CultBox recently caught up with Doctor Who star Neve McIntosh to chat about her return as Madame Vastra in Series 7 and her role as Lauren in Series 2 of Lip Service…
You’ve narrated the new Doctor Who audiobook, Dark Horizons; how did you find it?
“It was brilliant fun. It was actually the first one that I’d ever done, so I was a bit nervous about it. And I was thanking the Lord it was all set in Scotland, and even the Vikings in it are quite Scottish.
“It’s quite scary though because you’ve just got three days sitting on your own in a booth with your producer sitting on the other side of the glass going ‘Just do that we bit again’, ‘No that’s great keep going’. And lots of sweeties and pints of water as well!”
Is it quite hard to do the Doctor’s voice?
“Oh, that’s the hardest, yes. I hope Matt [Smith] never hears it, d’you know what I mean! Obviously I can’t do an impression of Matt Smith, that would be so silly, so I just had to try and get his rhythm, his idioms, that kind of thing.
“‘Cos when his energy’s up it’s bang on, so I just had to try and channel the bits of Matt that I knew from watching him in the series really. And hopefully he’ll forgive me!”
You’re best known to Doctor Who fans as Madame Vastra – are you surprised at how popular the character has become?
“Yeah actually! I suppose you never know what way your character’s going to go, but it was so much fun doing A Good Man Goes To War, and I got to play around with swords – and I’ve loved playing around with swords since I was a kid – and that sort of thing was really exciting.
“It was just so much fun, ‘cos it was the first time a Silurian was going to come back and be a goodie rather than wanting to wipe out the entire human race, the ‘dirty apes’. So it was quite surprising, I have to say.”
You must get asked by a lot by fans about the possibility of a Vastra and Jenny spin-off. It’s something a lot of fans want to see…
“Yes, I saw so much of that on the internet afterwards, because you always go on and go ‘Ooh lots of people have liked this!’ and there’s lots of people going ‘Yeah, your own series!’ and stuff like that, and even Steven Moffat coming out on Twitter and going ‘I’m too busy to do it but it’s a great idea’.”
Would you do it if Steven Moffat asked?
“I’d be an absolute idiot not to! I think everyone that knows me would just go ‘What?!’, slap me across the head and tell me to phone him back. Definitely, it would be fantastic fun.”
Have you seen any of the masses of fan-fiction featuring Vastra and Jenny that’s out there?
“I have. I got convinced to join Twitter when I was at the 11th Hour Convention about a month ago, so I joined, and lots of people have been tweeting me with their fiction. So I’ve been reading a bit.
“And the artwork as well… someone sent me this Japanese picture and it’s awesome, with Vastra and Jenny fighting the Cybermen in the snow. I want more of that. I want a huge one to put on my wall!”
Are you enjoying doing the Who conventions?
“Yeah, I did one in Belfast for a charity last year and that was my first, but I was so nervous and maybe a little bit quiet, obviously, because I’d been in Doctor Who only once people were a bit like ‘okay’.
“And then Madame Vastra came along and I did the one a month or so ago, and there’s several Madame Vastras walking around and people are dressing up as her now and coming up to you, and it’s quite amazing. I was bowled over really, I was really, really chuffed.”
Madame Vastra’s been spotted on set filming an episode for Series 7 of Doctor Who. Can you tell us anything about the episode you’re in without Steven Moffat sending the assassins after you?
“I can’t tell you anything, but yeah we have been papped by the paparazzi. I’m not giving any spoilers away, except to say that it’s a brilliant script. Mark Gatiss has written it, who is just absolutely lovely and I was chuffed to meet him, he’s a bit of a hero of mine. And we’ve got Dame Diana Rigg and her daughter the wonderful Rachel Stirling in it as well.”
Did you meet Jenna Louise-Coleman, who plays the Doctor’s new companion?
“Yes I’ve met her. She’s absolutely gorgeous as well, she’s lovely. I’ve not had much work with her. I think she’s got a lovely quality to her so I think is going to be really exciting. And obviously I don’t know the rest of whatever’s been going on, so it’ll be interesting to start watching the new series and see how she’s introduced.”
Is Doctor Who something you’d like to return to every series?
“Yeah why not! We’ve been counting it up and I’ve popped up so far in each of Matt’s series – this is the third one he’s done and this is the third one I’ve done, so yeah I would quite like to just turn up to give him a bit of backing up when he needs it.”
Madame Vastra would make a really good full-time companion…
“I did read some people saying that about it as well, but she’d have to have Jenny with her as well… or maybe she would leave the Doctor to go with Jenny, maybe that’s what’s happened in the past.
“Lots of people have asked Catrin Stewart [who plays Jenny] and I about their backstories and how we’d met the Doctor, and a lot of fans want to know when you’re at conventions, and we kind of knew bits of it but we don’t know where that is in their timeline, so we could just make up what ever we wanted, which was quite daunting at first but actually got quite fun, especially after a glass of wine. The possibilities are enormous, infinite.”
Speaking of timelines, are there any clues as to whether Vastra’s appearance in Series 7 is before or after her appearance in A Good Man Goes To War?
“There’s no clues at all! There’s no kind of hints at all about where exactly it takes place. I think probably after. That’s what’s in my head anyway.”
How is it acting under all that Silurian make-up? Is it more difficult to get emotions across?
“It’s different… It’s a bit more like being in the theatre actually because of my voice. Sometimes I’ve been annoyed at myself when I’ve watched it back because you can slightly hear a muffling, because of the [Silurian] nose, and so much of your voice comes through the nose rather than the throat, and if I go a bit too soft then it becomes muffled. So I’ve got to really work my mouth and get the throat warmed up for that, like you would in theatre.
“It’s just something else that you kind of get on with. It’s actually amazingly light, the stuff that’s stuck on my face, so I can move my eyebrows, but really onscreen it’s what’s happening inside your eyes; you really don’t need to move them much as long as the emotion is there. The worst thing is not being able to hear someone.
“There was one time in A Good Man Goes To War and Matt was doing all this beautiful silent stuff with Christina Chong when she was dying and I’d got to come in with a line and he’s turned away from me and beautifully low and I’m standing there and he turns round and he’s like ‘Oh bugger you can’t hear me can you?’. So that’s the hardest. I’ve got to really concentrate on everything ten times more on everything going on around.
“But I love the challenged of it: you sit there when you’re getting made up, making faces at yourself in the mirror to see what works and what doesn’t, ‘cos you don’t always want to be straight on when you’ve got that lovely head at the back.”
Out of Silurian make-up a lot of people will have seen you most recently as Lauren in BBC Three’s Lip Service. If there’s a third series would you want to return?
“God yeah, I’d love to! I don’t know, because it depends how long they take – I think I had to sign up for another series but if they take too long then that option can go – but it depends what the writers are going to do with it. It depends what Harriet Braun wants to write. It’d be lovely to see the aftermath of Sadie and Lauren after she trashes the gallery.”
Do you think they could ever have a normal relationship?
“No, I don’t think so. But it would be interesting to see if Lauren’s wife kicks her out, where that goes or if it’s something that gets covered slightly and then written out. It depends which way they want to do it.
“But I’d love to go back, I’d love to work with Natasha O’Keeffe [Sadie] again, she’s got such a lovely way about her. She’s great.”
What sort of fan reaction have you had to Lauren and Sadie’s relationship?
“It’s been quite good. Someone did tweet to me they’d hated my character Lauren, which was good ‘cos I wanted her to be a bitch. Lots of people loved that, they love to hate a good bitch.”
What’s next for you?
“No idea actually! I’m finishing off a couple of tiny little bits on the episode of Doctor Who at the minute – I don’t think that’s too much of a spoiler is it?! I got spotted on the train to Cardiff the other day actually – someone tweeted that – so I can’t fib my way out of this one! So the immediate future is just finishing that off and then I don’t know.
“I might get a bit of time off to go and sit in my garden and enjoy the beautiful weather and play with my new little kitty-cat… let her scratch the hell out of me even more!”
And any more theatre work?
“If some comes up, yeah. I always love doing that. I was really lucky to work at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, with Dominic Hill [the Citizen Theatre’s Artistic Director], which is one of my favourite theatres. It’s a wonderful place so, I’m hoping he might have me back…that I’ll wangle my way back in and see what he’s got planned, because I’d love to work with him again.”
Watch the Series 7 trailer…
Would you like Madame Vastra to be a full-time companion in Doctor Who? Let us know below…