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|Katy Manning ('Doctor Who')|
Monday, March 16 2009, 09:20 GMT
By Chris Allen, Production Manager and Ben Rawson-Jones, Cult Editor
Best known for playing Doctor Who companion Jo Grant in the Jon Pertwee era of the classic show, the irrepressible Katy Manning is back on British shores after many years in Australia armed with a couple of cracking new projects. She tells us about her one woman show Me & Jezebel and reprising her role as renegade Time Lady Iris Wildthyme for an exciting new season of Big Finish audio adventures. Plus there’s her views on the current incarnation of Doctor Who and the next incumbent of the Tardis…
Can you tell us about the premise of Me & Jezebel?
“It's a true story, and the woman who wrote it, Elizabeth Fuller, it actually happened to her. She was out shopping one day and bumped into an old friend and asked her round for dinner. The friend said 'sure, but can I bring a house guest?' Elizabeth agreed and standing on the doorstep at 7pm that night is the friend - Hollywood star Bette Davis, who by this point was in her 70s. Elizabeth had been a massive fan of her, writing her fan letters and saw every movie she ever made.
"Suddenly, there is her idol standing on her doorstep. There's a hotel strike and Bette's hiding from the press and Elizabeth is deeply starstruck - she has her idol in her house. Bette calls the next day and says 'would you mind terribly if I spend one or two nights in your cottage?' Of course, she says 'oh yes'. Bette arrives and so does an entire station wagon stuffed to the hilt with Louis Vuitton luggage. The one or two days turns into a month. You learn about Bette by putting her in very ordinary situations."
How much of a challenge was it to play all of these different parts?
"My strength is that I have a multiple personality disorder. As Jon Pertwee pointed out - there are 35 people living in here, and as my current partner says, 'when they're not all out working they're all a pain in the arse!' So it's perfect for me. I have to interrupt myself in different voices - at one point there's four of us in a car. One is the husband, one is the four-year-old boy, one is Elizabeth and one is Bette Davis. They all have different agendas... the audience have to really feel every person on that stage otherwise I'm wasting my time."
You've also been busy in a series of new audio dramas for Big Finish set in the Doctor Who universe, playing a Time Lady called Iris Wildthyme...
"She's an absolute gift of a character and over a period of time we've been able to open her up. She's pushy and boisterous, but underneath all that there's another side to Iris - a sad side I think. She's also a very compassionate woman, she's not just out there trashing the universe, although she does manage to trash a lot of things along the way! She's out there actually trying to do good. The wonderful thing is that there is no end to the things you could do with Iris. She can go anywhere, any time, any place."
In a similar vein to the Doctor Who premise?
"Well, she doesn't have to be politically correct or well behaved. She can be really outrageous - and I suppose I've always had that slight rebel streak. But not deliberately, I just do naughty things and then realise I've done them. As long as you take responsibility with the s**t you hand out!"
Are there plans to revive Jo Grant for any audios?
"They brought out the Companion Chronicles, which I did two of, but I miss Jon [Pertwee] too much. I find it too odd working without him. I can't do it, it makes me unhappy. I tried, because I'm a great admirer of Big Finish, but it just doesn't sit right for me because I miss my man."
Are you keen on Iris making an appearance on Doctor Who?
"Oh yeah! Can you imagine? I'm the right age now."
How would you feel appearing alongside David Tennant?
"Oooh I couldn't stand it! It would be much too much - I'd have to take my medication! I'm a massive David Tennant fan... but Christopher Eccleston made me sit up and make me watch this show again now, because I had lost touch with it. It had gone in a direction that wasn't me. It needed a rest, it needed to reinvent itself into now."
What is your opinion on Matt Smith - the young chap who will be the next Doctor?
"First of all, I think somebody who is lesser known is a fabulous idea. What we forget is that Patrick Troughton wasn't really well known. Tom Baker, hello? I think it's a great idea because it gives you a wonderful canvas to accept the truth of this man. Plus, why does he have to be old? This guy, to me, has this gothic feel. Jon had that ethereal quality - he could be 2000 years old but you could also see the young one in him. I'm just using him as an example. I think it's a fabulous idea to have somebody of this age who has that darker side. I'm very excited."
Visit www.bigfinish.com for the range of Iris Wildthyme audio adventures. Me & Jezebel tours the UK in March and hits London in April.