Posts Tagged ‘The Master’

John Simm (2009)

January 3, 2010

Here are a few John Simm interviews stuck together. One’s from The Independent, another’s from the BBC website during the build-up to ‘The End of Time’, and there’s also a bit from a BBC Breakfast interview. He talks about getting the role, dealing with fans and handling the pressures of fame, and apologises for not replying to fan mail.

It’s great to be back. Really, really great. I’m having a great time. It’s a great honour to be asked back to be in David’s last ever episode, and Russell’s last ever episode, and Julie Gardner’s last ever episode. The first time was a lot of fun, and also the character’s changed a lot. He’s far, far more insane than he was last time, and much darker. It’s fabulous being back. It’s always nice having another go at a character.

(Being asked) was very late at night, and very covert. Which was exactly what happened when I was asked to play the Master first time round. So I already knew that something special was likely to come out of these late-night meetings with Russell. He said they wanted to bring him back, and explained what was going to happen. I agreed straightaway, it was lovely to play him again.

The Doctor and the Master are two sides of the same coin, and I’m the flipside, I’m tails, and I’m the baddie Doctor. I’m happy being the baddie Doctor, I wouldn’t like to be the Doctor. The white hair was kind of my idea, although I started to regret it almost as soon as I’d had it done. My original idea was that something had gone wrong in the resurrection process and it damages him. So I thought the shock of what happens might have turned his hair white.

The best moments for me are when we’re filming a big sequence. For instance, I was shooting bolts out of my hands at the Doctor. When the camera’s behind me and I can see the explosions going off behind him as he’s walking towards me, it’s like being in a ‘Doctor Who’ video game. So that’s pretty cool.

It’s extraordinary (the battle to keep ‘Doctor Who’ secrets from leaking onto the internet), I really don’t know how they do it. I’ve noticed that a lot of the photos I’m being asked to sign are from the new show. I’ve got no idea how people have got hold of them. I hadn’t even seen them myself – they’re not from the trailer, nor are they from the internet.

When I took my son to school when the first episodes were on, there was a semi-circle around me for half an hour, but they’ve got short memories so they forgot after a while. (My son) is quite used to it now. In fact his mum (Kate Magowan) was in an episode of ‘Primeval’ recently, so God knows what he thinks of us. But he’s a quiet boy, you know. He’s like I was; he doesn’t like attention.

I’m not very good with compliments, either. I always go bright red. I’m alright when I have a character to hide behind. It’s in real life that I can’t bear it. But to some extent I’m used to it, of course. I’m not a people person. I’m not sociable. I have been, and I can be, but not as a general rule. I get embarrassed for other people, too. I can’t watch shows like ‘The X Factor’, for instance. I just squirm for the people involved, for the way they’re being used. It’s the cruellest, most ridiculous show on television. It’s ruined music, ruined everything.

I had a great childhood. I played outside and all that. Looking back, it was quite grim, I suppose, but I certainly didn’t have a bad time. And all the other kids were in the same boat. I used to get up and sing Elvis songs, but later on I became much more self-conscious, all these people staring at me… Maybe that’s what made me so shy, because I was myself on stage and I find that really hard. I used to stare at the floor a lot and my dad was constantly telling me to smile. I was in a school play and I got bitten by the acting bug, if that’s not too much of a cliche. When I started acting, I just enjoyed it. I found it easy and I got a good reaction. I remember thinking, ‘I can obviously do this’. I’ve always had confidence in my abilities that way. And, of course, it gave me this mask to hide behind.

When it comes to meeting strangers and having to chat to them, that doesn’t come easily. David Tennant is brilliant at it, but I’m not. The other day this workman started shouting my name in the street. And no matter how often you heart it, if someone shouts your name in the street, it’s weird. These men were repairing the road and he shouted out ‘John Simm!’. At first, I thought perhaps he thought he knew me, and I went ‘Er, hi’. He beckoned me over and put out his hand to shake. I had my little girl with me. I wasn’t about to pick her up and walk across this building site to shake this guy’s hand. So I just sort-of waved at him. And he went ‘Oh, you’re too good to shake my hand, are you?’. I said ‘I don’t know you, mate’, but he looked disgusted and walked away. I thought, ‘You’ve really got the wrong end of the stick there’. I don’t mean to be rude. In fact, I try to be as polite as possible. but sometimes…

If I haven’t sent fan mail back, please forgive me, I’m not good with it. I find it a bit odd. I don’t think the fans are odd, obviously, I think it’s great that they like what we do, but I find the piles and piles of fan mail, and the replying, a bit narcissistic, so I try to avoid it. I’m not a fan of red carpets, either. I’ve tried so hard to get used to it, and I do try and smile and grin and bear it, but it sends me into a frenzy, it just drives me mad.

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Derek Jacobi (2009)

January 2, 2010

Here’s Derek Jacobi, the Master back in 2007’s ‘Utopia’, talking about his career and how he ended up working on ‘Doctor Who’. It’s from a convention appearance he made a few months ago:

You were born just before the war?

Yes, in East London. I think some gene must have got in, the night of my conception, because from that moment of conception I wanted to be an actor. I don’t know where it came from, there was nothing in the family to suggest it. We were a typical lower middle-class family in East London, in Leytonstone… me and David Beckham. (laughs) But I never talked like him. I don’t know why, actually, which is strange. I’ve got various theories as to why I didn’t grow up with a Cockney accent, because both my parents had them. I did the usual things, playing in the street and dressing up in my parents’ clothes, and the wind changed and I stayed like it!

I lived in the world of imagination, and we made up stories, we played doctors and nurses and teachers and pupils on the street. I remember once, I was always ransacking my parents’ wardrobe for clothes to dress up in, and I found my mother’s wedding veil. And I put it on, and I ran down the street to my friends, and it caught on the privet and it was ripped to shreds. My mother being my mother, and I was an only child so I was adored, spoiled, my mother was wonderful about it. But I’ll never forget that, that torn veil. It’s kind of lived with me. People were always asking me if I was going to write my autobiography, and I kept sayin No, I’m not a writer, but I told them this story and they said Well, you’ve got the title – The Boy With the Veil.

How much attention do you pay to critics?

They’re very influential. No matter what any actor says, if you read them, you’re influenced by them. If they’re bad, you want to kill yourself. If they’re dismissive, if they ignore you, you feel dreadful. If they’re good, you feel fine, but sometimes you end up acting out the good bits, you end up not being able to do that. There’s a famous example when Harold Hobson, who was a famous critic for the Sunday Times, was talking about Peggy Ashcroft in a play that she was doing, and there was one line, he said ‘When she said this line, the heavens opened’, it was the most wonderful line, he said, and he went on, Sunday after Sunday, about this line. Even when he was reviewing other things, he’d go back to this line. Eventually she cut it. She couldn’t say it, because he’d given her such a thing about it.

I stopped reading critics when I did my first leading role with the National, in ‘Black Comedy’. It was only half the evening, it was Albert Finney and Maggie Smith doing ‘Miss Julie’ in the first half, and then ‘Black Comedy’ in the second half, and I was the lead in ‘Black Comedy’. At the same time, we were filming Olivier’s ‘Othello’, in which I was playing Cassio, so I was going from Chichester to Shepperton overnight. It was an exciting time, terrifying but very wonderful. But after the first night of ‘Black Comedy’, I went over to Shepperton and the next morning I went onto the set and Sir Laurence (Olivier) was sitting there in his canvas-backed chair and he had all the papers around him and I daren’t go anywhere near him, but he called me over and he sat me down, and he virtually said ‘I don’t care what the critics say, I thought you were wonderful’. It was… my heart sank, I thought I didn’t want to read what they said. That was a lesson that repeated itself from then on. The moment the critics come out the next day, after the press day, and you haven’t read them, within 24 hours you know roughly what they said, without reading it. People ring up and say ‘I don’t think the Times saw the same play that I did’, or ‘Congratulations on your review’. Don’t congratulate me on my review, congratulate me on my performance, but I gather from that whether the reviews were good or not. The way people talk about you, or drop their eyes or whatever, you know whether they’re good or bad. But you don’t have to actually read the word that they use. Nowadays they put stars! How many stars you get!

How did the part of the Master in Doctor Who come up?

Well, my agent called up and said ‘You’ve been offered a part in ‘Doctor Who’, an iconic series, and of course I wanted to do it so I said Yes, without knowing what the part was. They said they’d send the script. And the script came, I read it, and I thought it was great, very well written, a lovely character, but not being an afficianado of ‘Doctor Who’, I mean I grew up with it but not having seen it for years, I didn’t know the significance of what I was being offered. And about two days later, I went out to dinner with Michael Grandage and Christopher Orham (sp?), theatre people I’ve worked with… Christopher’s a designer, and he’s a huge ‘Doctor Who’ fan! I announced at dinner that I was going to do ‘Doctor Who’, he nearly fell off his seat! He said ‘What are you playing?’, and I said ‘It’s a character called Professor Yana, who becomes somebody called the Master’ – (screams) The apogee of my career. Forget knighthoods. And he said I had this iconic role in this fantastic, fantastic series, and then of course I became aware of the importance of it. No pressure! And I started, and I met David, who was wonderful – they’re all wonderful. I had a great time doing it, really lovely, and then as I was enjoying it and looking forward to my life as the Master, I was morphed into somebody younger! I was morphed into John Simm, because he wanted a younger model. So it was brief but glorious for me.

Did you look at any of Roger Delgado’s work as the Master?

No. I asked, actually, about the history of the Master, but they said they didn’t have time!

So what tips did you get from your friend, in terms of playing the Master?

He didn’t go any further, apart from wild enthusiasm and encouragement, and he put me in the picture, he said ‘You must believe that you are playing this seriously important role’. And I had played the Master on audio, but I hadn’t sort of connected them.

Were you amazed by the fandom, by the response of the fans?

Yes, extraordinary. Like being here today, amazing. And suddenly, having been around for many years as an actor, there was a whole new fan base. That’s the marvellous thing about being an actor, next year I’ll have been a professional actor for fifty years, and I’m playing grandfathers now, but you need never retire, you just go on until you drop. New things happen. I did the narration of a little children’s thing called ‘In the Night Garden’, there’s a whole generation of 2 to 4 year olds now whose parents get in touch. It’s a wonderful club to belong to, this acting lark, it’s a wonderful club.

Anthony Ainley (1982)

September 19, 2009

Anthony Ainley, who died just a few years ago, had quite a hard task taking over the role of the Master, as he acknowledges in this early interview. I met him once, back in the 1990’s when I used to go to conventions. I forget where we were, but a friend and I were in the queue for breakfast on the last morning, and somehow got talking to Ainley, who was in the queue ahead of us. He was very friendly, and as he walked off, he said we should join him to eat. A few minutes later, we noticed him sitting alone in the corner, at quite a large table. We thought he wanted to be alone, but we also worried that he might think we were ignoring him, so we went and joined him. It was fun, although he did seem to excuse himself pretty quickly after he was finished eating. Still not sure if we got the social niceties right on that one, but anyway, here’s the interview:

“I was lucky enough to be in ‘The Pallisers’, which was a big production BBC series. John Nathan-Turner was working on that. He remembered me and later asked me if I’d like to play the part of the Master. It’s an added hazard doing parts somebody else has done. The obvious risk is that you may be compared; thought not to be as good as, that sort of thing… Nevertheless, I don’t think I was ever in real trepidation, because the Masters is such a good part and such a joy to do. At the back of my mind, there is always the thought that everyone enjoyed Roger Delgado’s portrayal, but that just means I’ve got to be pretty darned good in return.

“I believe that if you are tackling an acting job, a lot of it has to come from you, from your gut reaction to the script. You have to feel for your instincts in tackling any dramatic role, really. It mean, if it all came externally, none of it from you but from what people are trying to impose upon you, then I think it is nowhere near as interesting to do. I don’t really like to talk about acting, but I do feel that if it comes from you, then it will be real, it will be exciting and it will be believable.

“What’s interesting is the kind of letters one gets from ‘Doctor Who’ fans. On the whole, they are very intelligent… and they tend to know more about the part than I do. As an age group they all tend to be under thirty. What surprises me is that they tend to be over twenty and a fifty-fifty mixture of male and female. I’m not playing a heart-throb figure so I don’t get a large female outpouring in terms of the content. Roger was charming, I’m not – you can’t help that. You’ve either got charm or you haven’t and I haven’t got much!”

Roger Delgado (1973)

September 17, 2009

There aren’t really any in-depth interviews with Roger Delgado, so this small collection of quotes, originally from an old ‘Doctor Who Magazine’, is likely to be the best we can come up with.

“I love playing villains. I am chosen by directors to play wicked men because I have a beard, a menacing  chin and piercing eyes. I was thrilled to be offered the part of the Master as I had tried three times to break into ‘Doctor Who’ but the scope offered by the part was way above any other I had considered.

“I enjoyed this chap who was really more than just a Moriarty to the Doctor, and I could tell from fan letters that I was the man they loved to hate. There were even one or two kids who complained that I wasn’t wicked enough!”

Roger Delgado (1972)

August 15, 2009

I’ve yet to find a good, in-depth interview with Roger Delgado, so for now this very brief press cutting from 1972 (a scanner will be found eventually, I promise!) will have to do. No great revelations, but it’s still interesting to read the words of the man himself.

As Dr. Who’s arch nemesis, The Master gets to conjure up increasingly weird and wacky traps as he tries to take over the world each week.

For actor Roger Delgado, it’s a chance to do battle with his friend Jon Pertwee and to enjoy the wonderful array of monsters dreamed up by the Dr. Who writers. “Every week it’s something new,” he reckons. “Every time we get to the set, there’s some new beast lumbering about, with some poor fellow trapped inside, sweating buckets.”

Delgado promises The Master’s evil schemes aren’t coming to an end just yet, despite viewers seeing him vanquished at the end of the popular show’s most recent run. “It will take more than that to keep him down, I’m sure,” he says. “I don’t know if the Doctor will ever be able to rest, knowing I’m out there waiting to strike.”

Eric Roberts (Various)

August 9, 2009

This isn’t a single interview, more a collection of quotes concerning his role as the Master in the 1996 TV movie. Some of his comments are a little contradictory at times. If you want to read a good in-depth interview with him about his whole career, I’d recommend looking here.

On getting the role

I got the offer to do ‘Doctor Who’ and, as I looked into it and saw its popularity, I got very excited about doing it. I did as much research as I could. There was more available than I had time for, but I did immerse myself. Paul (McGann) was great. A great guy and a very giving actor

It was so much fun. It was such a great group, and they all loved what they were doing. And they were all nice.

On becoming part of ‘Doctor Who’ folklore

Look, when I was in school in London at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, that’s when I got turned on to ‘Doctor Who’. It was great fun, but it was big camp, way overacted, and way fake. So, no, I was not intimidated to do that. (laughs) If that answers your question.

I was new to that world, which made it fun in a particular kind of way. The Master is up there in popularity with the Daleks. Isn’t that cool? Playing the baddest baddie in the universe I could really break free because this guy loved causing problems for other people. You had to go way outside the realm of human boundaries to play him.

He was more evil than the past Masters. I just thought he was more  graphically evil. The Master’s often described as an evil genius because… he is evil. He’s like all of our worst nightmares, because he’s really mean and he’s really smart, so it’s all the things we’re really scared of.

On working with Christopher Eccleston on ‘Heroes’.

A: Yeah, what a great guy. We talked fast for a couple of days.