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In Conversation With Sean Benedict Star Of ‘A Town Called Mercy’

On Tuesday 4th September, Emrys Matthews of The Gallifrey Times sat down with Sean Benedict, an actor who plays the character of Dockery in the upcoming episode of Doctor Who, ‘A Town Called Mercy,’ here’s what transpired.The Gallifrey Times: Hi Sean, how did you get in to acting?

Sean Benedict: I was chasing a girl in 8th grade. I wanted to be in Midsummer Night’s Dream with her, cause I thought she was really cute, but she hated me for years. But then she broke her leg and wasn’t even in the show. I ended up loving it and I figured if I can make a living doing this then I’ve cheated.

T.G.T: You’re from Moorehead, Minnesota but live in London, how does the UK compare to the US?

S.B: I’ve been here for four years now; three years in Liverpool and one in London. The differences aren’t enormous, they mostly come with the food and the weather, also, the nature of confrontation is very different here. I find most English people fairly passive aggressive, you can get away with anything; particularly in the service industry. But if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t be here.

T.G.T: Did you like or know of Doctor Who before you were cast?

S.B: I had limited knowledge. I was definitely aware of it. I have a lot of friends back home [in Minnesota] who are big fans, especially since David Tennant started in the role; that was when the show began it’s outreach in to America.

I sort of knew it was like: crazy, high jinx, space time inspector. A kind of Sherlock Holmes in space with high jinx.

I started watching it and I thought it was awesome. I really enjoyed it. As soon as I got the audition I started watching as much as I could. The episode that I’m in isn’t particularly cogent with the usual form, it’s a sort of Monster of the Week kind of episode.

T.G.T: You mentioned the monster of the week. In A Town Called Mercy it’s the Gunslinger. What can you tell us about him and do you have a favourite Doctor Who monster?

S.B: People always say this, but the [Weeping] Angels. It was the first episode of Doctor Who I saw. It wasn’t the original, Blink, it was the one that Matt Smith did [The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone], and I thought it was killer, they were really cool monsters.

The Gunslinger’s really cool. The actor playing him [Andrew Brooke] is really cool too, we got along really well. He was sort of like a mentor to me. I can’t wait to see what they do with his voice and the modulation. I’m really excited to see how they do the CGI stuff. As a character: He’s not evil, he’s a reasonable person, he can definitely reason.

T.G.T: Who’s your favourite Doctor?

S.B: I’m gonna say Matt Smith, because he’s the one I’ve seen the most of, and the only one I’ve met personally.

T.G.T: How did you get the job?

S.B: My agent sent me up for it. I had a couple of days to look at the sides [scenes] I’d been given. I did get to read the whole episode, as it stood at that moment. I went in, did a couple of readings, made a really, really bad colloquialism that wasn’t even a colloquialism and then I found out a couple days later. Three weeks after that we went to Cardiff for the read-through.

Fort Bravo, Almería, Spain.

T.G.T: Obviously you were filming on location at Fort Bravo in Almería, Spain, how was that?

S.B: It was super cool. A lot of spaghetti westerns were shot there. They had the saloon and the horse tie spots and the gallows, it was like being in The Quick and The Dead. I’d never been to spain before, it was beautiful, every day was just gorgeous.

T.G.T: So, it was quite authentic, did that help with your performance?

S.B: Without a doubt, that and shoes. When you get your character shoes on then you’re set. But if you’re on location with your character shoes then you’re golden.

T.G.T: You mentioned The Quick and The Dead, how au fait with Westerns were you with before you were cast?

S.B: There had been a few that I had enjoyed in the past. I’m a huge fan of The Quick and The Dead, I love Leo Dicaprio; and Sharon Stone is smokin’ in that movie. Also the classics like Quigley Down Under and Tombstone. I’ve never been a huge fan of Westerns, but if there’s a good one on I’ll watch it.

Sean as Dockery

T.G.T: The character you play is called Dockery, what can you tell us about him?

S.B: People said he looks like Butch Cassidy. He’s a young gun, just trying to do right by his people but he doesn’t know exactly what right is; he’s a conflicted individual. He’s one of the front men, in line with the priest but below the sheriff, a kind of deputy to be.

T.G.T: What was it like working with Matt Smith?

S.B: It was cool. I was a little bit nervous to talk to him because he’s got this rapport with Karen [Gillan] and Arthur [Darvill]. You want to be included but you don’t want to step on their toes. He’s really easy to work with and he’s very tactful.

This is my first real professional acting job and my very first scene was my biggest scene with Matt. I was brickin’ it, it was a night shoot, we were out there until three in the morning but he was really patient with me when I screwed up a couple of times. And afterwards he said he didn’t even know it was my first shoot. He’s a really nice guy.

T.G.T: What was it like working with Arthur Darvill?

S.B: Arthur and I get along really well. He’s a musically gifted man. He can just bust out a tune. There was this horse on set named moonshine that he wrote a song about and sang constantly. He and Karen were just singing constantly. It was so funny, we all joined in and made up our own verses. At one point he went into the saloon on set and just busted it out on piano. It was amazing.

T.G.T: Can Karen sing?

S.B: I’m sure she can. I don’t think she was really trying. She’s certainly not tone deaf. It was more jokey singing so I can’t say I have fair judgement.

T.G.T: What was it like working with Karen Gillan?

S.B: I had a huge crush on Karen before I went to set, but then I got there and she was a good four inches taller than me and I was like: alight, definitely out of my league. But she’s lovely, really fun. Fun to act with and really easy to get along with.

T.G.T: A Town Called Mercy boasts an impressive guest cast including Adrian Scarborough (Upstairs Downstairs, King’s Speech, Gosford Park, Gavin and Stacey) What was it like to work with him?

S.B: I didn’t know he was in any of that. Is was better that I didn’t know when I met him, because I wasn’t intimidated. It was cool to just hang out, have a drink and eat some tapas.

T.G.T: And Ben Browder (Farscape, Stargate SG-1) Did you know him?

S.B: I used to watch both of those shows with my dad when I was a kid. Farscape, Firefly and Stargate SG-1 were my sort of birth into sci-fi. He’s kind of a hero. He was chilled and cool, nothing phased him. He knew what he was doing every night, he didn’t get wrapped up in anything and he stood his ground when he disagreed with the director. He didn’t let me down at all.

Garrick Hagon as Biggs Darklighter
in Star Wars IV: A New Hope.

T.G.T: Also Garrick Hagon (Star Wars – Biggs Darklighter, Mission Impossible, Classic Doctor Who) What did you make of him?

S.B: Legend! Biggs Darklighter, I met him! Such a cool guy. He had so many great stories to tell.

T.G.T: What was your favourite story he told you?

S.B: He’s got a house in Spain, and he’s got this wooden plaque that one of the locals made for him: a chiselled out plaque of him dressed as Biggs. He went and picked it up on one of his days off and it was amazing. A pretty impressive gift.

T.G.T: Finally, Andrew Brooke (PhoneShop) You said he was like a mentor to you?

S.B: He was really cool. He was like a mentor to me, especially because he was there at the read-through and I rode with him in the taxi to get there. There was an instant kinship. He was excellent,  and really nice. He walked me through a couple of things when I had questions and had advice for me. He was excellent.

T.G.T: There have been quite a few pictures released with a few characters with tattoos down the left side of their faces, can you tell us anything about that?

S.B: I’m not going to reveal anything in regards to that. I think that’ll be better served in the episode.

T.G.T: What was it like working with the Director, Saul Metzstein?
S.B: He had a lot of purple trousers. That seemed like his ‘director’s stand-piece.’ You know, some directors have the hat, some have the chair, he had the trousers.

He was pretty aware that it was my first job, so he was really pleasant and easy with me. If he wanted something out of me he gave me a couple of tries to get it. He was very nurturing, very easy to get on with both on and off the set, lovely guy.

T.G.T: When you met Steven Moffat at the read-through did you talk to him much? 

S.B: No, I was too intimidated. That guy is a legend and he was caught up in what he was doing anyway.

“That’s a wrap.”

T.G.T: What was your favourite memory from the whole experience?

S.B: That’s tough. Probably wrapping my first night of shooting. It was my biggest scene, just me and Matt. It was great having done it, having it out of the way, feeling good about it and getting lots of nice compliments from everybody; whether or not they were true or not is debatable.

When I had finished, the first A.D. Nick, said: “Ladies and Gentlemen introducing Sean Benedict,” and they all clapped and I said “aww, thanks guys.” It felt so cool.

T.G.T: Finally, how would you sum up the episode, as succinctly as possible but without any spoilers?

S.B: That’s a challenge. It’s a story of moral ambiguity, how you justify actions in a time of war and how that causes you to evoke a humanity in each other even if you don’t want to see it.

T.G.T: Thanks for your time Sean. 

S.B: Thanks Emrys. You’re welcome.

You can see Sean as Dockery in A Town Called Mercy this Saturday 15th at 7:35pm on BBC One and BBC One HD!