The incredibly beautiful Alex Kingston talks about her role as River Song on Doctor Who and that wonderful, wonderful hair.
“Interviews usually upset me in one way or another.
I lead a very quiet life and never court publicity. I don’t go to a restaurant and let slip I’m leaving by the back door, like some celebrities.
My life isn’t interesting enough for anyone to hack my phone. I don’t agree with people opening up their lives to the public, but we’ve been brainwashed into thinking this is how it must be. I’m just not interested.
I wasn’t quite sure about accepting when I was asked to do two episodes. Living in America I hadn’t followed the resurgence of Doctor Who, but I cried when I read the script to Silence in the Library because it was such a sad story – River Song encounters the Doctor in the 51st century.
It’s similar to Audrey Niffenegger’s novel The Time Traveler’s Wife – two people who have great love for each other, but are never able to meet in the right space or time. The sadness was of a woman with a close connection to the Doctor who sacrifices herself to save his life. I didn’t expect to be asked back.”
Steven Moffat engineers it so we can’t understand. There are so many threads that tie up later and it’s only then you understand why you did or said a certain thing.
You have to trust implicitly he knows where he’s going. It’s clever. He knew River was Amy’s daughter but didn’t tell me because he felt I might empathise with her too much and be tempted to be more close, rather than maternal.”
The stories allow for a heightened form of acting. It’s not kitchen-sink drama and the dialogue can be quite challenging. The humour is very welcome and I love the fact that apart from the basic storylines there are all sorts of things people from different generations can pick up on.
They throw in sneaky references that go over the heads of children but parents and grandparents will understand. In the new episode, Let’s Kill Hitler, there’s a camera angle that directly references The Graduate, which film buffs will get immediately.
Doctor Who and children that are fans.
“That’s its power. It’s part of their development, learning to conquer fear, which the programme does in an incredibly safe way. I remember at seven desperately wanting to see it but knowing I’d be terrified, so I’d either have a cushion in front of my face, or watch through a crack in the door.
Although I squirm when I see myself – I’m super critical – I watch now with my daughter [ten-year-old Salome]. She’s been on the set so tends to deconstruct it. That’s her safety net.
To be honest, Doctor Who fans are a mixture of crazies plus solid citizens, but they’re relentless. On ER I’d be asked just once for an autograph. For these fans once is never enough and I find that a little hard to handle.” She’s had a respite recently as the insecure middle-aged mistress of a prince in a brilliant production of Friedrich Schiller’s 18th-century play Luise Miller, at the Donmar Warehouse in London.
It was exhausting but also thrilling. I enjoyed every minute of it, although each time I came off stage I’d slump in the dressing room and have to gear myself up for the next powerful scene.
Her great hair that she hated as a child.
It’s served me pretty well, so I can’t be mean about it any more.
I’m not sure where my home really is at the moment. I’m due to go back to the States, but I return here more frequently because I’m offered work. In America it’s thin on the ground, although I’ve made a film, Like Crazy, which won the grand jury prize at Sundance Film Festival, so there might be a bit more buzz.
I still consider myself English, and no matter how long – it’s 14 years – I’ve lived in America, enjoy it and have made lovely friends, I still feel an outsider. I understand how this country functions. There’s something in my body and my bones that makes me so comfortable. Just wandering through London I feel incredibly happy and at ease. I let the day take me wherever it leads.
Read more about Alex Kingston and the interview on Radio Times.