Velile Tshabalala (‘Doctor Who’) interview

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It’s Christmas Eve in 1851 and Cybermen stalk the snow of Victorian London in ‘The Next Doctor’, this year’s special Christmas edition of Doctor Who. When the Doctor arrives and starts to investigate a spate of mysterious deaths, he’s surprised to meet another Doctor, and soon the two must combine forces to defeat the ruthless Miss Hartigan. But are two Doctors enough to stop the rise of the CyberKing?

Actress Velile Tshabalala plays Rosita in the special. 24 year old Velile starred as a lead in popular CBBC comedy Kerching!, which led on to appearing as a regular in BBC Three’s female-led sketch show, Tittybangbang. She is currently appearing in her first pantomime at the Compass Theatre in Dick Wittington’s Cat. CultBox caught up with Velile to find out more…

Hi Velile, how are you?

“I’m good, yeah, I’ve just finished a shoot for the Sunday Mirror, it was big futuristic shoot so that’s been loads of fun. I’ve been very spoilt today, I’m still getting used to all this! I get to dress up, it’s like being a kid again!”

Can you tell us a bit about Rosita, the character you play in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special?

“Well, the Doctor arrives in Victorian London in 1851 and meets this other Doctor (David Morrissey) and his companion, Rosita – me! She’s a feisty East London girl, fast-talking, bit of a gob on her – just a little bit like me really! They investigate these mysterious deaths. There’s Cybermen involved and a new creature called the Cybershade.”

Is there any link between your character’s name and Billie Piper’s character, Rose?

“No, there’s no connection between the characters. Aaagh, I have to be so careful! They’ll kick me out if I say too much!”

When did you find out you had the part in the Christmas special?

“I found out in March, about a week after my birthday, so that was a nice little present! I had to rush down from Manchester to London for the audition. I was up there doing a small play with The Ugly Tree, which was a really nice experience as I normally do comedy and the play was really gritty emotional stuff. Anyway, Doctor Who is such a big show so I was sure there would be callbacks, but they phoned a week later and told me I had the part! In the audition I had to pretend to react to things that weren’t there, as there’s lots of green screen involved, and I was certain I’d mucked it up! The green screen stuff was a great challenge for me.”

Had you ever auditioned for any roles in Doctor Who before?

“No, it was the first time I’d gone for a part. A friend of mine from Tittybangbang, Debbie Chazen, was in the last Doctor Who Christmas special [‘Voyage Of The Damned’] and she kept sneaking off to Cardiff when we were filming and couldn’t really talk about it. They make sure you’re so secretive about everything!”

What was it like working with David Morrissey and David Tennant?

“I met them briefly at the read through. I walked into the room and it was so scary, literally everyone from Doctor Who was there – the producers, the crew, the magazine people… Dervla [Kirwan, who plays villainess Miss Hartigan in the episode] was so sweet though, she came over and was like “stick with me, we’ll be fine”. The first time I met them properly was on set, they both came to welcome me and were so great. The first day they were both up in the air in harnesses being dragged and pulled about. Those harnesses did not look too comfortable for men!”

Were you a fan of the show before you got the role?

“The fourth series was on TV so I watched that to see what I was up against, yeah! And I’d seen all the Christmas specials, with Billie Piper and Catherine Tate and Kylie. It’s such an honour to take on a role in a Christmas special following such big stars.”

Did you get to do any stunts?

“There’s a nice scene where the two Doctors are trapped and I have to save them, but I probably can’t say much more! I almost had an accident doing one scene actually. I had to peg it from one side of a warehouse to the other, with an axe – a fake axe, don’t worry – and after they shouted ‘cut’ I skidded and kept on going until I managed to grab hold of a pillar! I’m a tomboy at heart though so I love all that stuff – it is hard work doing it all in a corset though!”

Did you enjoy dressing up in the period costume?

“Yeah! My boobs look huge in the corset, I certainly didn’t need a Wonderbra in that costume! On the first day they offered me a massive breakfast and I can’t say no to free food. So I had this big fry-up, forgetting that I was about to go for my costume fitting – I don’t know how I didn’t throw up!”

Have you seen the finished episode with the music and special effects added?

“No, I’ve just seen little snippets when I was doing ADR. There’s a press launch next month so they might show it there, but as far as I know I’m watching it on Christmas day with everyone else, I’m so excited! My aunt has cancelled her holiday as she doesn’t want to miss it! I think we’re all going to go to my sister’s place as she’s got a big plasma TV.”

If you could have The Doctor take you anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

“I’d go back to when my mum and dad were teenagers and see how naughty they really were! Nah, I bet they were angels, with their afros! That’d be fun to see!”

If they asked you, would you like to become a full time companion on the show?

“Ah, well that depends if Rosita survives the Christmas special, wouldn’t it? If I had the chance I definitely would, yeah – I can’t imagine many actresses saying no!”

Will you be doing any more Tittybangbang?

“No, unfortunately that’s finished after the last series. I’m still in contact with the friends I made there. It was so much fun, I had a great time on it, misbehaving every day and being paid for it!”

Are you looking forward to appearing in panto next month in Dick Wittington’s Cat?

“Yeah, it’s my first panto and I’m playing the villain, Rowena Ratface! It’s great working with kids, I love interacting with the audience! I imagine I’ll get heckled a lot, I hope they don’t throw things at me! With Kerching! they added in canned laughter afterwards, there wasn’t actually anyone there watching. With panto you get so much energy from the audience, it’s a really good challenge.”

You did an episode of ChuckleVision earlier this year – what were the Chuckle Brothers like offscreen?

“They’re exactly the same! That was so much fun, they’re on Series 20 or something. When I got the call from my agent I was like: “Are you sure that’s still going?!” I was playing a really austere librarian, I just got to spend a few days telling off the Chuckle Brothers!”

What have you got planned for 2009 after you’ve finished doing panto?

“I had a great time doing Doctor Who and that’s opened quite a few doors for me. I’m just taking one day at a time!”


The episode airs at 6pm on 25th December 2008 on BBC One.