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TMS at Comic-Con: Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman Talks About “the Glory Days of Clara and the Doctor”

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As part of The Mary Sue’s San Diego Comic Con coverage, former editor Sam Maggs spoke to Doctor Who‘s Jenna Coleman (Clara) about the upcoming season, her place in Companion History, and “the Glory Days of Clara and the Doctor.”

Sam Maggs (TMS): So what’s different about Clara this year from Season 8? Has she let go of her Earthly connections and embraced travelling a little bit more?

Jenna Coleman: Exactly, yeah! Exactly that, good guess [laughs]

TMS: Well, then —

Coleman: Yeah, I think since she’s lost Danny and she’s kind of cut ties a little bit to Earth her perspective’s changed and all she wants to do is travel and have fun and meet some aliens and enjoy everything time and space has to offer. So it’s kind of a freedom and an adrenaline-seeking high that she’s always running towards, which obviously is bringing some danger along the way.

Interviewer: So does that mean the tone of the season is a little more rompy perhaps?

Coleman: I wouldn’t say rompy, but a lot more seizing the moment and adrenaline-fueled. I think rompy is…cause you know, the nature of some of the episodes are not, they’re some darker ones. There’s some really provoking episodes, actually, but each episode has its own feel. It’s really the glory days of Clara and The Doctor.

TMS: What do you mean by “really provoking” episodes?

Coleman: What do I mean without telling you [laughs] mmm, I suppose something that has a relevance to some stuff kind of happening today, really interesting, makes you think, provoking.

Interviewer: Plumming the depths of the history of the show or a just going in a new direction?

Coleman: Yeah, it feels like a new kind of episode for Doctor Who, I mean maybe more political.

Interviewer: Will her new attitude make her more reckless?

Coleman: Yes, absolutely.

Interviewer: And will the doctor appreciate that?

Coleman: Yeah, he’s totally with her. They’re both pretty reckless, they’re both having the time of their lives living in the TARDIS—nothing to lose, seemingly. So yeah, it’s definitely got that reckless abandon about it.

Interviewer: And their relationship is…

Coleman: Solid, yeah. I mean, I’m sure there’s some slaps in there somewhere and they obviously disagree, but they know how to, they’re much more on an even keel, I suppose and there’s a lot more give and take. She can tell him off, and vice versa and then they’ll kind of forget it and carry on. It’s a really lovely relationship. They’ve definitely found their groove together.

Interviewer: Is it true that you’re about to be the longest running companion?

Coleman: I don’t know, someone told me yesterday I was the fourth, after Sarah Jane. I don’t know.

Interviewer: You’re definitely up there

Coleman: How much until I get to number one? [laughs] How many more?

Interviewer: I mean is that an ambition, you want to stick around that long?

Coleman: It’s not really an ambition. I mean, I love the show and, you know, there really isn’t any time to get bored. Every episode is so, so different but it’s really nice to have the history of having known The Doctor for so long, and having worked with Matt and met some of the other doctors and the character going through a time stream, so that kind of history of knowing that character for so long and being his friend for so long, it’s really nice to have that.

Interviewer: When it happens, how would you like to see Clara go?

Coleman: I have no idea. I really don’t, I mean, I think the problem is that she loves the Doctor so, so much. I have no idea what it would take to make her leave! [laughs] I mean, I supposed when you’ve seen all of time and space and you’ve been given those opportunities, how do you just go back to your own life? How do you go back to teaching and suddenly you’ve opened your eyes to the universe? So really, I have no idea.

TMS: So next season she doesn’t have an outro?

Coleman: What does that mean?

TMS: So she’s sticking around the whole season.

Coleman: You’ll have to watch to see.

TMS: So you worked with Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams this season right? Can you talk about what she was like and what that episode was like?

Coleman: Yes, she was brilliant and the three of us have a really good dynamic. Peter was so outnumbered, it was brilliant! And the two of us we recently went to the Glastonbury Festival and we taught Peter some new cool terminology, I was trying to be cool the first day she arrived. I think she’s brilliant and sharp and honest and just really cool as well, her performance is metamorphic.

TMS: Did you two share deep dark secrets about each others’ shows?

Coleman: No, we refused to let her. No spoilers about Thrones!

TMS: What terminology did you teach Peter?

Coleman: The word ape and sick, apparently. That means when something’s really good, that’s ape.

Interviewer: That’s new to us too [laughs] Is sick good or bad?

Coleman: It’s good now [laughs]

Interviewer: Is Peter using them now?

Coleman: Yeah, yeah after a tape he says “that was ape.”

Interviewer: Yeah, he’s completely different from his character.

Coleman: So different! He’s, I think people expect him to be growly and moody and a bit mean, maybe, but he’s so the opposite of that. He does it really well.

Interviewer: He just turns it on and off?

Coleman: Yeah, I think it’s the Scottishness as well.

TMS: Does he every divert to the character we know him for so well and just curse?

Coleman: Does he revert to Malcolm Tucker? No, no he’s very far removed from that character, but he does improvise a lot and sometimes, in between scenes, the two of us will improvise a lot together and let the cameras roll and then work our way into the scene a bit. So there’s quite a lot of that kind of stuff that goes on, but he’s great. He just throws, he’s so unvain. Is that the word? Unvain, is there a better word?

TMS: Like not self-conscious?

Coleman: He’s not self-conscious, but also, he just is a man of—he has like no ego and he’s willing to look stupid. He’s so generous and he will, like, go into a scene and try a million things and isn’t afraid to be right or wrong, you know. It makes him such an interesting actor. He’s like an absolute firecracker of performances that he’s pulled out, which is so funny but also really deep and moving and striking as well. It’s quite a good journey for the Doctor this series.

TMS: Is there anything from Season 7 that was improvised that you can think of?

Coleman: Umm, do you know what? There was actually. It didn’t have to do with me, but I’ll tell you anyways. The scene with Tom Baker and Matt in the 50th has a bit of it, all of that bit was improvised.

Interviewer: Do I remember correctly hearing the Christmas episode was written differently at the end? It had written you out originally and you changed your mind?

Coleman: No, it was very confusing, but my contract was up much earlier [than that], I decided to stay and do another series with Peter.

TMS: I mean, it feels like so much of the news around Doctor Who is like, who’s parting and who’s coming on. And I’m curious, is that at all frustrating? Constantly being asked if you’re quitting your job?

Coleman: Mmm that’s something I was really very aware of when I started, because you come on and people say “when are you going to leave?” When Peter was cast people were like “who’s going to be the next Doctor?” and he’s like “give me a week!” but I suppose it’s the nature of the show and it’s what makes the show really exciting. But as I came in Arthur and Karen were leaving, so there was that, and obviously Matt left soon after, so I think you’ve always aware of the ticking clock, I suppose, and enjoy it while it lasts because it’s really a one of a kind job.

Interviewer: I mean it seems like the opposite is true too. Like, a lot of fans want you to break records, want you to stay as long as Sarah Jane and want someone to break Tom Baker’s record as longest running doctor.

Coleman: What is it like 7 years?

Interviewer: I mean, I doubt anyone is going to do that.

Coleman: Who knows?

TMS: You worked with some female directors this year as well, like in the season finale. Can you talk about that and what the finale was like?

Coleman: Oh of this series? This series we haven’t done the finale yet, we’re mid-shooting, we’re literally on episode 11 so we haven’t even seen episode 12. That’s quite good actually, so it’s like I don’t even have to pretend.

TMS: So you haven’t even seen the script for 12.

Coleman: No, we go back to shoot it in a couple of weeks we’ve had Hettie MacDonald in episode 1 and 2, who is brilliant. It’s hard because I actually haven’t seem them yet, but in terms of on set, working with Hettie and Michelle there’s a lot of days where it’s the three of us, it’s been rare we’ve had some female directors but she’s strong and abrilliant storyteller, visually really interesting.

(Image via vagueontheshow on Flickr)

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