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Interview: Emma Campbell-Jones on The Night of the Doctor

Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull interviews Emma Campbell-Jones who played Cass in The Night of the Doctor.

Emma-Campbell-Jones-cass-The-Night-of-the-Doctor

Before Christmas, as the world recovered from The Day of the Doctor, I had the chance to speak to Emma Campbell-Jones, known in the world of Who as Cass, ‘the woman who killed the Doctor’, in The Night of the Doctor (and also Doctor Kent in The Wedding of River Song).

She spoke about hanging out with ‘Sylv’ McCoy, filming The Night of the Doctor and working alongside the great Paul McGann.

How did you get the part? And where were you when you were told?

I was offered this part without having to audition, which was extremely flattering. I’d only just auditioned for Andy Pryor for a part in An Adventure in Space and Time and I had also worked with the Executive Producer, Marcus Wilson, and the producer, Denise Paul on two episodes of Taggart and a previous episode of Doctor Who, as Dr Kent in The Wedding of River Song. It was such a pleasure to get to work with them again on something so special. Where was I when I got the news? I was getting ready to go out – I dropped to sit on the side of the bath and remember seeing my face gleam with excitement in the mirror opposite. I felt privileged to have been entrusted with a part who had such a pivotal role in Doctor Who folklore and, of course, to get to work with Paul and play a part in the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration – although I do keep getting called “Doctor Killer”, even by the Seventh Doctor, my dear friend, young Sylvester McCoy!

What was it like participating in such a momentous if short minisode?

Deeply thrilling. I mean, it’s not often I get a chance to pilot a gunship through space and dodge explosions with Paul McGann grasping my hand. The anticipation of starting work on it, getting to work with people I admire – cast, crew, writer and production, getting to chat to Mark Gatiss (who Paul introduced as “the nicest man in showbiz”) and Steven Moffat, who’d come to set and seeing them watch the rushes and look impressed. It’s always a good feeling to know that the work fits with the writer’s vision of it. The days following the aftermath of its release were such a high and there were so many nice messages from people. I got to go to the BFI 3D screening of The Day of the Doctor and after party, as Sylv’s guest, which was great fun. I had a slightly surreal moment of sitting on a sofa, sandwiched by Doctors past (Sylv, Peter and Colin) watching Zoe Ball interview the then current Doctor, Matt. The Five Doctors Reboot was just hilarious. So impressed that they put it together. I’d love to see more of them in British comedy – especially Peter – his expressions had me falling about laughing.

The shoot must have been a very secretive affair – did you have to hold back on details from friends and family?

It was incredibly secretive. They even had to hold umbrellas over Paul between trailer and set, over a rain-free couple of days, to prevent any potential aerial or long lens shots being taken of him. I admire them for taking the lengths they do to guard the Doctor Who secrets until they’re revealed on air. It would ruin the surprise for the fans otherwise. But, wow, it was a hard secret to keep. All I wanted to do was shout it from the rooftops and I was fit to burst. I did live with my little brother at the time though (so it was impossible to keep it from him) and he’d occasionally wind me up by saying he’d gotten drunk and told the world, but I threatened him with undignified death if he ever blabbed, which must’ve worked. My boyfriend was in the 50th anniversary special, so we did know each other’s secrets, but as we’re fans of the show, we dutifully guarded it from others right until they were aired. It’s quite fortifying to know I can keep a secret that delicious. It’s a bit upsetting they were forced to release it early – apparently pictures or bits footage had already been seen on the Internet, but ultimately the early release wasn’t too much of a hiccup and that decision meant that the surprise of seeing Paul’s Doctor back wasn’t spoiled for fans worldwide.

Emma-Campbell-Jones-paul-mcgann-The-Night-of-the-Doctor

Upon seeing the TARDIS, Cass reacts against the Doctor and tried to leave his side. Did a part of you just want to forget the script, run inside and become the next companion?

Of course, are you kidding?! That would be a dream job. Paul’s so easy to get on with too – I’d skip into work each day with the joy of a thousand Disney princesses.

You worked alongside the great Paul McGann, it must have been quite a buzz.

As he knows, I’m a big Withnail & I fan and I was very much looking forward to working with him. He exceeded my expectations. Day one was all about playing dead for me, but I got to watch some of that atmospheric scene from the sidelines. I can’t tell you how tough it was to stay dead on that altar and not have a subtle peep at what he was doing – it sounded so powerful. Both he and Claire have such luxurious voices – it was a treat to be in the middle of it. Day two was when Paul and I really took off. He’s really a delight, full of interesting ideas and a touch rock n’ roll, appealingly – plus he’s the king of anecdotal back stage chatterings. After just two days, he made me feel like we’d been pals for years.

Cass was the only new character in The Night of the Doctor, did you construct a bit more of a backstory for her?

I always do, as it creates a depth and understanding of them as a person. All the more important when you’re compressing a story like this into about seven minutes. I had to know who she was in order to tell her story as part of the bigger picture. Cass sprang off the page as a strong, independent, pragmatic person with a deep-rooted sense of pathos for the suffering across the universe that the Time War has caused, which she must have witnessed over and over again. I watched some older episodes that made reference to the Time War or featured Time Lords, to be able to get a handle on Cass’ disgust on discovering she was in the presence of a Time Lord and the pain she evidently feels recalling the destruction of the Time War. I got the sense she was on her own now – that she did have family once, probably some brothers, so grew up a tough little cookie, but since the fallout from the Time War and the personal impact it made she had made the decision to train up, then take off on a journey across the universe in search of something… I like that she had moments of vulnerability, that she was willing to put her hand into the hand of a stranger, letting him lead her, instinctively trusting him with her life. I love that the potential of companionship was hinted at and a tangible connection between them was drawn. Gave us lots to play with in such a short space of time.

Naturally it would be hard for Cass to make a comeback (but you did star in The Wedding of River Song), would you ever return to the show?

In a heartbeat. The Doctor Who crowd always make it feel like family. Moreover, it’s FUN. In whatever guise they want me, I’d be there, with all the bells.

Thanks Emma! Follow her on Twitter here.

Step back in time...

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43 comments
DawnTime
DawnTime

I wonder if Cass is short for Cassandra?

Polyphase
Polyphase

I wish they would televise these mini-episodes. Watching them on a 4 inch screen with no sound just isn't the same :(

GibbyBlogger
GibbyBlogger

She seems nice, let's have her back in a couple of years. She would have made a great companion! :D

WhoPotterVian
WhoPotterVian

She could still return as Cass. They could do a episode set before she dies in the ship.

Falafel_Lord
Falafel_Lord

Well done on landing the interview, and for some superb questions.

JFrance
JFrance

Well if Peter Capaldi can return to Doctor who I can't see why she can't. She could play Cass twin sister or something.   

Doctor von Wer
Doctor von Wer

What about one or two episodes with Cass before the events of Night of the Doctor (obviously)? I really like her character and she seems to be a very nice person and a great actress too.

BJAMES
BJAMES

She did, with the writing given to her, manage to make an incredible impact in such a short period of time. Goes to show that when the writing, performance, and chemistry are right, great things can be accomplished over relatively short spans of screen time. I know that both she and Paul left me wanting more.

Mikeyboss182
Mikeyboss182

Great interview, I like to consider Cass as the Eighth Doctor's final companion. 

gunslinger19
gunslinger19

maybe a cass spin off series about her trying to escape the time war?

DasManiac
DasManiac

It's really a shame Cass had to die. She seemed like a really interesting character. Though I'm curious what race she is. She's not human and definitely not Gallifreyan. Anyways it seems like Emma is a lovely woman. Love that Sylvester McCoy calls her Doctor Killer.

edoe101
edoe101

Ooh, really interesting. Emma seems like she's really nice, it's a shame she can't return.

Moxx
Moxx

It's a tragedy that Cass can't join the TARDIS team now. She has such companion material; it would have been fantastic to have a spacey, techno-whizz companion from our future, and there's something distinctly "Eighth Doctor" about her. Get her back in the show! I've no idea how it would be done, but where there's a Moffat, there's a way! 

A fantastic interview, Pat - I look forward to reading more.



Seekles
Seekles

Great interview. Emma sounds like a lovely down to earth lass. :o)

LGwalchmai95
LGwalchmai95

I hope she becomes the next companion as a different character. She's a really good actress and it would be a shame to make her a companion that never was.

The Finn
The Finn

You never seize to amaze with these interviews, Pat! Amazing interview again (laughed so much when she called Sylvester McCoy "young").

TARDlSkey
TARDlSkey

Great interview again, PK. I'd certainly love to see Emma back on the show with whatever role may be available to her. She's a terrific actress!

Gustaff
Gustaff

Pat, your interviews are getting more and more grand. I'm expecting a chat with Peter Capaldi next.


Good job. It may be difficult for Cass to return, but since we're dealing with time travel, we could have a cameo from a past version pop and do something in the background without the Doctor knowing. Or maybe he recognizes her and realizes that she's about to help kill his Eighth incarnation. It be interesting to see a scene like that and how Capaldi's Doctor would react.

ClassicWhovian
ClassicWhovian

She gave a very believable performance, and managed to create a real character in a very short space of time, which really can't have been easy. A great performance, shame we won't see more of her!

Silurian53
Silurian53

She said her boyfriend was in the 50th. Who did he play?

Creepy_Ghoul
Creepy_Ghoul

Great. Now we only need an interview with Claire Higgins about her character and then we've had all three main stars of "Night of the Doctor".

Judge Claude Frollo
Judge Claude Frollo

Lucky Emma, Paul is my third favourite Doctor. If I worked with him at least once, I'd die.

On eh other hand, she seems like a lovely person (:. I loved the Night of the Doctor, and I took a liking to Cass as well. The Doctor usually lures anyone who meets him to the TARDIS, but Cas chose differently.

BJAMES
BJAMES

@Polyphase There's always the dvd. Both minisodes associated with TDOTD are on the dvd release.

Nightmarish
Nightmarish

Hopefully she'll return in a different role someday. :)

DasManiac
DasManiac

@Moxx Well the Sisterhood of Karn could revive her. She is a different race from The Doctor so the effects would be different on her than him. He had to regenerate but maybe it won't have any adverse effects on her.

BJAMES
BJAMES

@LGwalchmai95 If the Doctor can regenerate into a familiar face (one we've seen twice before) why wouldn't a Time Lady be able to? Perhaps this could take place when said Time Lady capable of knowing the Doctor's mind (Romana, or the Rani?) might want to appear to the Doctor in a familiar guise?

newtondkc
newtondkc

LiverOfMorbius you are spot on! I'm always bewildered when I read Who Fans posting that something can't be done in the context of the show, like Cass can't come back because she died - have they actually watched the show? It excels at breaking rules and doing the impossible with flair! The only trick would be doing it convincingly, and as you said, there's already groundwork for such in the Sisterhood being manipulative and telling the truth in whatever version necessary to accomplish their own ends. Given the crash/explosion, the very fact the bodies were intact instead of mangled and ripped apart is the surest sign all was not as purported. And the Sisterhood is the main reason so many ships crash on the planet Karn in the first place, so such a power could be wielded to pop a couple people off before impact - they certainly weren't extracting Cass' body from the wreckage when she is in one piece and barely a hair out of place! And some may say its just convenience of storytelling not to depict grisly crash remains, but that simply underscores that fiction is not reality, and a "can't show what it would really look like" can just as easily be "looked intact because she was". Heck, for all we know Cass was a Sister - placed on board the abandoned doomed ship to maneuver the Doctor where they needed him physically - and emotionally as well. No wonder the ship had trouble interpreting her voice commands, she wasn't really a crew member! :-) at the very least, I expect a Big Finish audio or two where Cass and 8 are pulled out of time and share a few adventures together of what might have been, then finding halfway through what their fates are to be when the TimeLords inevitably return them to their proper timestream to carry out the crash...infinite possibilities when working with science fiction! :-)

Moxx
Moxx

So many quote rebuttals today...

BJAMES
BJAMES

@StanleyAltonBlowIII @BJAMES@LGwalchmai95 Why is that? Is it because of her last appearance ("Time And The Rani", oh I know, I know), or you just didn't care for the character? Not having any sort of go back at you, just curious as to why you feel that way.