Jacob Anderson: ‘For me, Doctor Who is bigger than Game of Thrones’

The actor and musician has left Westeros behind – but in joining the TARDIS team for Doctor Who: Flux he's realised a childhood dream.

Doctor Who

Jacob Anderson made his name in the biggest TV show in the world — but it pales in comparison with his new gig.

Doctor Who has probably more of a significance to me than Game of Thrones,” the 31-year-old actor says now, two years after his time ended on the HBO series (where he played troubled soldier Grey Worm).

“I think most actors have got one thing where they’re like, ‘If I could do anything, then it’s that.’ Doctor Who was always my thing. It’s massive. It’s my equivalent of the James Bond call.”

Anderson’s enthusiasm might surprise anyone who knows him for his big-budget TV work or his music career (where he releases soul and hip-hop as Raleigh Ritchie), but he’s actually a dyed-in-the-wool Who fan, who got hooked on old Jon Pertwee and Sylvester McCoy episodes that he found on VHS as a child.

“When I was a kid, one of my babysitters had a load of VHSes,” he explains. “One of them was a video of The Happiness Patrol, the [1988] Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred serial – Sheila Hancock is in it as well. And Kandy Man! The most terrifying Doctor Who monster, arguably.

“Obviously it was of a different time,” he says, “but I actually rewatched The Happiness Patrol recently, and I still love it. It’s still great. It gives me all those fizzy feelings.”

Doctor Who

Hooked on the Whoniverse, Anderson tried to make it into the revived series for years, including a failed audition in 2009 that left him “pretty devastated”.

“Maybe this is really bad form to say, but I auditioned for a part in the Matt Smith series, before he started. Not for the Doctor, obviously,” he laughs – later, he reveals he’d gone for Arthur Darvill’s part of Rory. “I had auditioned for it, and not got it.”

“It took me a little while to watch that series, because I was still hurting a bit about not being in it.”

Still, Anderson’s Who story wasn’t over. Years later he’s finally succeeded in landing a role, thanks partly to appearing in the first series of Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch, where he also acted alongside Jodie Whittaker (who played the mother of his character’s girlfriend).

Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm in Game of Thrones Season 8 (HBO)
Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm in Game of Thrones Season 8 (HBO)

“When Chris asked me, he’d said to me ‘Oh, I thought about maybe asking you before – but the right thing wasn’t there.'” Anderson recalls.

“So I was just really excited and pleasantly surprised. I thought Chris didn’t like me anymore, because I couldn’t go back for the second series of Broadchurch!”

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In fact, the writer had created the character of Vinder —a fighter pilot and “man of honour” who crops up throughout the new series — with Anderson in mind.

“I didn’t audition for it,” he says. “We just talked about it. He was like, ‘Is it OK if I call you, and talk about this thing?’ But he had no idea that I was a fan.

“I think he was quite shocked, and probably a bit delighted that I was a big fan of the show.

Doctor Who

“Honestly, I would have been happy to have just been there, to do anything. If Chris just asked me to come in for a day, and you don’t even see my face, I would have been like, ‘Absolutely.’

“But instead, I ended up being there for six months!” he laughs. “It was a dream.”

Truly, after years watching from the sidelines, Anderson’s finally living his childhood fantasy – a fact that he can appreciate all the more after some changes to his family during the pandemic.

“Last year, I had a little girl, and she’s amazing,” he says.

“But also, when you have a kid, you really start to connect to all the things that you loved when you were a kid. So it added another layer of significance to get the call that I’ve wanted to get for years.”

A version of this interview appeared in the 30th October-5th November edition of Radio Times magazine.

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