When Esquire met Doctor Who

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If you didn't catch our exclusive interview with incumbent Time Lord, Matt Smith, in the April issue (come to think of it, even if you did), here are some of the bits we couldn't squeeze in:

Esq: Tell us about your early days on the road as a promising youth footballer?

MS: I spent a lot of time on the M1 with my dad. He picked me up every day, from when I was 10, and I travelled up to Nottingham Forest three times a week, and to Leicester three times a week, and he’d stop work early, and pick me up from school. Then every weekend when there were matches, he’d drive me everywhere - Leeds, Glasgow, Portsmouth, it didn’t matter. We’d play this game where if we saw a Royal Mail van, we’d touch red. Even now, I’m very superstitious, in silly ways. I always put my left boot on first. Or on set, I always tie my bowtie from right to left.”

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Esq: Do you miss being on the pitch?

MS: “It’s difficult really. I don’t have the time, and I’m not sure the BBC would be thrilled about it either if I did. But I watch it avidly. If Blackburn lose, I’m generally depressed.”

Esq: As a lifelong Rovers fan, are you an exponent of Sam Allardyce’s managerial style?

MS: “I’m not a fan of his football. I was watching us against Manchester United earlier in the season, and we just didn’t create anything. Then we went and watched the Nottingham Forest match when they played Cardiff, and I said to my dad, “at least they’re playing football”. But Sam has kept us up, so I’m going to give him time. I don’t want him to sell Benni McCarthy though.”

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Esq: How did you cope with not being allowed to tell anyone outside your family that you'd landed the role?

MS: "It’s actually a wonderful feeling because I’d meet up with my acting friends and they’d say "what’s next?" (that horrible thing that actors do to each other, knowing that they’ve just got a film in Hollywood). But knowing that I had that, I could just be content and say nothing, which is how it should be."

Esq: Did you ever consider saying no to the part?

MS: "Maybe in my head I had the conversation with myself, but when that phone call came in I answered immediately. Doctor Who is brilliant. I feel very privileged, I must say. Plus he’s the most intelligent man in the Universe!"

Esq: Has it been hard putting your own slant on a character that's so established in British hearts and minds?

MS: "I understand that responsibility, but part of that is me being brave in my own creative, artistic choices. I’m employed for my creativity, for my opinion essentially, and I’m true to them."

Esq: You always seem to be buzzing with energy when you’re on screen. Where does it come from?

MS: I don’t know, but it’s weird, I guess - playing the Doctor - I spend so much time being him, and he has so much energy, I think that’s beginning to transfer into my life. I come back home, and I’m, whoa! But I was really hyperactive as a child. You couldn’t give me sweets, or I’d be bolting around the room and climbing up the walls.

Esq: What are you listening to at the moment?

MS: “I’m playing the XX a lot, and my guilty pleasure is - should I admit this in public? - Alphabeat. They’re fantastic. This morning I had them on really loud. But then I love Rachmaninoff, and Philip Glass too.”

Esq: Being the new boys on set, have you and (writer/executive producer) Steven Moffat stuck together?

MS: “Steven is a great source of inspiration for me. I’m very fond of the man. There are not many people who make me laugh out loud in the world, but he’s one of them. Quite a peculiar man. I’m allowed to say he’s quite peculiar, because he told everyone that I walk like a drunk giraffe. So if you’re reading this, Steven Moffat, you’re peculiar.”

Esq: What is Steven like to work with?

MS: "He is a genius. He’s so funny in the flesh, but his brain...I can’t understand how, structurally, he plays with time, but he does it with this series so beautifully."

Esq: David Tennant wrote himself into Doctor Who folklore by putting predecessor Peter Davison on a pedestal, and then promptly shacking up with his progeny (actress Georgia Moffett). Do you feel the pressure to follow suit?

MS: “My god, I’ve got to go and find Tom Baker’s daughter! Who’s still alive? I’ve yet to meet any Time Lords’ offspring, but if I do, I shall be sure to let you know.”

Esq: Having known relatively little about the Doctor before you joined the show, how quickly did you become a convert?

MS: "The world of it sucks you in. And him, and the mythology of it all. I could twat on about Dr Who forever. The Tardis is such an incredible thing to look at on the set. Ergonomically it’s a brilliant piece of design. It fits within any context. I’m constantly in awe of it. You can’t not be.

"And of course the sets are so extraordinary. You’re looking at a giant spaceship which is actually someone with a tennis ball on a piece of fishing line. Then you’re running away from monsters that aren’t there, but are there. It’s the most wonderful show to make. But it’s hard. It’s been a period of adjustment for me. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t."

Esq: Where will you watch the first episode when it goes live?

MS: "I’ll be with people I love, definitely. Watching yourself on screen is not overly pleasant, especially when there are other people in the room, but if you can’t enjoy being the Doctor in Doctor Who, then life’s wrong!"

The new series of Doctor Who starts on Saturday 3 April on BBC1 and BBC HD, at 6.20pm

Photograph by Alisa Connan; suit, shirt and tie by Dolce & Gabbana