Doctor Who’s Sonic Youth

Nick Setchfield chats to Matt Smith in an extract from an exclusive interview from the next issue of SFX

SFX: How did that first screen test feel? Did you know that you’d nailed it?

“Well, my agent rang me. I was in my bedroom and he said, ‘Do you want to go and audition for the Doctor in Doctor Who?’ ‘Yeah, why not?’ So in I go. It was all very secret, in a hotel. It’s all mad. There’s no other casting like it. I did my best, as I always do, tried to be brave in the audition and all the rest of it. And then I went for another one, which was in a different, plusher hotel, and there were a few more people there, looking beadily on. But it’s funny. With most actors the ones they think they’ve done brilliantly in they never get, and the ones where they go, ‘I’m never going to get it,’ they get. I don’t know what this was.  I was pleased with the way I prepared, I thought I gave a good account of myself, which is always what I try to do in any interview. You’ve just got to do your best.”

SFX: Could you ever have said no when it was finally offered to you? Because it’s so much more than just another television role.

“That’s a good question. Prior to doing it I probably would have thought, ‘Well, I’ll really consider it….’ But when they rang me up and said, ‘Do you want to do it?’ my heart spoke, not my head. Yes, done, sign me up. And also the part’s so great… he’s brilliant, he’s a brilliant man. He’s the cleverest man in the universe. He’s got two hearts! And he has two hearts because he has such heart and such courage. I read the first episode, which is the one I auditioned with, and it’s a brilliant piece of writing. Steven’s written a magic fairytale.”

SFX: People fret that you’re going to be the youngest Doctor. Do you worry about that?

“The great thing about the Doctor is that it’s a body. It’s a vessel, essentially, and he is the same man. He always has been the same man via a load of different personalities and make-up  and limbs and everything else. No, that’s not something that concerns me at all. I’m just privileged and thrilled to be playing him. To me it’s just a brilliant part. Of course there’s such history that you can dip into with the Doctor as well. There’s a great sea of knowledge out there. It’s like anything – you’ve got to start with the scripts you have. It always comes from the scripts, and I have a particular process of working – which I won’t bore you with – and I did that again. And so much of the Doctor is instinct and personality and your energy and tapping into that… it’s like Hamlet or someone. Is it the greatest part in British television? Certainly one of them. I feel very proud. It’s a huge joy in my life.”

Read more of this interview in SFX#195, out next Wednesday 7 April.