Matt Smith rose to fame as the adventuring Time Lord in Doctor Who, before bagging a starry role as Prince Philip in royal miniseries The Crown – but it’s now been revealed that the actor’s experience working on the long-running BBC1 sci-fi show almost steered him away from joining the Netflix period drama at all.
“He was umm-ing and aah-ing, because he’d done Doctor Who for so long," said Andrew Eaton, producer on The Crown. "I think he was wary about getting into a show that would take up a lot of his time and keep him from doing other things.”
However, the programme-makers were keen to have Smith in the part opposite Claire Foy’s young Queen Elizabeth II, and eventually persuaded Smith to jump on board despite his reservations.
“We saw quite a few actors to play Philip, but it was clear from the auditions that we all became a bit fixated that he was the only person who could do it,” Eaton told press at a special event for The Crown.
“He and Claire work in completely different ways. And they’re quite different people, but they just gelled from the get-go.”
Eaton went on to discuss how Smith’s new role would show audiences a new side to the actor, who he believes has more to offer than he showed in Doctor Who.
“I think he’s got a fantastic quality to him,” Eaton said. “Doctor Who put it all in the one direction, and you realise he’s got so much more to give.
“He’s obviously well known to a certain area, he was having to nip off during the shoot to do various Comic Con things and stuff, so he’s obviously known in that world.
“But I think outside that he’s not really known as a film actor particularly yet, so I’m sure for Hollywood and other places it’ll probably change his profile.
“Obviously when you were filming you’d get a lot of kids of a certain age who’d flock to him in complete awe, and he’s brilliant at that. He has a real sweetness about him which I think comes out in his acting.”
So will Prince Philip dethrone the Doctor as Matt Smith’s greatest role? Only time (and perhaps a little space) will tell.
The Crown will be available on Netflix from 4th November