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Feature: Doctor Who (2000s)

New crew

Now Billie Piper is gone, come and meet her successor Freema Agyeman, the lady who’ll be the new face of Saturday nights

It’s the calm before the storm for Freema Agyeman. Today she can live her life in relative anonymity, pop out to the shops without being recognized, and pick up a tabloid without fear of some minor aspect of her life being splashed across the front pages. By the end of March, all that will have changed.

Once Smith & Jones, the opening episode of Doctor Who’s third season, has aired, incoming companion Martha Jones will have been taken into the hearts of the nation. Agyeman will become a household name, and doubtlessly will be recognized as one of the hottest new stars of 2007.

As we meet in the bar of a London hotel in late January, the actress admits a sense of nervous excitement.

“I feel like I’ve been running on adrenalin for the past few months,” she tells TV Zone. “It’s quite funny, but a friend of mine was saying to me, ‘At what point are you going to calm down about it?’ I said, ‘I don’t know – when it naturally happens, but right now I’m still buzzing off it all!’

“Every so often something will happen on set that will snap me back into the awareness that I am actually the Doctor’s companion. You might slightly start to get complacent and treat it like a day job, and then a Dalek will roll onto the set. And you’ll be like, ‘This is unbelievable!’ I’m fully aware of my situation and I’m grateful.”

Flash back in Time one year, and Agyeman had just finished shooting a small supporting role in the Season Two story Army of Ghosts, playing the doomed Torchwood operative Adeola. Unbeknown to her, the job was actually a try-out for Billie Piper’s replacement, with the show’s producers keeping her under close scrutiny. She passed the test, and was encouraged to attend another audition, supposedly for a regular role in Torchwood. But that was a fabrication and by the time of her third audition, which comprised a screen test with David Tennant, Agyeman had learned that she was being considered to play the new companion in Doctor Who.

“My agent said, ‘You’re going to have to go up to Cardiff tomorrow with the casting director to have a screen test with David at the producers’ home’,” Agyeman recalls. “I didn’t even know where to begin getting nervous about that. It’s like so beyond what you can prepare for.

“So I just decided to roll with it. As it happened I hit it off amazingly with the casting director travelling up on the train, and when I got to my hotel there was a note from David. It just dissolved any nerves I had. It said, ‘We’ll have fun tomorrow, be yourself, it’s fine. And sorry we all had to lie for so long!’

“I went to bed, woke up as light as a feather in the morning and thought, ‘They’re not here to put obstacles in my way right now.’ I walked in and it was like being among friends. David was so good to me, which I dare say helped me get the job.”

by David Richardson

Read the full interview in
TV Zone #213

Photo © BBC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone #213
April 2007
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