David Bradley and Claudia Grant, stars of An Adventure in Space and Time and the Big Finish First Doctor audio dramas appeared together at the MCM London Comic Con this afternoon. Bradley played the Doctor and Grant played Susan Foreman in the original Doctor Who, in the drama An Adventure in Space and Time, and they have played those fictional characters for Big Finish, with Bradley going on to play The First Doctor in the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special.
Bradley talked about how being on Who was unexpected for him:
“[Doctor Who] was a late surprise. Once I did Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, I thought that was it until Mark Gatiss tapped me on the shoulder; and I said yes, please.”
Claudia Grant told us that this was her first job out of drama school. She went for an audition, and that was it. Simple.
They talked about the newfound fans they have found of late; however, Bradley only became aware of comic conventions’ existence five years ago. He says that before, he might meet the odd fan in the street; but to meet so many fans like this is totally new to him. It helps him appreciate the job even more. “It’s great to get this kind of feedback.”
Bradley has only done a handful of shows so far, including San Diego Comic-Con, but his face is familiar to Harry Potter and Game of Thrones fans just as much. Of that latter show, he complained that he never gets invited to people’s weddings anymore. But this show gave him the chance to shout at more students running in the corridors…
But this was Grant’s first comic con. She talked about how much fun it was to see all the costumes, and that it was lovely to be around people and fans she’d never otherwise get to meet.
Has the changing industry impacted Bradley’s career?
“You’ve still got to put yourself up for things, do interviews and auditions. Thankfully, people do remember things you have done before. There seems to be more varied work for TV and film. When I started, it was just BBC 1 and BBC 2 and everything shut down at 10 at night; there weren’t that many opportunities. Thankfully, I did lots of work in the theatre, which was the best start.”
Grant talked about how drama schools adapt to the times, knowing actors will go straight into TV work. For David, it was all theatre-based 50 years ago. He talked about the standalone nature of An Adventure in Space and Time, a wonderful drama about the people who made it, in front and behind the cameras. The persistence of producer Verity Lambert was rewarded, and he recognised how vigilant she was for people to watch the show in the wake of the JFK assassination.
Bradley is looking forward to the Doctor Who figurine of himself, and the honour (even if it’s just for one episode) to be one of the main actors playing the role. As for the latest actor cast in the role, Jodie Whittaker, he’s glad they chose her. He says she is not only a brilliant actress with all sorts of emotional resources at hand, but she’s great fun to work with, and has a wicked sense of humour. He talked about how it’s a natural progression; it was inevitable that there would eventually be a female Doctor. Bradley expressed regret that Whittaker hadn’t been cast yet when they were wrapping up filming the Christmas Special; they filmed her scene separately, so he wasn’t able to work with her on the Who set.
Bradley talked about how the Christmas Special brings together two Doctors with some conflict between them: “These two Doctors are both going through a personal crisis of regenerating or ending it all there; a parallel journey of doubt and fear.” Peter Capaldi‘s Doctor, he says, is far more politically correct than Bradley’s is, who exhibits what he calls “casual chauvinism”; though he said it “isn’t casual at all.” The attitude the character exhibits is from a different time, he said, no different than other unreconstructed men of the time — but it makes for a fantastic contrast.
There’s no news on his returning to the role after the Special — at least not on TV. The audio episodes continue. As for Grant, there is no news on playing Susan Foreman on the audio: “I can only hope; I would love that opportunity, but nothing at the minute.” She talked about how she met the original Susan Forman, Carol Ford, and had a long conversation with her, gaining anecdotes for the era when playing the part. She visited the set a lot, so she could observe her, her mannerisms, and her voice.
Bradley felt a responsibility to the story and the real people, with William Russell and Carol Ford and Waris Hussein, the original director, on set. He described an eagerness to please those veteran actors and crewmembers, and noted, “They were very generous and played small cameo parts.” For Bradley, it increased the responsibility of recreating it accurately. He also wanted to recreate Hartnell so that his family would say, “That’s how he was like; how he could be jokey and generous, but also grumpy and difficult.”
Bradley noted that script went through several revisions, getting deeper and deeper into Hartnell’s life. Bradley had seen him in various other roles before Doctor Who, such as Brighton Rock. He learned that Hartnell wanted to do more comedy, playing older, quirky characters, as he’d been sucked into playing military figures such as in The Army Game, which he hated. And the finished product, An Adventure in Space and Time, was a rich story about a complicated man.
The Adventure in Space and Time made it far easier for Bradley to play the First Doctor, as well as the Big Finish audio dramas. It was a role Grant found it easier to get into; there was no pre-recording discussion, analysis, or self-examination needed.
Grant also talked about her Harry Potter link, about playing a younger character in The Cursed Child, and finding that the language of the story enabled her to find the younger self she know and had experienced, to be more silly. But Polly isn’t a 14-year old Grant: “She’s horrible.” Grant valued that role as it developed and was rewritten in the production process, so she was able to add to that character, adding lines, moves, dance flourished that other actors will now take on.
Bradley was also a little fetishistic about the sets, preferring his TARDIS to Capaldi’s richer, more sophisticated setup. He enjoyed the challenge of bursting from a small cramped cupboard of a TARDIS prop as if you’d come from a large room. And he expressed disappointment that never got to be in the Rover Return pub set on Coronation Street when he did an episode in the eighties.
He also keeps telling Mark Gatiss that he’s love to be in the new League of Gentlemen TV series in production, but Gatiss hasn’t been picking up on his hints. He has a history with all three of the onscreen Gentlemen… could this article be enough to tip the balance?