Suranne Jones tells us about her guest starring role as Idris in the Saturday, 14 May episode of BBC One’s Doctor Who, The Doctor’s Wife…
What has filming been like?
“Karen and Matt and Arthur are completely adorable and as a visitor to that world it has just been brilliant because they made me feel at home. The three of them are just so into it and they are such good friends. Karen, in particular, is really funny and very sweet, everyone adores her and I think she is a real talent.”
How would you describe Idris?
“I can’t reveal too much, but she is dirty and like a crazy bag lady. She lives in this strange junkyard place with people called Auntie and Uncle, who are made up of other bodies put together. Idris still has her own body, but maybe if she had been hanging around there a bit longer she might have had someone else’s arm or leg too.”
How does the Doctor react to her?
“She bites him. I can’t tell you where, but not on the bum! I think they get on all right, though. She is intriguing to him for lots of reasons because of things she says and the way that she is acting. When you meet her she is about to die and then she doesn’t, she just goes really bonkers instead. She says lots of things that she doesn’t understand and she doesn’t really know why she is saying them, so she is not quite making sense to herself let alone anyone else.”
Was that hard to do?
“Yes, because when it all makes sense it is more easy to learn, but this script had to be fragmented and disjointed so it was a lot of effort to keep my mind focused on all that. Doctor Who people always say lots of things that are really hard to say though and what was lovely was listening to Matt and Karen and Arthur trying to figure out what their lines meant. I said, ‘Seriously, you don’t know?’ and they said, ‘No, we haven’t got a clue what it means.’”
Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman wrote this episode. How did that feel?
“I knew Stardust and Beowulf, but I didn’t know that people in the Who world were so excited about him. The script is one of the best I have read in probably the last four years; it is essentially a children’s television programme and sci-fi, but it has real emotion in it and beautiful layering.”
Did you get to see the TARDIS?
“Yes, and it was brilliant. There are so many Whovians who know everything about that world and I am completely baffled, but filming in the TARDIS was really exciting and the child in you just appears out of nowhere. We were filming in a quarry and I suddenly said, ‘Oh my God there it is’. Then Matt said, ‘Yeah, I know – cool eh?’ To him it’s like his car.”
Did you get to do any stunts?
“Well, I was told I was good at ‘shaky shaky’ acting – whatever that is – but Matt was impressed. Karen apparently is good at ‘windy windy’ acting – there is lots of wind involved in Doctor Who when they put a wind machine on you. I think you have got to be fearless with it, because if it is green screen and you can’t actually see what you are acting with, you can’t do it half-heartedly because it just looks like a bit wet.”
Would you like to return to Doctor Who?
“When I left I made sure they took lots of pictures of me around set to put up in make-up and I said to Matt, ‘Can you just keep mentioning that I would like to come back at some point?’ I don’t think I can, but who knows? You can do anything in Doctor Who and if there was a chance to come back in the future I would love to.”
How have your family and friends reacted to you being in Doctor Who?
“When I told them I was on it, I got text after text after text with lists of kids’ names to get autographs. I was so embarrassed and I went to Matt and Karen and said, ‘I’m really sorry,’ but they gave me this thick envelope back with them all signed so I am a very popular auntie and godmother. That has never happened before though except with David Tennant when I did Single Father, but it’s the Doctor Who thing again.”
“I am in ITV1’s new crime drama Scott & Bailey later this month with Lesley Sharp and it is like Cagney and Lacey in Manchester. It is based around a murder team and I did police training, which was brilliant, and worked with a lady who was on the murder squad in Manchester as part of my research.”