This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s spoken to me for more than 5 minutes, but I am a Doctor Who fan. In fact, “fan” is being kind. I’m hopelessly obsessed with the show to the point that more than one Who actor has a restraining order out on me.
I first caught the show back in the 80’s, when I was about 12 or 13. Tom Baker was the Fourth Doctor, although I didn’t know at the time that there had been multiple Doctors. I started watching in the middle of an episode that is still my favorite, The Talons of Weng Chiang. The first face I saw was Louise Jameson, as Leela. I loved Leela. Though I had no concept at the time of what a “Companion” was, later I would find that she was a very different sort of companion for the Doctor. Questioning everything he did, rarely listening to him, and in particular, trying to kill everyone she came in contact with.
A few years ago, I was very fortunate to meet Louise at the now defunct Wholanta and she spoke with me at length about new and classic Who, about what she was working on, and how much she liked my sneakers. I followed her on Twitter and wasn’t I astounded when she began following me back! I’m here to tell you that not only was Louise the first face I ever saw on Doctor Who, not only is she my favorite companion, but she’s also one hell of a nice lady! When she agreed to do the 10 Question challenge, I fainted with joy. Fortunately, my wife always carries smelling salts, so now that I’m back on my feet, let’s throw 10 Questions at Louise Jameson!
1. How did it come about that you got the role of Leela on Doctor Who and what was your reaction?
I got the role of Leela because I didn’t get a role in Survivors. Pennant Roberts auditioned me and although I wasn’t right for the original role, he called me in when Leela appeared in his script. And the rest is history. I was thrilled!
Had you been a fan of the show already?
2. I’ve always had a real problem with the way you exited the show (Leela fell in love and remained on Gallifrey). It doesn’t seem to be in character for our favorite warrior. How do you think Leela should have exited?
She should have died saving the Doctor’s life; something very dramatic where she used her warrior skills. (EDIT: I could not agree more.)
3. Leela was really set apart from the other previous and future companions; one of the things I love about her relationship with the Doctor is that he’s always running around trying to stop her from assassinating everyone. Who stops you from going on a rampage now?
I’ve never really ‘rampaged’; only in make believe. Leela and later, Blanche (in Tenko), are really everything I would have liked to be. Brave and uncensored.
4. Do you still watch the show?
How do you compare it to the classic series?
It’s of its time, as we were. But the underlying moral and ethical philosophy still holds true.
And I gotta know; Thirteenth Doctor – thumbs up or down?
Up, Up, Up, Up!
5. Big Finish has created new audio dramas with you performing Leela. How did it feel to come back to the role after so many decades?
I’ve done far more on audio than on camera. I love Big Finish! They have really exploited every possible outcome for Leela.
6. This is usually the bit where I ask my interviewees a Doctor Who question, but in your case, that seems a bit redundant. So, what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
Two nanoseconds to an orbit. (EDIT: Who could argue with that? I mean, besides Monty Python.)
7. You’re an extremely versatile actress, equally at home playing comic roles as you are playing dramatic roles. In addition to your film-work, you’ve done a ton of theater. What are the major differences between theater and film work?
The amount of technique required, but the fundamental truth remains the same: Good script = good performance.
Do you have a preference for one?
Probably theatre, I think, but it’s a close call!
8. You’re a very socially-minded person and a patron of DAVSS (Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Service). What’s something you want people to understand about domestic abuse in this day and age?
There is help out there, you are not alone, you have more courage than you know; simply reach out for help and you’ll find it.
Also, I find it fascinating that you used to visit prisons regularly to interact with the prisoners. What drew you to that work?
A good friend who was a probation officer asked me to pen pal a young lad who was just emerging from a life sentence. And he turned out to be Lesley Grantham. (EDIT: Grantham was a convicted murderer whom Louise befriended. When he was released after 10 years, Louise encouraged him to take up acting. Subsequently, he had a successful career acting in many shows, including Doctor Who, but he’s most known for playing Den Watts in EastEnders.)
I’m sure the prisoners learned a lot from you, but what did you learn from them?
Humility, to count my blessings, to listen.
9. A lot of people don’t realize that you’re not only an actress, but you teach drama as well. What’s your advice to anyone looking to get into the acting business?
Only go there if you feel it is ‘do or die’. Know your own self-worth.
10. I’m all out of questions. Give us your best plug…
I’ve just written and directed an audio ATA Girl, due for release via Big Finish on March 8th. I’m currently directing Revenge, which is about to tour. And then I’ll be appearing in a new sitcom, Bumps, with Amanda Redman.