He's the UEA graduate who now captains the Tardis, Sarah Cassells talks to the new Doctor Who...

PUBLISHED: 10:42 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:07 20 February 2013

He's the UEA graduate who now captains the Tardis, Sarah Cassells talks to the new Doctor Who...

He's the UEA graduate who now captains the Tardis, Sarah Cassells talks to the new Doctor Who...

...Sarah Cassells discovers how Matt Smith's journey to stardom began in Norfolk.

Almost without exception each past Doctor has come to the series as a relative unknown, says Terry, who voices Mike Tucker in Radio 4s The Archers. It enables them to come to the part with a blank sheet on which to draw their character and no obvious baggage of past work.

The shows producers believe Matts charisma and unconventional good looks will prove a hit with the fans old and new, and have also cast a smart, sexy new companion, Amy Pond, played by Scottish actress Karen Gillan.

This series promises to be just as funny, thrilling, scary and imaginative as the last, and Matt says he cant wait to see how his character will develop. I feel very privileged and proud to be part of this iconic show. The scripts are brilliant and Im excited about all the adventures Iget to go on as the Doctor, he says.

He also reveals that the fiery chemistry between the Doctor and Amy may influence his character. Hes sort of less tolerant than a lot of Doctors and shes got fire in her soul, in her belly, and so they combust togetherbut theres a great affection and love there, and were developing that all the time.

In the five years since he graduated, Matt has become one of the most talked about British television actors, but he says he still employs the skills he learned at UEA. At university I developed the discipline of reading and studying, he says. I learned to study in an analytical and constant way because there was always a certain number of plays or books that had to be read each week. This has definitely helped me with reading all the Doctor Who scripts and learning my lines!

Matt now joins the likes of John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) and Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean) in UEAs famous acting alumni. However, as Jon Hyde points out, not only has Matt scooped the lead in a BAFTA-winning show, but hes also the first of his students to have his own action figure. In the competitive world of showbusiness, its a level of recognition that many only dream of reaching.

Doctor Who is scheduled to start on BBC One over the Easter weekend. See the EDP for up-to-date listings.

The centre of the Who-niverse
Matt isn't Norfolk's only connection to the Time Lord:

As Davros leader of the Daleks, Terry Molloy, who lives outside Norwich, appeared in three seasons from 1982, including Resurrection of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks. In 2006, he starred in the four-part audio drama I, Davros.

Actress Liza Goddard, who lives near Dereham, starred as Kari the space pirate in the 1983 Doctor Who story Terminus alongside fifth doctor, Peter Davison. She was later married to the sixth doctor, Tom Baker.

Karen Davies from Norwich is on the executive committee of national fan club, The Doctor Who Appreciation Society. She became the first Doctor Who Mastermind after appearing on the quiz show in 2005.

Science fiction writer Johnny Byrne lived in Norfolk until his death in April 2008. He penned three adventures for Doctor Who: The Keeper of the Traken (1981) with Tom Baker, and Arc of Infinity (1983) and Warriors of the Deep (1984) with Peter Davison.

An appointment with the Doctor

Hes the UEA graduate who initially put the who? in Doctor Who. But as Matt Smith captains the Tardis on a new series of adventures this month, Sarah Cassells discovers how his journey to stardom began in Norfolk.

Hes now traversing time and space, but for three years Norfolk was the centre of Matt Smiths universe. A former University of East Anglia student, Matt was announced as the 11th incarnation of Doctor Who last year in a flurry of media publicity. However since then, the 27-year-old actor has become as elusive as his new television alter-ego and requests to speak with him are thwarted by a busy filming schedule. But eventually, in the thick of a series of night shoots, the Time Lord finds a moment to reminisce about the years he studied in Norfolk.

I enjoyed Norwich, which was a very cool arty town and a great student place,

Matt says of the three years he studied drama and creative writing at the Norfolk university. Between 2002 and 2005, the undergraduate also played for local five-a-side football teams and was a regular in the citys watering holes.

Like a lot of students I spent time socialising in the various pubs and bars, he admits. I used to go to the Unthank Arms and I had a friend who worked at Po Na Nas. However, one of the things I really loved about Norwich was the end of summer party in the [university] Square because all my mates used to come up and visit.

But it wasnt all partying. Matt is remembered as a versatile and talented student by UEA drama tutor Jon Hyde, who directed him in the universitys production of the American comedy Once in a Lifetime.
Matt was a delightful, talented student, says Jon. It was clear very early on in his degree that he was going to do well. He is a good all-round actor with a unique face and physical eloquence; he had a gift for comic acting.

Due to appear on our screens this Easter as a bolder, more impulsive new Doctor, Matt follows an illustrious list of actors whove made the coveted role their own, including William Hartnell, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison and David Tennant.

He might be the youngest actor to regenerate into the Time Lords shoes, but hes already accrued an impressive CV. Treading the boards since school, Matt originally dreamed of being a professional footballer. He grew up in Northampton and played for Leicester City and Nottingham Forests youth teams until a back injury ended his budding career. On the persistence of his school drama teacher, Matt successfully applied to the National Youth Theatre and then to UEA where he admits he was prophetically nicknamed Doctor Who by fellow students because of his preference for wearing a Tom Baker-style colourful scarf.

In his third year of study he won a part in Fresh Kills at Royal Court Theatre, followed by Alan Bennetts The History Boys. He made his West End debut in Swimming with Sharks opposite Christian Slater and won critical acclaim as a disturbed adolescent in The Face at Londons Duke of Yorks Theatre.

His television debut was in the 2006 adaptation of Philip Pullmans The Ruby in the Smoke, while his big breakthrough performance came the following year in BBC2s parliamentary drama Party Animals.

His star was ascending slowly and surely, but many Doctor Who fans were surprised when Matt was cast as the iconic character particularly when more established actors like James Nesbitt, David Morrissey, and even Catherine Zeta Jones, were linked to the part.

But Steven Moffat, who follows departing lead writer and producer Russell T Davies, had no hesitations about choosing Matt. At the time he described him as a special actor, one who could be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe.

Norfolk actor Terry Molloy also backs Matts casting. Terry, who played Davros the Doctors arch enemy and leader of the Daleks in the 1980s, believes an up-and-coming actor is the ideal choice for such a cult character.

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