The 28-year-old Brum-born lad has gigged with the Guillemots, composed musicals and acted in the West End. Now best known as Rory, “Mr Pond”, the latest male companion in Doctor Who, Arthur Darvill talks to RT’s Patrick Mulkern.
I’ve just been looking at a photo of you as Roman centurion.
That must have been fun, getting dressed up.
Yeah, it was brilliant. When I started on Doctor Who, I never thought I’d get the chance to be a Roman soldier. It was a bit like wearing a one-man band. It just made so much noise!
So what was it like working at Stonehenge?
We were filming at night so I drove myself there in my car. I had my sat nav and my radio on, and was following signs through the countryside. It was really dark and then I saw the whole of Stonehenge completely lit up by all the Doctor Who crew lights. It was just like this big shaft of light coming up off Stonehenge. It was absolutely amazing. Ever so slightly emotional.
And you filmed through the night, didn’t you?
Yeah, a lot of those last couple of episodes in the dark were me and Karen [Gillan, who plays Amy] up a hill in the rain and wind, sitting in the mud for hours on end.
It did look grim on Doctor Who Confidential but then great in the finished episodes.
It’s amazing what they can do. You get to the point when you start moaning about the wind and rain and the cold, how late it is, and then you go, “Hang on. What am I doing? This is my job and it’s amazing that I get to do this.” So it’s all relative.
So how did you feel when you first landed the part?
I was over the moon, although I thought it would be just a few episodes in total. I didn’t realise how long it would go on for. I was absolutely ecstatic but, obviously with Doctor Who’s endeavour for secrecy, I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone.
So you kept it quiet.
I told my parents and my girlfriend. Doctor Who’s a funny thing – it’s so ingrained, it’s been around for so long. Even when it’s not on, it gets referred to all the time. For me, at first, it was just like getting another job. But you talk to people and realise it’s actually more. It has such an amazing history and means something to such a lot of people.
The other day I interviewed William Russell, who’s 86 now, and he was the first male companion in 1963.
He’s never really escaped Doctor Who and is proud of the association.
It’s just gone from strength to strength. I watched some of the old ones over the last year and I feel like we’re all part of that history and hopefully trying to move it on in the right way. Which I think is very much happening with Steven at the helm.
You’d worked with Matt Smith before in the West End…
Yeah, we did a play together and know a lot of the same people so we always said we wanted to work together again. I never thought it would be for quite so long! And it’s been brilliant – doing a job like this, but also with someone who’s a friend.
Poor Rory seemed to suffer quite a lot last series, being bumped off, erased from time… My nephews and nieces adore him.
But they were completely devastated when he died.
Good, good. (laughs)
How much did you know about where your character was heading?
When I got the job, I knew I was Amy’s boyfriend but that was it. Just the script of episode one. The rest was made up. Well, we kind of discussed little bits. I didn’t find out I was going to die until quite late, not long before we started filming those episodes, but they made it very clear I’d be coming back. Which I was quite pleased about. So it wasn’t like opening the script and going, “Oh! Aww…”
So RT is doing a special book about all the companions over the years. Who would you say was your favourite?
I met Sophie Aldred [who played Ace] the other week and I think she’s brilliant. When I watched it in the past when I was younger, she was always my favourite. A lovely woman. So I’ve got to say her.
I hope Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston don’t hear about this…
(laughs) Ah well if we’re talking about historically I’d say her. But obviously my loyalties are to Karen and Alex, who are very strong women and wouldn’t want me not to mention them.
What’s it like working with them?
It’s amazing that we all get on but we do. Everyone has quite a strong personality so it does get quite loud. Alex is just wonderful. I really love the character of River Song and what Steven does with her. He gives her all the best lines, so it’s just brilliant coming to work and hearing Alex say them.
What’s it like being newlyweds in the Tardis?
It’s strange. I have friends who recently got married and said in a way it’s almost like an anticlimax after the wedding, which was such a big event. All that is slightly heightened being in the Tardis. Rory was striving to get Amy down the aisle. That’s what his whole life up to that point was geared towards, and now it’s like they’ve got all the wonders of the universe to explore as well. I don’t think it’s an anticlimax – for him. He feels far more secure in their relationship, but it doesn’t stop them carrying on their adventures and exploring even further.
And for next season you’re filming in the States…
Yeah, for a week. Quite exciting. I wish I could talk about the stories that are coming up. I mean, the few I know about, but I can’t. It’s tough.
What’s been the coolest moment filming so far?
There’s been a few. I’d say… oh man, what have been the coolest moments? I really enjoyed, for my own personal journey, the day where I had a gun come out of my hand and got to shoot a Dalek in the face [The Big Bang]. That was a big private moment for me.
You’ve had your hand seen to since though…
Yes, I’ve definitely had medical attention… There’s been lots of other cool moments. Walking into the Tardis and seeing it all frosted over by the Dream Lord [Amy’s Choice]. And I think one of the most enjoyable was the swordfight with Alex Price in Croatia [The Vampires of Venice]. That was really good fun.
So is there anything you can tell us about the Christmas special?
I’m just working out what I am and I’m not allowed to say. It’s the most Christmassy episode of Doctor Who that, I think, there’s ever been.
And there have been some very Christmassy ones!
This one pushes the boat out in the most wonderful way. We filmed it in July and it was very strange walking into warehouses in Cardiff where it’s snowing. All I can really say is Rory and Amy get into a lot of danger and the Doctor has to save them in a very Christmassy way.
Being assailed by baubles and tinsel?
Yes, absolutely. Reindeers hurled at the enemies.