David Bradley is known for play­ing bad guys, but when he got the op­por­tu­nity to star as one of the na­tion’s favourite he­roes, Doc­tor Who, in this year’s Christ­mas spe­cial, he jumped at it. He tells GE­OR­GIA HUMPHREYS why

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ONE per­son is par­tic­u­larly ex­cited to see David Bradley on TV this Christ­mas – his three-yearold grand­daugh­ter, who will be watch­ing him on screen for the first time.

“My son got her on cam­era and she said, ‘My Grandad is Doc­tor Who!’” says David with im­mense pride.

The 75-year-old ac­tor has a sooth­ingly gen­tle voice when talk­ing off-screen, but be­comes adorably an­i­mated when dis­cussing how “great” it is to be the Time Lord for your grand­kids. The im­age of a dot­ing fam­ily man doesn’t ex­actly match up with some of David’s most fa­mous on-screen char­ac­ters.

For years, the role he was most recog­nised on the street for was Ar­gus Filch, the vil­lain­ous care­taker from the Harry Pot­ter films.

More re­cently it tends to be Game Of Thrones fans “war­ily” ap­proach­ing him about play­ing the loath­some Walder Frey. “Peo­ple will say, ‘Ooh, I hate you, you’re hor­ri­ble!’” he ex­claims. David was also a bad­die when he last starred in an episode of Doc­tor Who, along­side Matt Smith in 2012. But in this year’s Christ­mas spe­cial, Twice Upon A Time, he plays a heroic char­ac­ter for a change – the First Doc­tor, no less. It’s a role the York­shire-born star was a log­i­cal fit for. He pre­vi­ously por­trayed Wil­liam Hart­nell, the first man to play Doc­tor Who, in one-off BBC drama An Ad­ven­ture In Space And Time, which told how the iconic science fic­tion se­ries was first cre­ated in 1963. Writ­ten by Mark Gatiss (who also stars in this year’s Christ­mas spe­cial as a First World War cap­tain), it also de­picted Hart­nell’s per­sonal life and what he was like as an ac­tor. David ac­knowl­edges there’s a slightly dif­fer­ent pres­sure that comes with star­ring in the Doc­tor Who Christ­mas spe­cial.

“Play­ing Wil­liam Hart­nell, the re­spon­si­bil­ity for get­ting it right was more to his fam­ily and the peo­ple who knew him, be­cause I wanted to do jus­tice to who I con­sid­ered to be one of the great Bri­tish screen char­ac­ter ac­tors of that time,” he elab­o­rates.

“Whereas this, I feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity of get­ting it right for the fans.”

From the sounds of it though, the mil­lions of view­ers set to tune in won’t be dis­ap­pointed. The episode prom­ises plenty of ac­tion scenes – jump­ing out of a Tardis, and aliens throw­ing bombs are just two stunts the vet­eran ac­tor loved film­ing. It’s also very Christ­massy, he in­sists: ex­pect lots of snow.

“There’s a kind of It’s A Won­der­ful Life feel to it,” says David.

And when it comes to the script, there’s “comic en­ergy” be­tween his char­ac­ter and the Twelfth Doc­tor, played by Peter Ca­paldi, who come from dif­fer­ent worlds.

Stranded in an Arc­tic snows­cape, we will see both Doc­tors refuse to face re­gen­er­a­tion.

“They wanted me and Peter to have fun, and the re­la­tion­ship and ban­ter be­tween them, that’s what I loved about it,” says David. “Not hang­ing about or in­dulging, but just ‘bang bang’ di­a­logue where you’re bounc­ing and spark­ing off each other – that’s when it works best for me.”

“I felt a bit in­tim­i­dated at first,” ad­mits David. “I thought, ‘They’ve all been to­gether for so long, they’re the Doc­tor Who fam­ily’.

“But Peter sat next to me for the read-through, we just started ban­ter­ing straight away. He made me feel so wel­come.”

Of course, there’s an ele­phant in the room when talk­ing about Peter. Even though we don’t know how the Doc­tor will re­gen­er­ate, or how the episode will end, we do know this is his last ad­ven­ture in the Tardis. David lets on there was one par­tic­u­larly emo­tional scene to film to­gether – though he’s tight-lipped about ex­actly what it de­tails.

“There was one mo­ment where me and Peter just looked at each other in the mid­dle of this scene and it was like, who was go­ing to well up first?” he re­veals.

Writer Steven Mof­fat is also leav­ing af­ter the Christ­mas episode, and will be re­placed by Broad­church writer Chris Chib­nall.

Mean­while, Jodie Whit­taker – who David starred with in Broad­church, and whose praises he can’t sing enough – is the lat­est star to join the list of Doc­tor Who ac­tors. A list that David can now also firmly claim he has a – very wor­thy – place on.

David, right, as Filch in the Harry Pot­ter films

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