The Doctor’s Wife last season but we get more of the interior of the TARDIS this time out. There is also more to explore about who she is and, somewhat cryptically, “what effect she can have on the shape of that”. Not all her secrets are revealed – how could they be? And Smith was happy to speculate about the Doctor’s bedroom.

For all the excitement of the new series Smith still points to Eleventh Hour as his favourite episode to film and Blink or Tomb of the Cybermen as the best of the rest.

“It’s bigger and greater and more exciting and it’s funny as well.”

Smith also revealed he has now had sight of the script for the 50th Anniversary episode and he built the expectations to fever pitch. Smith continued to heap praise on the episode describing it as “spellbinding and one of the best ever, ever.” While he promised fans would not be disappointed it is getting hard to see how it could possibly be as good as advertised.  My other concern is about shooting some of it in 3D given that it will be primarily watched on laptops and tvs which can’t handle the technology. That’s “The Moff” for you though.

“Would we want a Doctor who that wasn’t complicated? That isn’t all science-wiencey and wibbly and strange and mad with different times and wives that are from the future?”

Matt Smith is clearly a fan of the show – which is always a good sign from the lead actor – and of Steven Moffat, its show runner. He talked extensively and glowingly about Sherlock as well as Moffat’s work on Doctor Who. A lot of fans, however, regard Moffat’s choices, particularly concerning River Song and the wider end of season 6, as somewhat dubious. Even when he doesn’t get the characters right there is always something worth watching in a Moffat episode or season. What no one can question is his ability to deliver the complexity that only a show like Doctor Who can deliver and sets Doctor Who apart, even among SciFi shows. Though perhaps Smith’s comment that “children get the bits that they enjoy” was overly cavalier when talking about a family show, the sciencey-wiencey, timey-wimey is what makes a Moffat season worth it.

“Y’know someone had a baby and I was like no! That can’t happen! No way!”

Smith didn’t only talk about Doctor Who. He admitted to his own fanboy moments over Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. He also talked about his excitement about starring in Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut. It seems almost an inevitability that Hollywood has come to call on Matt Smith given the casual and unpretentious way he refers to himself as ‘Ben’s mate’ while talking about Sherlock. Not that Matt Smith is undeserving in his own right but it can’t hurt to have a host of friends who are rising the celebrity alphabet lists.

“It’s magical realism – I love all that stuff”

The Q&A that followed was fairly straightforward covering his favourite book (The Master and Margarita) and film (undecided but maybe the Goonies) his plans to visit Australia (Christmas/early 2014) and which Doctor Who villain he would play (The Master or Rosanna from The Vampires of Venice).  Speaking about his other projects he also talked about his excitement over branching out into directing with Cargese on Sky Arts this April.

“That’s a wonderful thing to say – ‘the lady in the fez’”

There was of course the token quivering fangirl in a fez who started innocently enough with a question about Sherlock which prompted the revelation that Matt had auditioned for John Watson (and what a change that would have been from Martin Freeman). She then had to ask whether Matt Smith shipped ‘Johnlock’, which is just bad fandom etiquette. For those to whom ‘Johnlock’ might be unfamiliar it is a couple name, like Brangelina, that designates John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in a romantic relationship. I want to make it clear fandom, fanfiction, ships and slash are all fine by me but not when you involve the actors. Some, like Misha Collins, invite questions about fandom and shipping etc… Matt Smith, to the best of my knowledge, does not. Keep it on the internet fez girl.

“I would apply to the National Youth Theatre – that’s what encouraged me into acting”

Matt also had some patient and heartfelt advice for a Dilan, a fifteen year old, high-functioning aspergers sufferer who wasn’t in school and who wanted to get into acting: First, get back into school. Second, audition for the National Youth Theatre. Third, everyone has a camera so go out and make a film about a girl who can’t get back into school and put it on the internet. His advice and attitude was so overwhelmingly positive he may well have changed a girl’s life. It is perhaps a small reminder of the power that celebrities hold and how it can be used for good as well as evil. And I urge you to keep half and eye on the internet for a film about a girl who can’t get back into school.

As the applestore people kept saying, the full interview will be available as a podcast via i-tunes in case you think I’m being over hard on girls in fezzes.

*I had to look up the plural of fez – the things you learn for fandom

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