Armstrong & Skinner Christmas Interviews
The BBC has released interviews with Alexander Armstrong and Claire Skinner who chat about the Arwell family in The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe.
Alexander Armstrong (Reg Arwell)
What can you reveal about your character?
I play Reg Arwell, who is a bomber pilot in the Second World War. We witness him flying over the channel and all the navigation equipment completely stops working. It doesn’t look good for him! His wife Madge then receives a slip of paper saying that a ‘Reg’ is missing and presumed dead. Their two children hope that their Daddy is going to be back for Christmas and that’s when the Doctor gets involved to return a favour to Madge as she helps him out at the very beginning of the episode.
Did you enjoy working with your co-stars?
Amazing. Lovely to work with Claire Skinner again, I did a drama with her called Life Begins a couple of years ago. But the real treat was working with Matt, who’s just a tremendously fine fellow and an excellent person to hang out on set with. As you can imagine, there’s an awful lot of time between takes and I can think of few nicer people to spend time with than Matt.
Doctor Who will soon be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Are you a fan?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to be in and there really isn’t another show like Doctor Who. The heritage of it is amazing and when the BBC got it going again it suddenly took on a whole new life. It has all the charm and ingenuity of the first incarnation but it also has Russell and now Steven’s really current TV brains behind it, people who are so literate in really good television that gets you thinking. With Christopher, David and now Matt, this Doctor Who has kind of gone nuts. I mean my Doctor Who when I was young was Tom Baker, I loved Tom Baker, everyone did, but the Doctor these days has taken on a sort of rock star status.
Did you enjoy filming in Cardiff?
Brilliant, it was lovely. It was a fantastic journey out of Cardiff down to the studio – a really beautiful part of Wales. We filmed in an amazing Victorian castle looking right out on the Gower peninsular. It was absolutely stunning.
What will you be doing on Christmas day?
Entertaining children, trying to keep a lid on sugary treats and desperately rationing presents because our children got high on them last year. Also, we will of course be watching Doctor Who. I really hope it’s another cold Christmas; I loved the cold winter last year. A bit of snow and a bit of sledging – it’ll be great.
Claire Skinner (Madge Arwell)
Who do you play in the Christmas Special?
I play a character called Madge Arwell who, first and foremost, is a mother. It just informs everything about her character. What I found attractive about the role is that she’s warm and a thoroughly decent woman, as well as being quite straight down the line. In the episode she gets tested and challenged and it’s interesting to see how she handles different things and adapts to various situations for the sake of her children.
What was it like working with Matt Smith?
Lovely! A really nice experience. He’s thoroughly charming, good fun and has loads of energy.
What about the other guest stars?
I’ve worked with Alexander Armstrong before, so it was great to see him again. We’ve actually been fishing together! Bill Bailey is just completely brilliant; a really nice, natural and funny bloke. And the children as well. Maurice and Holly were just delightful, completely lovely.
Are you a fan of Doctor Who?
Yes for several reasons actually. My son watches it, my husband has directed it before and my father in-law was in an episode. It’s a nice connection to have.
How did it feel being cast in such an iconic show?
I was very excited to be in it, both because it’s Doctor Who and also a great script. When I got the call I was like “Yay, at last I’m going to be in Doctor Who.”
How did you find filming on location?
We shot some scenes outside in a public space and it was an unusual experience acting in front of huge crowds of people who had come to watch. I had to drive a car down the road, which took about 500 takes, and they applauded my driving each time. It was lovely, but I hadn’t been quite ready for that.
What do you think is the scariest Doctor Who monster of all time?
It’s not exactly a monster, but the creepy people in the gas masks in series one were pretty scary. They definitely freaked both my children out at the time.
What will you be doing on Christmas day?
I will be with my family and my husband’s family; a traditional Christmas. We’ll of course be watching Doctor Who.
What other Christmas TV do you like?
I like traditional comedy; I’m such a fan of Morecambe and Wise. We’ve got the box set, so we always get that out at Christmas.