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Peter Capaldi talks Doctor Who, Veep & being nice

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As his second season as Doctor Who hits screens, Peter Capaldi talks Maisie Williams, Veep and his fans

When you were first cast, you talked a lot about being a big Doctor Who fan. Has the sheen worn off after a year’s work? Is it just another job now?

Is this work? No, it’s Doctor Who, how can it be just work? If something becomes just work, it’s time to pack it in anyway. It’s a wonderful job to find myself in, I’m just happy to be here. I can’t imagine it ever becoming routine.

Do you now get a lot of builders asking where your Tardis is?

It’s not just builders. Some people think that’s the funniest thing they can possibly say. Somebody said to me the other day that I had a hard act to follow, talking about Karen [Gillan] and Matt [Smith]. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d been doing it for a year already.

The Doctor is such a familiar character, do kids think you’re actually him?

It’s lovely. I’m still Peter, but when I walk into a room I get all the smiles the Doctor would get. The other day I had a little girl come up to me and throw her arms around my neck, crying: “Doctor Who, Doctor Who…” It’s very easy to make people happy when they’re automatically glad to see you – you just have to be nice to them in return. Which is a pretty good rule for life. Just show up and don’t be horrible, and you’d be surprised how much people like it.

The three previous Doctors have all gone on to appear in Hollywood films. Are you aware it’s more of a stepping stone now than, say, Peter Davison’s day?

Well, I’m slightly older, and I’ve done a lot of stuff. If this was all I ever did, what a blessed career I would have had. I fully intend to carry on, but I don’t see it as a stepping stone to world domination. Even if that seems to be what happens. 

When you made your debut, did you check for the reaction on Twitter?

I don’t play any of those games, looking at Twitter and so on. It’s too hard – you know what that world’s like. If everybody hates me, I don’t want to know – you can’t let any of that affect what you do. I’m still doing it, so that means I guess people thought I was OK. Either that, or they couldn’t afford to buy out my contract.

Does your new season have a grand continuing through-line, or are all the episodes self-contained?

There is, but I can’t tell you what it is. It’s not some stupid confidentiality thing – they keep things from me, too. I don’t even have full scripts for the finale. I do know in this series the Doctor and Clara have been having a very good time, and that can’t last. It can’t go unpunished. That’s about as much as I can say.

Does it involve adventures across time and space?

It does. You must have seen the show before.

Is there a guest star you’re particularly excited about?

We’ve had Maisie Williams from Game Of Thrones, which was brilliant. She told me George RR Martin was a fan of Doctor Who, and he sent me an autographed book, which was very sweet. She’s so gifted, and already incredibly experienced considering she turned 18 when she was with us. Jenna Coleman said she makes her feel old, and all I could say was, “Welcome to my world.” It’s good to know I’m not the only one that’s all at sea with youth culture.

Maisie Williams

Maisie Williams of Game Of Thrones

Doctor Who is unusual in being able to entertain people of all ages – is it tricky to get the tone right on set?

I think the balance is instinctive – it helps that many of the creators have families and just get it. It may go out at tea time on a Saturday, but it’s certainly never bland. The writers do it expertly. Sometimes you have a bit of comedy that you think is a bit kiddy, but why not, from time to time? A bit of variety is good.

Do you ever need to tone things down as you go?

We never tone things down. The intensity is welcomed. We look at loss, and dark – if you like – adult issues, and we never soften things. Obviously there is care taken around things like violence, but that’s common sense more than anything else. But the concept, the ideas, are never toned down. Or the performances, for that matter – apart from them asking me to overact less. I never listen to that note at all, I’ll down a Red Bull and overact more.

It’s been a few years since you played Malcolm Tucker on The Thick Of It – now most of the team are working on Veep, would you be up for a cameo?

Sure, why not? It would be fine by me. I’m about to direct a couple of episodes, does that count? That seems like the compromise option. The only thing is, Doctor Who takes up so much time, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to do other things. That whole team are all dear friends. I’d love to work with them at some point again.

Doctor Who returns on 19 September on BBC One

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