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Pearl Mackie Talks One on One to Fans in Live Web Chat

Mackie At Guardian HQ

Ever wanted to ask actress Pearl Mackie about her experience playing Bill in Doctor Who, but aren’t able to travel to a convention for the opportunity? On the 5th of February, The Guardian gave fans a chance to ask the former Doctor Who actress questions in a live chat online. Here are some of the highlights…

Mackie logged into the chat live from Guardian HQ at 12.06 GMT. By 12.12 she had her first Doctor Who question answered. A user asked if Mackie felt any burden by playing an LGBTQ woman of colour, referring to Bill, the companion played by Mackie opposite Peter Capaldi in series 10. Mackie replied, “No, I didn’t feel any kind of burden. Responsibility, yes, but it was an exciting task to represent underrepresented groups. The feedback has been pretty overwhelmingly positive!”

Fans were surprised to find out an astounding cyberman revelation when a fan asked how it felt to play a cyberman. Mackie revealed that she wasn’t actually the one in the suit on screen.

I thought it was a really interesting plot twist. It was a very clever way of exploring the genesis of the Cybermen. Bill is someone who people have always responded reasonably well to – she’s friendly and inquisitive, so for her to experience having an appearance that terrifies people, was really scary for her. But unfortunately it wasn’t me inside the costume. I’m too short. They decided a 5ft 6in Cyberman wouldn’t be scary. And fitting in my afro would have been tough to navigate. So a 6ft 4in man called Liam played him instead. I did have a hand in plotting out his movements though… – Pearl Mackie

When asked if she ever felt the sense of being within the fantasy world she was acting in and her favourite place her character Bill Potts visited, Mackie was happy to reveal that she “totally did” feel transported.

Particularly the episode set in Victorian London. The set designer Michael Pickwoad built a massive bridge that the Tardis was on top of. There was a whole ice fair… It was completely incredible, completely authentic with all the little stalls and so on. – Pearl Mackie

She also stated that her favourite location for Bill Potts was Roman Britain, explaining, “There was lots of running around in woods [and] crawling out of holes in the middle of the night.”

Of course fans felt compelled to ask what advice the former companion has for the new actors about to take on the task of supporting the new Doctor in series 11. First and foremost Mackie exclaimed “Learn your lines! As thoroughly as possible!” She admitted she was sure they are already aware of that though, modestly explaining that the actors playing the new companions have more experience than she did. She then continued her advice, “Enjoy yourself, play around, there’s a lot of room for interpretation in the scripts. Explore all the possibilities. Mostly, have fun […] and appreciate what a crazy ride you’re on.”

The actress recalled a moment in Smile ,which is the second episode of series 10, when asked about the funniest moment of filming on set with fellow actor Peter Capaldi.

We were filming a big scene with lots of supporting artists. Peter had this big speech and he’d pressed the reset button and everyone had collapsed. So the SAs were all lying on the floor for quite a long time. And everyone’s silent, listening to Peter’s big speech. Then suddenly you could hear this sound of snoring. Ridiculous, actual snoring. The guy on the floor didn’t even wake up. Someone had to go over and give him a nudge. – Pearl Mackie

Not all questions were of a serious nature and everyone seemed to be having fun. When asked about whether she would rather fight a Dalek size chicken or 100 chicken size Daleks, Pearl confirmed she would go for the Dalek size chicken, commenting “Chickens don’t have weaponry, right?”

However, not everyone got a reply and many questions went unanswered. After an hour of sifting through posts from fans, Mackie thanked all the participants for their questions, said goodbye and logged off of the chat. I am sure if the actress had more time she would have loved to give each and every one of the comments a personal reply.  If only she knew someone with access to a time machine.