Former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston plays Pod Clock in BBC1’s modern adaptation of children’s classic The Borrowers (Boxing Day). Here he talks about little people – and huge props!

First of all, what attracted you to this project?

“I loved the book. I read it in 1971, when I was about seven. I certainly didn’t know that 40 yars on I’d be in the book! It really captured my imagination. I wandered round trying to find Borrowers in our own house, the way children do. It had the appeal of suggesting there are things beyond our imagination. And it’s about rooting for the underdog, because as a child you feel like an underdog.”

Tell us a bit about your character Pod, the father of the Clock family of Borrowers…

“I love Pod, he’s a lovely dad. He makes mistakes, he’s overprotective, but he loves his daughter and his wife and he’s got a great sense of humour. He’s brave, resourceful, imaginative and stubborn. It’s a great range to play.”

You are known for more serious roles…

“Yeah, I know! But I’m not a method actor and this was relaxing and fun. It was the most physical thing I’ve ever done. I did all the stunts myself; jumping up bookcases, hurtling down drains, being pursued by cats. I must say I was bruised and battered by the shoot – it was a really physical challenge.”

So you really were a little person in a big world?

“Yes, literally! There were six-foot tables, sixteen-foot skirting boards, a swimming pool sized vat filled with chocolate milkshake and a chocolate box twenty ft wide and ten ft deep. And I got to play in all that!”

Tell us more about the Clock family…

“Well, there’s my character Pod, his wife Homily, played by Sharon Horgan, and their daughter Arietty, played by Aisling Loftus. Pod has it made – his wife and daughter are at home while he goes out to do very exciting work ‘borrowing’ and they are at home when he gets back.”

Are they all happy with this life?

“Arriety is getting tired of it. She wants to spread her wings and fly the nest. She’s very similar to Pod. She’s an adrenaline junkie and likes risk, so there’s tension between them.”

How would you say this film has been brought up to date?

“While the original novel is set in the late Victorian era, this version is very firmly rooted in the late 20th century and the Mary Norton estate have allowed us to update it. There’s the suggestion that Pod’s clothes have been stolen from action figures of the late eighties and we hurtle around in a battery driven car, which you wouldn’t have seen in the book. It has more of a Toy Story setting.”

The Borrowers is a family drama. What’s the moral message behind it?

“Well, for Pod, it’s about learning to let go and allow change. But it’s also about love – the Clock family love each other so much. Mary Norton set the Borrowers up as a shining example of what humans could be.”

Why is The Borrowers perfect for Christmas?

“It’s a family-focused thing, and they are a family with the same problems that all families have. There is great humour, adventure, wit and colour. And the whole family can watch it and relax. I had so much fun making this, I really hope it creates a new generation of fans for this classic tale.”