Much More Than A Tin Dog
EDITORIAL NOTE: ScienceFictionZone is indebted to Paul Salamoff and Roslyn Hill of Unstoppable Entertainment for helping arrange this interview.
- ScienceFictionZone Staff
When “Doctor Who” returned to the airwaves in 2005 after a near-two decade absence, fans were treated to a new TARDIS, new Doctor, new companion and new supporting characters.
Enter Noel Clarke.
Clarke played the role of Mickey Smith, the boyfriend of Rose (aka Billie Piper), and he watched as a tall mysterious stranger (who looked an awful like Destro from “G.I. Joe”) stepped in and whisked her away.
Was Mickey destined for third-wheel status forever? In one episode of the second season, poor Mickey compared himself to K-9 the robot dog. “I’m the tin dog!” he shouted with despair, but speaking with Clarke, one finds he is so much more than that. By the end of David Tennant’s role, Mickey was an action hero married to the beautiful Martha Jones (aka Freema Agyeman).
Clarke has proven more than just the usual “Doctor Who” companion, but an accomplished writer and director. Sure in 2003 he won the Laurence Olivier Award for “Most Promising New Actor” but his movies “KiDULTHOOD,” “ADULTHOOD” and “18.104.22.168” have won acclaim as well.
Thanks to assistance of writer Paul Salamoff, we were able to talk with Clarke about his time on “Doctor Who”, working with Elizabeth Sladen, and he talked with us about Doctors Nine through Eleven and he talked about the 50th anniversary of “Doctor Who.”
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: First, I want to thank you for being interviewed by us at Science Fiction Zone! Also, we owe a great deal of thanks to writer and producer Paul Salamoff, who we interviewed previously. How long have you known him?
NOEL: I met Paul Salamoff at the Los Angeles Gallifrey One Convention in 2006. At the time I thought he was just a fan. We spoke for a couple of hours and I found out afterwards he was a writer/producer. Not too long after that we became good friends.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Did you see his TARDIS console from the 1996 movie?
NOEL: [LAUGHS] Oh yeah! I saw it. I’ve been in his garage and it was really neat.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Since Paul lives in California, do you come to the United States much?
NOEL: I try to make it to the States twice a year. I have written several scripts and directed two feature movies, and right now my goal is to continue pressing forward with that. I am slowly clawing my way over.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Does this mean you will be coming over to the United States? Anything you can talk about?
NOEL: Ehh…I have a few plates spinning in the air at the moment that I think you will be hearing about in the near future.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Well, let me ask regarding the amount of British actors that are currently starring in American television series. Specifically, I am thinking of Andrew Lincoln from the “Walking Dead.” You can add Hugh Laurie of “House” and Kevin McKidd of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Why is it easier for British actors to perform American accents whereas you almost want to cringe at Americans doing British accents?
NOEL: I think it is because we have had some iconography almost shoved down our throats. I mean we grew up with television shows like “Knight Rider” and “The A-Team” so we grew up with the accent, whereas Americans did not grow up with the British shows the way we were. Because of that, British actors are able to pick up the American accent easier. I mean ask an American kid if he can name an American burger joint and he can’t, but a British kid can name McDonalds.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Now you talk about filmmaking; you have written several scripts and you are a director. Do you prefer being behind the camera?
NOEL: I have to say my first love is being in front of the camera, but I like being behind the camera as well. As you said, I like to be in front of the camera and I definitely like being behind the camera, after all I directed two feature films. I want to learn as much as what I can behind and increase my longevity in the industry.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: When you were doing “Doctor Who” did you ever get a chance to come in on days you weren’t filming and just sit behind the cameras and learn the industry?
NOEL: Actually, I didn’t need to. I was filming so much I was able to pick it up as I went along. Though, [Executive Producer Russell T. Davies] gave me the opportunity to write an episode of “Torchwood.”
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: I saw on IMDB.com you were able to do that. Did John Barrowman ask you for the opportunity to write a song and dance number for Captain Jack into that episode?
NOEL: [LAUGHS] No, the actors were separate from the writers. I appreciated the chance to being part of a team of writers. After I wrote the script, Russell tweaked it a little and it was amazing.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Now if we can get into “Doctor Who” for the moment, you have said you were a fan of the original series. Was it nerve wracking knowing that you would be the number three person “Doctor Who” fans would see?
NOEL: Let me say that when the show was revitalized, there were a lot of skeptics who did not believe the show would last, but I knew when I auditioned for it that this was a quality show.
Further proof of that is, look at the way Mickey evolved as a person. When he first appeared, he was Rose’s foil and he was irked at this man who was cooler than he was. But by the end of it, he was this bearded hero, freedom fighter who was married to Martha. It was really part of the writers’ grand plan.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Focusing in on that, you played Mickey, the goofy guy who “wasn’t the tin dog” as was mentioned in the episode “School Reunion,” but in the episodes “Age of Steel” and “Army of Ghosts,” you played Ricky, a gay version of Mickey. Yet, Ricky was a man hardened by a brutal war with the Cyber Men. How was it playing such a different character?
NOEL: Actually, it is more difficult to play Mickey because he is goofy and bumbling, whereas Ricky (and the later Mickey) are closer to my personality. I relate more to the action hero/take-no-prisoners type of guy.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: So you played Mickey Smith and Ricky Smith, the Doctor goes by John Smith, Elisabeth Sladen played Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor is currently played by Matt Smith, my name is Don Smith and I have a Doctor Who buddy named Pam Smith!
Tell me what is it about “Smiths” and “Doctor Who” that is just so awesome? [LAUGHS].
NOEL: I have no idea. [LAUGHS] I really don’t. They named Mickey Smith as a tribute to Sarah Jane Smith unsure if they would ever be able to get her, but she returned [in the previously mentioned episode "School Reunion"] and had her own series for a while.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Most “Doctor Who” fans knew she passed away from cancer back in April of this year. What was it like working with Elisabeth Sladen in “School Reunion”?
NOEL: Lis Sladen was lovely to work with. In fact, when she came to work, she was a little nervous, but she got on quite well. I was glad to see her return because she was such an important part of the history of the show.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: There is a pivotal scene where Sarah Jane Smith is coming to terms with being left behind by the Doctor. She even talks about it with Rose at one point. In the world of “Doctor Who”, it seems many of the actors, both companions and Doctors, are also left behind by the show.
Did Lis Sladen have any advice or even talk about that?
NOEL: No, she didn’t, the conversation never came up. But as actors, we are well aware of how big the show is and how important it is to have something to fall back on and understand what it means to reinvent themselves. I have been lucky; I have had my writing and my directing to fall back on.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Besides working with Lis Sladen, you worked with two different Doctors, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. What did each bring to the Doctor?
NOEL: I loved working with both men equally. Chris was lovely to work with, but he was able to bring a modern and hip interpretation to the character that was very intense with the leather coat. Chris was able to reestablish the show and get it moving, which allowed David to come in play the character in a lighter tone. David played him more emotional and more likable which kept the series going.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Have you seen Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor? What do you think he brings?
NOEL: I haven’t met the guy, but he brings an air of unpredictability to the Doctor. And that’s great. I know it’s a scripted show, but I never know what Matt is going to do next. He has done a fantastic job.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Have you heard anything about the fiftieth anniversary?
NOEL: No I haven’t, and if I did, I wouldn’t be allowed to talk about it.
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: That’s okay, we understand.
Thank you so much for your time! What do you have upcoming fans can look out for?
SCIENCEFICTIONZONE: Well, whatever else you have coming up, stop by ScienceFictionZone.com and share it with us.
NOEL: Will do! This has been fun.
Images courtesy of Noel Clarke and BBC.