Peter Capaldi in his own words

Ten Things About Who

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So it turns out the bookies’ favourite was the correct one – Peter Capaldi is to be the next actor to play the lead in Doctor Who.

A quick scurry around The Stage archives finds several theatre and TV reviews, and three interviews. Two of these incorporate paragraphs which are interesting to contrast with each other.

First, from a 1990 interview with Jane Garner, connected to his role in BBC crime thriller Chain:

He enjoys comic roles as well as serious ones and has ambitions to do more film work.

“I am fascinated by that medium and I am not terribly attracted to Shakespearian roles or have any great ambition in that area. I like to do things that I am not really sure I can do and that stretches me – then I am working with something new.

“Chain was different for me because it was terribly serious and a lot of the time before, I had played a lot of rather comic roles which I love and I am comfortable in.”

And from 2007, as he prepared to appear in Absurdia, a trio of one-act comedies (two revivals by NF Simpson, and a new Michael Frayn farce) at the Donmar Warehouse, interviewed by Nick Smurthwaite:

“You do it for the challenge, the stretch,” he replies, “Generally in TV, you are employed to do what you are known for doing best. Here I’m doing things I’ve never done before, a lot of mime and movement. The Frayn play is about staging a farce in the middle of the desert, generated entirely in the imaginations of the two characters, with no props. I’ve never done mime before, so it remains to be seen if it works.”

You could, if you were being harsh, make comments about how once it was film and TV which stretched actors, and now theatre is more likely to give that challenge. But really, I see a man who’s only going to take on any role if it could push him in ways he’s never been pushed before. Given the self-confessed Doctor Who fan that he is, I can imagine that Capaldi is going to make damned sure that the BBC production team push him in his role as the Doctor.

More interesting is a quote from a 1995 interview, where the focus was more on his writing ambitions. On the back of winning the Academy Award for Best Short Film (for Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life), he was working on a feature-length screenplay. But this quote is, considering yesterday’s news, intriguing:

Being in a series for any length of time doesn’t appeal to me and I’m always trying to avoid it. I suppose the two series of Chandler and Co. that I did was the longest I have been in a show, but I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again. I want a bit of variety.

In the eighteen years since, maybe he’s mellowed to the idea, especially for a role he’s loved since he was a boy. But Doctor Who is one of those roles where longevity and variety can go hand-in-hand.

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Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now lead developer for, critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Public Reviews and others.

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