This interview originally appeared in Doctor Who Magazine 403, published in December 2008.
He’s been tipped as taking over from David Tennant. Will the real next Doctor please stand up?
Hello, Russell. How are you?
“I’m well, mate.”
Last time we spoke, on the set of Voyage of the Damned, you were playing Midshipman Frame, and you said – I quote – “It means that I can come back as a companion. If Russell writes it, I’ll do it. No question. You don’t say no to a Russell T Davies script.” So, um, what happened?
“I know, I know, he did ask me.”
And you said no.
“Yes. I was gutted. He wanted me to come back for the last episode [Frame was due to return for both The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End, as a fully-fledged companion], but I was doing a play in the theatre, so I couldn’t do it. He wanted to kill me off, apparently. Frame would have been exterminated by the Daleks.”
Now it’s being reported that Russell has tipped you to take over from David Tennant as the next Doctor.
“It’s madness, isn’t it?”
You’re one of the bookies’ favourites – just behind David Morrissey and James Nesbitt at the moment.
“That’s a lovely place to be! Russell text me the night before [the story broke, in mid September] and said, ‘I’ve said this stuff and The Times are running it. Sorry if you get any hassle.’ I thought, no, that’s nice, I’ll look like the don. But then it was in all the papers – literally, everywhere – and online, on the forums, and I was getting text messages saying, ‘You were my first kiss, and now you’re the Doctor!’ At first, I text back going, ‘It’s just a nice quote that’s been blown out of proportion.’ There’s even a group on Facebook – I think it’s only got three members, thank God – called ‘I’ll be furious if David Tennant is replaced by Russell Tovey as the Doctor’.”
I’ve just typed your name into Facebook. The ‘I’ll be furious’ group has five members now.
The backlash has begun. But there’s a group called ‘Russell Tovey is GAWJUS!!’ – that one has 173 members.
“Hey, that’s all right. I never really go on the forums, but I thought I’d check them out, and some of them were horrible. They were saying, ‘He can’t play the Doctor, because his ears stick out too much. His ears would be too big for the TARDIS.’ I’ll never do it again. Not the forums. They’re evil. It’s so personal. It’s bizarre. Very scary.”
You once said – again, I quote – “I want to play really dark, f***ed-up characters. I want to play characters like drag queens, rent boys, someone who has been abused, a rapist.”
“Yeah, I do. [Laughs] A few drag queens were offended by that quote, but it wasn’t meant like that. I really want to play… like what Christian Bale does, the parts that he plays. I’d never be a drag queen in real life, but I’d love to do it on film, and I’ve an obsession about playing a rent boy. These are parts, for me, that I just know I can invest so much in.”
Can you be choosey about which jobs you accept nowadays?
“I’m trying to be. Maybe after Christmas I’ll be, ‘Oh no, I need anything!’ But I want to be proud of everything that I do.”
You starred as John Chivery in the BBC’s Little Dorrit recently, alongside Doctor Who’s Freema Agyeman and Torchwood’s Eve Myles. Were there any top-drawer British actors who weren’t in the cast?
“[Laughs] Nah! One of my last days on set was filming the wedding of Little Dorrit in this church in Hampstead, and Claire [Foy] and Matthew [Macfadyen] were there, and Freema, and Sue Johnson, and Ruth Jones, and we were all in costume, chatting away, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m actually part of this!’ You do get excited. I am so lucky. I don’t think I could ever get blasé.”
You weren’t blasé when you met Kylie Minogue at the Voyage of the Damned read-through?
“Sometimes you fake blasé. [Laughs] On the outside, you’re like, ‘Hi, how are you? Good to meet you,’ but inside you’re going, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, that’s Kylie, oh my God! I can’t wait to tell my mum!’ You have an internal squeal.”
Russell Tovey was talking to Benjamin Cook.
Below: Video of some of Russell's early work LOL