Doctor Who’s new companion Tosin Cole talks TV diversity and sci-fi secrecy ahead of series 11

In an exclusive interview, the actor reveals how he enjoys having a laugh with Jodie Whittaker on set – and why he’s a little bit concerned about his slippers…

Tosin Cole in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)

Young actor Tosin Cole had a fairly low profile when he was announced as one of Jodie Whittaker’s new Tardis team in Doctor Who series 11, with the Londoner previously appearing in small roles in Lewis, Versailles and Holby City among others as well as a more prominent role in Hollyoaks.

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With his new Doctor Who role, however, Cole’s hit the big time – and in a new, exclusive interview (an extended version of one that appears in the latest Radio Times magazine) he reveals his thoughts on becoming more visible, diversity on TV – and why Doctor Who will never be as secretive as Star Wars.

So, Tosin – how did you feel when you got the part of Ryan?

Pretty cool, to be honest. I can never really read the room at auditions. There are times when you think, “I killed that!” and you never get a callback. I thought I did all right… and then I got the call and got excited.

It’s always a work in progress. When you get things you’re excited to do, sometimes they don’t pan out. So I just try and keep a cool morale throughout.

And when it was announced?

Everything for me has still been kind of chilled. Obviously it might be the quiet before the storm.

When it comes out, I might not be saying this, but life is still normal. When it airs and the fans engage, this cool persona might go out the window.

I hope I’ll still be able to go to the shop in my slippers — it would be nice for those simple things to stay the same. I’m comfy in my flip flops.

Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh and Mandip Gill in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)
Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh and Mandip Gill in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC)

How does it feel now that filming has nearly finished?

It’ll be good to release all the secrecy, all the tension of keeping things quiet. And it will be nice, after all the hard work that everyone’s been through, for the audience to see it. Hopefully we’ll have good feedback.

Has this lived up to your expectations?

I didn’t know what to expect! Because I’ve never done anything like this before.

I’ve been going with the flow – but it’s been great, I’ve had a great experience, I’ve had great fun. The crew are amazing, the cast are really cool. It’s been a great journey so far.

You were messing about a bit with Jodie earlier, and teasing each other – is it a fun set?

Yeah, we all play about, a bit too much sometimes. But it’s good fun. Bit of friendly banter, you know? What’s work without banter? So we’ve got a bit of good morale going on.

Doctor Who stars Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, Jodie Whittaker and Tosin Cole (BBC, BD)
Doctor Who stars Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, Jodie Whittaker and Tosin Cole (BBC)

You were in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 [playing Lieutenant Bastian]  – how does the secrecy compare to Who?

Oh, Star Wars is crazy. Even the audition process was crazy. They had an app for you to get the [scripts] and stuff like that, then they’ll drive you to learn your lines there.

So is Doctor Who more laid back?

I don’t know – it’s kind of similar, but they take the secrecy crazy seriously [on Star Wars].

I’ve never had to download an app for anything over here. Or have read scripts that you have to leave with them. It’s a bit crazy.

Where will you be watching the series when it comes out?

I normally don’t watch things when they come out… I don’t even tend to invite people to screenings. But maybe I’ll make an exception and watch this with the family. That might be a new tradition for me.

Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)
Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC)

You’re a diverse cast — when you were growing up, would you have liked to have seen more people of colour on screen?

I used to watch Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and My Wife and Kids because it’s easier to relate to what you see around you. That’s not to say that I didn’t watch other shows but there’s an easier acceptance when you see something familiar to you.

Now diversity is more of a discussion, whether it be gender or ethnicity. We still have a long way to go, in terms of equal rights and equal representation on screen, but it’s exciting for the kids to see people like themselves in the new series — and for girls to become superheroes! Hopefully we will inspire and touch people with what we’re doing.

Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor on the cover of the Radio Times magazine
Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor on the cover of the Radio Times magazine
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A condensed version of this interview, along with other exclusive Doctor Who interviews, pictures and behind-the-scenes secrets, is in the latest edition of the Radio Times magazine, on sale now