Doctor Who “The Doctor’s Wife” Suranne Jones & Neil Gaiman Interviews
SFX chats to the guest star and writer of tomorrow’s brilliant episode
Was there quite a buzz about the script, given that it’s written by Neil Gaiman?
“Yeah! I knew Stardust and Beowulf, but I didn’t know that people were so excited about him in the sci-fi world. I found that out as I was filming. He was on set the first day, which was a little bit nerve-wracking, when you’ve got the writer there and a couple of the producers, and you really want to do a good job! The director pushed me to do a bit of a different performance, so I was nervous about getting the first day right, and then you’ve got Doctor Who Confidential hanging around, so you’ve got someone watching you pick your nose as well as trying to get everything right! But Matt is brilliant, and Richard Clark, the director, was just fantastic with me. The script is one of the best scripts I’ve read in the last four years, I’d say. It’s essentially a children’s television programme, but there’s emotion in it and a beautiful layering. Some of the stuff that I say – I don’t know what it means, the cast haven’t got a clue what it means… And that’s the beauty of it, because they’ll probably find out when they get the scripts for episode 13! But what’s lovely is that I’m listening to Matt, Karen and Arthur trying to figure out what their stuff means. I’m going, ‘Seriously, you don’t know?’ And they’re going, ‘No, haven’t got a clue what that means!’”
So is there a knack to saying it as though you do know what it means?
“My character says lots of things, and she doesn’t really know why she’s saying them. So she’s kind of not making sense to herself, let alone anyone else! She’s like a crazy bag lady person, who is intriguing to the Doctor. This script had a lot of things that were fragmented and disjointed, so it was a lot of effort to keep my mind focused on all that. And also Doctor Who people say lots of things that are really hard to say! There’s nothing like it on our screens. I did Noel Coward last Christmas. Noel Coward likes to put a couple of extra words in sentences, and so do Neil and Steven! How do you get your mouth around that?”
Idris has a very striking look…
“They do dirty my fingers up a lot. I did a scene with Matt where he happened to be looking at my hand. And he kept looking at me and looking at my hand. And then he said ‘Do the make-up people dirty your hands?’ There was dirt around the fingernails, dirt inside… I said, ‘Matt, yes, of course they do!’ And he said, ‘Thank god for that. I kept thinking ‘Why has no one told her…?’ She’s dirty!
Did you get to see the TARDIS?
“Yeah. That was really exciting. I’m a fan of it, obviously, but the child in you just appears out of nowhere. You’re like, ‘It’s the police box! Oh my god! There it is!’ And Matt will go, ‘Yeah, I know. Cool, yeah?’ Like ‘Oh yeah, it’s my car…’ And filming in the TARDIS was brilliant too. All my mates were like, ‘Oh my god, send me pictures!’ And of course I couldn’t take my phone on set, and they just had to make do with pictures of me in my outfit. And they were like, ‘What are you showing us that for?’”
How does Idris get on with the Doctor?
“She bites him.”
Big bite? A chunk?
“Can’t tell you that. Not on the bum. I think they get on alright, apart from the biting.”
How did you get on with the regulars?
“What’s beautiful is that as well as making me feel really at home, the three of them are just so into it, and such good friends as well. I’d met Karen once before, and as well as being beautiful – she’s got this amazing look – she’s really funny, very sweet, and everyone adores her. And she’s got beautiful nails, as well, which obviously I was staring at because mine were such a mess! But I liked Karen in Star Stories before I saw her in Doctor Who. I think she’s a real talent. And when you’ve got looks as well as what she can do… I think life after Doctor Who for her will be amazing.”
Was Doctor Who part of your childhood? Or were you part of the generation that missed out?
“My brother used to chase me around the house with Twiki from Buck Rogers! Sci-fi was never really my thing, but we did have a blow-up Twiki. It was always my dad and my brother’s thing. I think it frightened me a little bit.”
Does Doctor Who demand a particular acting style?
“I’ve been told I was good at shakey-shakey acting. And I didn’t know I was doing shakey-shakey acting. Matt was particularly impressed with my shakey-shakey. He was like, ‘Yeah, man, that’s really good!’ Karen’s really good at windy-windy acting. There’s lots of wind involved in Doctor Who, isn’t there? Lots of things happen and they put a wind machine on you. All the scary stuff is like second nature to them. I think you’ve got to be fearless. If it’s greenscreen and you can’t actually see what you’re acting with, or you’re imagining that you’re being chased, to be fearless is the best thing, because if you do it half-hearted, then it just looks a bit wet.”
Any chance of Idris making a return to Doctor Who?
“I said to Matt, ‘Can you just keep mentioning that I’d like to come back at some point?’ Who knows? You never know, do you? If there was a chance in the future then yeah, I’d love to. I had a ball.”