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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 502 > PRYOR EXPERIENCE

PRYOR EXPERIENCE

He’s the man in charge of the casting process on Doctor Who, and so he’s played a crucial role in deciding who gets to play all of the show’s crucial roles!
PHOTO: FRANTZESCO KANGARIS /EYEVINE

On Saturday 23 April 2016, in the middle of a football match, Pearl Mackie was unveiled as the Doctor’s new companion, Bill. In a specially shot, two-minute scene, Friend from the Future, aired on BBC One. That’s Doctor Who. Interrupting the FA Cup Semi-Final between Everton and Manchester United. The more you think about it, the more brilliantly nuts it seems.

“I find it really exciting, and slightly surreal, and a little bit crazy,” says the man who cast her, Andy Pryor. “It’s so rare for a piece of casting to be announced in that way. I loved the juxtaposition of Doctor Who with football. Traditionally, we don’t imagine Doctor Who fans as being big football fans, and vice versa, but it was a bit of a stroke of genius to do it that way, because the announcement of Pearl’s casting became a national event, whether you’re into football or not. And I’m certainly not,” he adds.

Pearl Mackie on set during her first full week of shooting.

Just as well right now, Andy.

“Yeah, probably for the best. But everyone is aware of those big footballing events, and it was such an exciting thought that people were turning on the TV, live, particularly in this age of everything being streamed, or downloaded, or watched on catch-up. I don’t often watch

TV live – I record stuff or watch on iPlayer – but actually, that Saturday, I remember planning my day around the football, making sure I was home to have the telly on for Match of the Day, and that was the weirdest, nicest feeling. It was a feeling

I hadn’t had for a long time, wanting to be there for the event. And it was slightly nerve-racking, because the internet these days, Twitter, etc, can rip people apart – some people will absolutely love things, others will absolutely loathe them – so you have to be quite thick-skinned. In the event, it was a lot of fun to read Twitter, which was largely, overwhelmingly positive about Pearl’s casting.”

Does Andy often go searching for Twitter’s reaction to his work?

“We could have cast several people as Bill – but there was something about Pearl that made us all pay attention...”

“In the early days, I did a bit. I remember when Doctor Who first filmed in public with Catherine Tate [Donna], for The Runaway Bride [2006], on top of a building somewhere, we were all watching the internet, seeing whether anyone rumbled us. These days, I don’t have time to pour over Twitter, except during big announcements or the transmission of key episodes. You kind of want to see what people are saying, but not take it on board. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a TV show or film that’s had a 100% positive response. There are always naysayers about everything. People just like other people to listen to their opinions.”

It’s the last week of June 2016, and we’re drinking tea on the rooftop of the Farringdon offices where Andy and his casting team are based. The view over London, that skyline, is spectacular. “Glorious, isn’t it?” says Andy, who has been Doctor Who’s casting director since the show returned to TV in 2005. “I come up here whenever I can, though usually on sunnier days than this.”

When DWM last interviewed Andy, in the summer of 2012, Matt Smith was still the Doctor, post-production was underway on that year’s five-episode run, and recording had begun in earnest on 2013’s episodes. I wonder how Andy’s life has changed since 2012. For a start, he’s now a married man. “I was civilly partnered back then,” he recalls. “I hadn’t yet upgraded. The upgrade made us very happy, particularly because they backdate it to the date of your civil partnership, which we got in 2009. We had a big do, which Matt [Smith] and Karen [Gillan] came to, but when we did the upgrade last year, Tim and I just went on our own to the registry office, did it, and went and had a nice lunch. It was lovely.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

DWM 502 looks forward to the new TARDIS team of the Doctor, Bill and Nardole! Contents include exclusive interviews with showrunner Steven Moffat and with casting director Andy Pryor; artist Mike Collins shows how he created the storyboards for the 2015 series Doctor Who; the new comic strip, The Pestilent Heart by Mark Wright continues; the history of DWM with BBC Enterprises in the mag's earliest days is revealed; the Time Team watch Amy's Choice; The Fact of Fiction focuses on the 1973 Third Doctor adventure, Frontier in Space; plus prize-winning competitions, official news, reviews, previews and much, much more!
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