In a podcast interview with her former Doctor Who costar David Tennant, Catherine Tate revealed that she was surprised to be asked to reprise her role as Donna Noble as a regular companion on the show. Both Catherine Tate and David Tennant reminisced about their shared experiences on David Tennant Does a Podcast With….
Debuting as an unexpected guest on the TARDIS at the very end of the Series 2 finale episode Doomsday with David Tennant as the Doctor, and again in the premiere Series 3 episode, The Runaway Bride, Catherine Tate thought that would be the extent of her involvement in Doctor Who.
Tate recounted to Tennant what happened when executive producer Julie Gardner invited her to lunch to ask her to return to Doctor Who in Series 4 as a regular character:
“She took me out to lunch and my jaw genuinely dropped open. ‘cause [at] no point was I ever expecting her to say that.”
“I was just not expecting it. And I just thought that it would be a really good thing to do. Something drew me to it and it was just strange because it’s, as you say, I wasn’t tied to the show. It wasn’t a think I felt I wanted to be necessarily more involved with – apart from when they asked me. ‘Cause I just thought it was a one-off thing. I absolutely loved doing The Runaway Bride. How brilliant!”
Earlier in the podcast, David Tennant revealed that both he and Julie Gardner were equally surprised when Catherine Tate accepted Gardner’s offer:
“…you did this one episode and then you came back as a regular…which none of us were expecting you to say ‘Yes.’ to!”
“There was a whole other actress lined up!”
“The thing was Julie Gardner, the executive producer, is going to have lunch with Catherine and she’s going to ask her if she’ll come back for a whole series. Obviously she won’t, so on Monday we’re sending out the offer to the actor to play this character. There was a character breakdown and everything.”
Tate wasn’t even aware that her character was so popular with fans. In fact, while she was filming Partners in Crime, a journalist on set informed her that some fans were not enthused that Donna Noble would be back.
“…can you imagine this? The first day of filming [the journalist] said, ‘What do you think about all the fan base hating the fact that you’re coming back?’”
“…I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know.’ So I’m filming the whole show thinking, ‘Oh, God.’”
“I just kind of thought, ‘Oh, just enjoy doing it.’ because I loved doing it and I loved playing the character and I loved filming it and I loved working with you (Tennant) and it’s great but all the time I was thinking, ‘Oh, no, and people are going to be like shouting things at me.’”
Along with David Tennant’s assurance that Donna Noble is a firm fan favorite, Tate has since attended many conventions where the attendees gave her no doubt on the popularity the companion.
“I’ve certainly experienced things at conventions… There’s a level of intensity that I hadn’t expected.… You’re sort of shocked and delighted but amazed as well!”