Doctor Who at SDCC Part 2, with Pearl Mackie, Michelle Gomez and Matt Lucas

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In Part 2 of our Doctor Who interviews, we chatted with Michelle Gomez (Missy) and Matt Lucas (Nardole), and then with Pearl Mackie (Bill). There were so many questions that those of us at the table would have loved to ask! Matt is very thoughtful about his roles, and for a character who was often the episode’s comic relief, very serious about his profession. Michelle is even more Scottish in person, and is excited about the prospect of a female Doctor. Pearl was very friendly, and quite pleased to talk with us about what comes next for her.

photo by Barbara Henderson

MIchelle Gomez and Matt Lucas

Q: (To Michelle) After this great career success, how tempted are you now to relocate to Los Angeles, and Matt, as someone who has done that, would you recommend it?
Matt: I love it in LA and I love it in London. I love both, and so I can say for me, it’s about not giving up on either. And I’m in a fortunate position where I can travel between the two. You live in NY, don’t you?
Michelle: We moved to LA about 10 years ago, and lived there for about 5 years, and then moved to New York, and we’ve lived there for about 5 years, so we’ve done 10 years in the States, but New York’s convenient geographically because I get to bounce back to London a lot, and I can get to LA easily, so it’s a good middle ground, but I don’t know if it’s made much of a difference to my career, given that the best part I’ve ever had is in Cardiff, in Wales, so I probably should have just stayed in England. I’m kind of homesick for Britain at times, but I get to work there quite a lot, so that sort of squashes the nostalgia at times. I’m very Scottish, I don’t seem to be able to drop my accent.

Q: (TIBS) Did you have as much fun on set as it looks like, especially, you, MIchelle, you’re so flamboyant and interesting, did that carry over when the camera went off?
Michelle: There’s not … it’s pretty fast, isn’t it, we really race along, there’s not much time for more than the job at hand, but of course it helps if you enjoy each other. There has to be a sense of fun and freedom. If you’re too locked into thinking about it too much, for me that doesn’t work. So I need to know that I’m in a safe place, and with actors that I trust and admire, and then you can, you have a springboard into bringing some fun to it, really.

photo by Barbara Henderson

Matt: I found you do more coverage on this show than other TV. I think it’s because this show has more permanence, more reach. So although it’s on TV, the filming of it feels like a hybrid between TV and cinema, if you were doing a more conventional British drama that wasn’t sci fi, traditionally – I know Netflix and HBO have changed kind of how things are shot, traditionally we go the master and the mid and the close and the swap, this seems to have a lot more… scenes take longer to shoot. You probably get through less pages in a day. However, you do have to commit quite early on in the process to what you’re going to do. Because even though you can spend quite a lot of time filming a scene, you have to hurry up and start. You have to get on with it. You have to go, “that seems fun, let’s get on with that.” But I like to carry on improvising during the day, and just to try to and keep it fresh. But yeah, I got lucky, it’s the most dedicated crew I’ve ever worked with in terms of doing a year in a very cold, wet place. The warmth and the smiles from the people we work with make a huge difference both on screen and off. Also, there’s quite a nice thing which is every three or four weeks, you get some new people come. You do two episodes in five weeks. So every two and a half weeks, some new cast members come and you get to meet them and and hang out with them. Sometimes you know them already. But I had never met Michelle before, obviously I had seen her work, and so I knew you were coming, I was told quite early on that you were coming back, I was quite excited about that. 

Q: (TIBS) Do you think the Master becoming Missy and being very well accepted, and a very exciting character, helped pave the way for a woman to play the Doctor?
Michelle: I don’t know, maybe? It was a big shift, I guess, going from a male Master to a female Master. It’s a bit sad that we’re still talking about that today. It should just be regardless of sex, whoever’s doing the best job, you know, so I don’t know. I think like me I was at the right place at the right time, and it clicked, it worked, and for Jodie, it’s her time now, regardless of the fact that she’s a woman, I think she’s going to be a phenomenal new Doctor. I’m excited.

Q: How did you guys find out about the new Doctor?
MIchelle: Same as you, after Wimbledon.
Matt: I knew it was going to be a woman.
Q: How did you know?
Matt: Because I was told.  I didn’t want to know who. I knew some names, I knew the names that were being talked about, they were on the list, but I didn’t know, I knew it was a woman, but that was it.

Pearl and Matt at the Sunday panel

Pearl Mackie

photo by Barbara Henderson

Q: What is the absolute best thing about being part of Doctor Who?
Pearl: I think all of it. Everything. I think Doctor Who is such a wonderful show that we can relate to individually, and personally, and differently. Everyone, I think, has something special that they get from it. And it seems to really resonate with people in a really powerful way. I think people really engage with it, and engage with the issues, and the emotional journey with the characters. As an actress, that’s a wonderful thing to be able to give, essentially, to explore something that people really relate to and really resonate to.

Q: Was there one particular fan encounter that really did resonate with you, what you just said, the impact on people?
Pearl: Well, actually two, but they’re quite similar. One, I was in a pret (convenience store) in North London, just wandering around probably, getting something to eat, and this woman came up to me and was like, “You’re amazing, you’re amazing on the show, and my daughter just loves you.” And this little girl bounced out from behind her mom, with this curly hair, everywhere, she was wearing like a ballet getup, I think she had just been to ballet, and she was on this pink scooter, she was just like “Hi, Bill! I love you!” and I thought, this is just great. I said “Pleased to meet you, ” and she just launched herself at me, and gave me a massive hug. To be able to see that with young kids, especially young kids of color who don’t see themselves so much. We’re getting better, but I know when I was  younger, I didn’t see too many people like me on the screen. For me, that was something, she just bounced off and was all happy. I don’t know if she consciously thought, “hey, she looks like me,” but for me it’s great to be able to experience that, experience the joy that gives to children, and adults, and everybody, really.

Q: A lead role in Doctor Who has increasingly become a springboard to greater things.
Pearl: Fingers crossed!
Q: What personal career ambitions do you have for the future that you may be able to achieve as a result?
Pearl: Yeah, I mean, you’re right, looking at previous companions and the journeys that they’ve been on, and they’re still on, there are some incredible alumni as companions. For me, there are so many things I would like to explore as an actress. For me, it’s about character, it’s about someone who’s real. Or unreal, I’m not averse to playing unreal people, but as long as like the journey’s real and  the emotion’s real, that’s what I want to explore. An interesting story. You want to play some characters who are struggling with some stuff. It’s nice to be able to explore. Well, not nice, but it’s good to be able to explore. People aren’t just happy and chilling. This has been an amazing character and an amazing journey. I’d like to just do lots more, really. I still don’t know what I’m doing, especially in front of a camera. So I’d like to do more of that, so I can make sure it wasn’t just the wonderful crew we had on Doctor Who that enabled me to actually do it.

Q: (TIBS) Bill’s sexual orientation really threw a lot of people. Do you hope to see that as just part of the human condition, so that it doesn’t carry weight?
Pearl: Yes, exactly. I do. You have summed it. I do hope that. I hope we continue moving forward.

Here’s the whole panel from Sunday in Hall H at San Diego Comic Con!

Read Part 1 of our interviews, with Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, here!

feature photo by Barbara Henderson (thanks, Barb!)

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Erin Conrad