Following the explosive and emotional season 10 finale of Doctor Who, there was plenty to talk about with the cast and crew of the BBC America series at Comic-Con, and Daily Dead was honored to take part in interview roundtables with Pearl Mackie (Bill) and Peter Capaldi, who reflected on his tenure as the Twelfth Time Lord, which is coming to an end in the upcoming Christmas special.
There are a lot of emotional moments this last season. Parts that were bringing me to tears, honestly. With you knowing you were going to be leaving the show, did any of this fuel the way you played the character, and some of the emotions that we're seeing on screen?
Peter Capaldi: Yeah, I think that's what often happens in this show, and perhaps in shows generally, is that if characters are saying goodbye to each other, they often articulate those emotions better than the actors as human beings do, so we often say goodbye to each other through the lines that the characters use. The characters and their scenes become kind of our avatars, really, for our own feelings. So, yeah. It is emotional. All of us felt that.
You do so much for the fans that's not in the contract. Do you feel like there's more to being Doctor Who than just learning the lines, turning up on set, and playing the part? That there's an added responsibility to it?
Peter Capaldi: I think there is clearly a responsibility, which is very easy to address because people don't really ask very much of you. They would just like you to show up and smile at them and be nice, and actually that's an incredibly pleasant place to be, on the other side of that.
But as a kid, I loved Doctor Who, so I wouldn't have liked to have met Doctor Who and find them to be rather unpleasant or preoccupied with other things, so it doesn't take much to be friendly. So I just try to be friends with lots of them.
For your time as the Doctor, have you been involved at all on the writing level or building the character?
Peter Capaldi: No, I just wait for the scripts to show up and then try and think of a way to act them. I'm not really involved in any–I guess I could be if I wanted to, but I think acting, oftentimes it's not about lines, it's about spaces in between lines and expressions on people's faces and their relationships. You can tell your own story, or a story that you're interested in, even if the lines don't necessarily point you in that direction. So no. I just try and do what's right for the story.
How did the addition of guitar playing get added into the Doctor's many talents?
Peter Capaldi: I'm not really a musician, I just thought it was funny for Doctor Who to play guitar, because I thought it would be great if he was–I actually wanted him to play like a teenager. I just wanted him to have a big ol' Marshall Stack amp, with valves that he made himself and just some silly old guitar that he made himself, and it was just full of feedback. I just thought it would be funny to have the guitar spinning through space, and hear these kind of power chords coming out of it.
But then it developed into something else. Because every time I played it, when I watched the show, somebody else would have come along and done shredding. He was certainly a much better guitarist than I am.
Am I right in saying that you filmed the regeneration already? How was the experience on set with the cast and crew?
Peter Capaldi: Yes. It was great. It was lovely because we spent the whole day doing it, and it's quite a big scene, and so we didn't shortchange it. Obviously, it's emotional because you're also saying goodbye to the people that you've been working with for nearly four years, and that's tough. Also, a lot of people came to visit. A lot of people decided that that was a great day to come and see what was happening.
But, I didn't mind that. It was lovely. I felt Steven [Moffat] had written something very beautiful and very right for my Doctor, so I was just happy to try and do my best with it.
Following that, why do you think now was the best time for you to leave the series?
Peter Capaldi: I don't think I could carry on and give it my best shot. For instance, the last series we did was like ten months of the year. How many different ways can you say this could be the end of civilization as we know it? Or there's a paradox split that's going to destroy the galaxy? It's hard to find new ways, and if you're not finding new ways of doing things, you're sort of just phoning it in. You're just sort of slightly dead as an artist.
I didn't want to be in that position. I thought, "I'm not sure." I knew that I was fighting an issue. I wasn't sure that I could carry on and keep on delivering that and do my best work.
Have you had a chance to speak with Jodie [Whittaker] about her now taking up the mantle of Doctor Who?
Peter Capaldi: I spoke to Jodie last week, and I'm sure she's going to be fantastic. I just think it's a brilliant idea and it propels the show forward, and how interesting, what fun and I sort of don't get the idea that there's any controversy over it. I just don't really get it. I just think it's a new Doctor Who and I think that's really exciting, as a new actor, or whatever it is we call actors now. It's a new person playing Doctor Who and they'll bring their whole new thing to it.
As we’ve seen in special episodes, past doctors have shown up in the storyline. Would you be willing to come back in the future for a one-off or some sort of connector of multiple Doctor stories?
Peter Capaldi: Sure. If it was right. If I felt the material was right and it was the right time to do it. I love Doctor Who, so it's great to be in it, but I think there comes a time when you gotta go, you gotta go and leave it behind and let it get on with itself, and maybe in some years' time I could pop up again. I'm quite happy to do that.
But one doesn't want to–it should never be a casual thing. It has to be a special thing. That's one of the things I love about Doctor Who, is when it connects with its past, which it has an increasing amount of, and when it touches its own past, its sort of an electric moment. But if we all keep showing up every season, it's not so much.
When you found out you were going to be transforming into one of the Doctor's most iconic nemeses, what went through your head?
Pearl Mackie: I thought it was objectively a stroke of genius. I thought it was such a clever way to explore the genesis of the Cyberman. That Bill is essentially the first one. That probably makes every other encounter with the Cybermen much more of an emotional experience for the Doctor. So, looking back on it as an actress I was like, "This is going to be quite tough." So, exploring, you get to know the character the more you play them, the more you explore throughout the episodes you get to know them and you're like, "Okay, this is how she would handle this." Explore the dynamics. Then you try to draw parallels in your own life. You're like, "Okay, how would I be if this person died? How would I react to this?" I've never been put through a blender, so I was like, "I don't really know how to deal with that."
And then you, of course, obviously have the dynamic of she doesn't know that this has happened to her as far as she's concerned, she still thinks that she's her. For me, that was one of the most heartbreaking scenes to read when I read that. It's a lot. It's sort of someone telling you that you're already dead. How do you deal with that? I don't really know how you deal with that. As an actress I like to be challenged. It was definitely a challenge.
How far in advance did you know about the storyline? Like with Heather coming to save you at the end. Was that something you were aware of before you got into it or was it more of a surprise?
Pearl Mackie: We got that when we got the last sort of block. That was the thing that was explored then. Yeah, so for the whole rest of the series I didn't know. It may work differently with other shows, but for this it was—you'll have to ask Steven—but I guess it was sort of an idea that just kind of came along and sort of worked really well. I thought it was a really nice arc. Maybe he knew all along, but I definitely didn't.
Can we expect to see you make any future trips in the TARDIS past the Christmas episode?
Pearl Mackie: Who knows? I have got a key, so...
How has your relationship with fans been? You’ve become quite an icon for fans of the series.
Pearl Mackie: For me, it is incredible. This has been my first experience of fandom in such force. And I think it's an amazing thing that our fandom as a whole is incredible. For individuals to connect with people on the other side of the world through common ground is such a great thing. Through your love of something to be connected with so many other people I think is fantastic. The fact that this amazing fandom has embraced Bill so much is phenomenal. It's just amazing, it's just incredible. The fan art and all the cosplay and everything like that, and the messages and stuff that I get, it's incredible. I'm really pleased they like Bill as much as I do, really.
You have a very wide range of emotions from the beginning of the series to the end. You started with a couple of comedic twists, like the Pope arriving when you're on your date. Can you speak about moments like those?
Pearl Mackie: I find that Steven and the way he creates things, and all of the writers, really, are very funny. And they all seem to really get Bill and get things that would really get to her, especially that with the Pope. I loved filming those bits. It was so fun to be completely outrageous. Something that's so unfathomable in real life. That's just brilliant. Such a stroke of genius.
When people think back to your run on Doctor Who, what do you think her defining moment would be?
Pearl Mackie: Oh, I'd like her to be remembered fondly. I'd really like her to be remembered for everything that she pushed the Doctor on, really, a lot of the topics that she was like, "You know, I'm not just going to accept that answer, I'm gonna ask you why. I want to know more about it." And I do really think she challenged him on a lot of things. And also she got turned into a Cyberman, so I feel like that's pretty big.