The Doctor’s latest – and quite independent – companion takes time out to describe to Colin Vickery her trip from period drama to time-travelling science fiction.
DR WHO Sunday, 7.30, ABC1
JENNA-LOUISE Coleman hasn’t had time to draw breath. The 27-year-old British actress is busy trying to save the planet.
Coleman (pictured) plays Doctor Who’s (Matt Smith) new companion Clara Oswald and her time is taken up with travelling across time – everywhere from a damaged Russian submarine to the planet Akhaten.
The world of Doctor Who and science fiction is quite a leap for Coleman, who has been starring in period dramas for the past few years.
Coleman sprang to fame when she played Jasmine Thomas for four years on UK soapie Emmerdale.
She followed that success with roles in BBC drama Waterloo Road, a television adaptation of John Braine novel Room At The Top, and a feature role in Julian Fellowes’ mini-series Titanic.
Lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat picked Coleman for Clara after a set of secret auditions alongside Smith.
‘‘Auditions start with you telling the actor about the character – and sometimes they end with the actor telling you,’’ Moffat says. ‘‘That’s what happened with Jenna.’’
Things were so hush-hush that Coleman had to pretend she was auditioning for a program called Men On Waves.
‘‘I was quite relaxed about the whole audition process,’’ Coleman says. ‘‘I knew Matt was a really cool actor so I thought I’d just go in and enjoy the experience.
‘‘I would describe Clara as very resourceful. She is a match for the Doctor and she holds her own.
‘‘She does her own thing. She doesn’t follow. She harbours quite a lot of secrets. She is a dreamer and an explorer at heart.’’
Coleman made a surprise appearance in the first episode of the seventh season, Asylum Of The Daleks. She made her debut as a series regular in the Christmas episode The Snowmen.
Now it is all systems go as Coleman accompanies Smith throughout the second half of season seven.
‘‘There was a daunting aspect to stepping into a show that is so well loved but once you’re in it there is no time for analysis.
‘‘This is a unique show because characters and relationships aren’t so much defined by dialogue as action. All the conversations are on the run.
‘‘I would describe Clara as very resourceful. She is a match for the Doctor and she holds her own. She does her own thing. She doesn’t follow. She harbours quite a lot of secrets. She is a dreamer and explorer at heart.’’
‘‘There is the technical aspect (special effects) too. The first episode I did, I spent two days in a pod by myself talking to a piece of green fabric, which was meant to be Matt.
‘‘In the past, I’ve worked on two or four-part series where you have time to analyse the scripts and you know the beginning, middle and end.
‘‘On this I don’t know what to expect because we are shooting out of sequence. You are on your toes all the time.’’
So was she ever a big Doctor Who fan?
‘‘I’ve always been aware of it but when I started filming I hadn’t seen a great deal,’’ Coleman admits. ‘‘That has worked because Steve wanted me to go into it very fresh – as though Clara is seeing everything for the first time.’’