Lots of actors and actresses would love the opportunity to be cast as a companion to the Doctor, but just how does one go about getting such an amazing and iconic role? In Pearl Mackie’s case it was a combination of talent, luck and availability.
The Doctor Who series 10 DVD set releasing November 13th has some great bonus features including one entitled Becoming the Companion. This 15 minute video takes a look back at how Pearl Mackie became the colourful, energetic sidekick of the 12th Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi.
Mackie wasn’t well known outside of her theatre work at the time but it was her theatre experience that caused her name to come up for the part at all. Casting Assistant Ri McDaid-Wren had attended one of Mackie’s shows at Park Theatre. McDaid-Wren gave Mackie’s name to Doctor Who casting director, Andy Pryor, who thought the actress seemed “very fresh, very modern” and decided to give her a chance at the role of companion.
Later Mackie, who had been performing in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, found that there had been an availability check done on her. As she had no plans on spending another year performing the show, she was available to take on any new role that came her way. When she was told that the availability check was for Doctor Who she recalls bursting out into laughter and saying “That’s amazing, amazing and hilarious, and I’m never gonna get that”.
Steven Moffat had written out a mock script for the auditions that gave a basic idea of what he was looking for in the Doctor’s new companion. On the 8th of March, 2016 they had Pearl do a final audition for the role where she was able to act along side Peter Capaldi, which is common to check for chemistry. The audition, which took place in the Soho Hotel, was uncomfortable for actor Peter Capaldi, as he explains,”I’m an actor, so I tend to empathise with everybody, with all the actors. So I want to give everybody the job!”
Mackie recalls starting out the audition sitting down, but after standing up to perform the scene rather than just reciting the lines was suggested by Capaldi, everything got much more exciting. Capaldi was running around the room as though he were inside the TARDIS which was a bit daunting for actress Pearl Mackie, but as that was exactly the reaction her character would be experiencing for the scene being performed it worked out for the best! Mackie got cast for the role of Bill Potts and the rest is history.
See Mackie’s final performance as Bill in Twice Upon a Time, airing on Christmas day.