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Feature: Doctor Who

Herself

With a second series of about to air, Billie Piper talks about her rise to becoming the UK’s favourite actress

IKEA must be doing very nicely out of Billie Piper. After all, it takes a hell of a lot of shelving to display all those awards she’s pulled in over the last year – everything from the National Television Award for Best Actress, to The South Bank Show’s Most Promising Newcomer. Which makes her both the popular choice and the critics’ favourite, and an artist who in just 12 months has smashed the popular conception of her as a faded teen pop star and become the UK’s most wanted actress.

Meeting Piper brings something of a surprise, as one almost expects someone who believes in their own publicity. Yet she’s quietly adorable and slightly shy; at just 23 years old she’s managed to stay grounded while besieged by the ranks of tabloid press that have hounded her for years.

For Piper, the media spotlight is the least appealing part of the job.

“Sometimes it’s a bit of a drag when journalists call you or your family,” she tells The Works. “It would be nicer just to do the job without all that. But over the past five years, I’ve taken a different approach. Now I get over it. I don’t let it become an issue – I just ignore it. It doesn’t hurt you that way.

“I don’t read stuff about me anymore. If I see a picture of myself in a magazine, I just turn the page. But I still read about everyone else! There’s no denying that I love to flick through those celebrity magazines when I’m getting my hair done. I know it’s wrong. I recognize that, but once I start reading one of those magazines, I just can’t put it down!”

Born in Swindon in 1982, Billie Paul Piper studied at the Sylvia Young Theatre School as a child, and was chosen as the poster girl for music magazine Smash Hits. Those pictures would change her life: spotted by record producers at the age of 15, she was turned into an overnight sensation, with her first single Because We Want To making its début at number one in the UK charts, with the follow-up Girlfriend hitting the same position. In 2001 she married DJ Chris Evans, and the paparazzi were never far away. In 2005 the couple separated, but remain best friends. Through it all, Piper kept her sights on a career in acting – even if the pop princess tag was hard to shake off.

“It was only news to the rest of the world that I wanted to be an actress,” she insists. “I went to Sylvia Young’s to study acting, it was my first love and always has been. I couldn’t combine both careers, as one would have suffered from trying to do too much. It was just a matter of time before I ventured into acting again.

“Coming into Doctor Who didn’t scare me because what was on the page was so fantastic, and when I met Russell T Davies he was just such an incredible force – I felt I just had to work with him.”

by James Rampton and Richard Houldsworth

Read the full interview in
The Works #A05

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

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The Works #A05, see below for ordering options
The Works #A05
April 2006
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