Sunday, July 31, 2011

Manchester Comic Con - Anjli Mohindra Q&A

This Saturday saw the first ever Manchester Comic Con and, with Anjli Mohindra as one of the guests (Daniel Anthony pulled out due to work commitments – actors, eh?), I was sent by to report on the event. It was of course never going to be as big as San Diego Comic Con – Anjli was the third most famous person there after Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2, and Craig Charles from Red Dwarf and Coronation Street – but nevertheless it turned out to be an enjoyable day all round.

One of the highlights of the day came early on when I had the opportunity to stroll straight past the queue of thousands of costumed fans waving my press pass. This plan to get in quick and interview Anjli before the Expo got busy proved to be a tad pointless when I realised that she wouldn’t arrive for another hour and a half. Nonetheless, I enjoyed browsing the stalls.

Kenny Baker was offering signed photographs. With the relaxed atmosphere of the pre-crowds centre, I courteously allowed the two girls nearby to approach Kenny ahead of me. “Do you have to pay for the photos?” they asked. “Of course not, that would be silly,” I thought. “Yes, £20” said the man next to Kenny who probably had an unhappy childhood. I walked away and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. C-3PO was cooler anyway.

The expo filled up quickly and, despite my usual annoyance with crowds, a plethora of fantastic costumes and free hugs gave the convention centre a fun and frivolous atmosphere. However, I think Craig Charles looked at me angrily after I walked past him blankly for the third time. Hard to tell through those sunglasses he insisted on wearing.

When Anjli finally arrived at her signing table, I was told that I could not have an interview immediately, because I’d be holding up the enormous queue of kids, but could if I waited for the queue to die down. Over the five and a half hours I spent at the conference (maybe there’s a lunch break or two in there somewhere), this never happened. Instead, I decided to record the Q&A session with Anjli and use my best questions in that. And that, folks, is my excuse for not getting a proper interview. I must also say that Anjli was lovely, extremely friendly with enthusiastic children and inexperienced reporters alike, and kind enough (or not famous enough) not to charge for signed photos.

Here are the highlights from the Q&A:

Favourite episode to film?

I really enjoyed doing The Empty Planet, the one where everyone’s disappeared and it’s just me and Clyde, not because I fancy him though, just because it was fun to do.

Favourite character?

Sarah Jane, all day every day!

How did you feel when Lis Sladen died?

It was a shock, I didn’t actually believe it for a very long time and then I went to Cardiff and that’s when it sunk in, but she was amazing. She might not be here but she’s still very much present if you know what I mean. I really miss her, she was an amazing lady and we’ll remember her forever. Ever and always.

What's happening with the future of the series?

We’re not actually sure, we’ve done six extra episodes last year when we filmed series four, so we’d be able to keep them in the bank and then film another six and put them all out this year in a series. Obviously, we’re just gonna stick with those six, I think, and just send them out in autumn. Err, we’ll see, I’m not sure to be honest, but there’ll definitely be another six in autumn.

Can you tell us anything about the plots of the upcoming episodes?

Ah can I? We meet a new character; a new long term character comes into the show, but I can’t tell you anything about them. Something awful happens to Clyde, I can’t tell you what, then we meet a man who isn’t what he seems to be. There we are. That’s all I can say.

What was it like working with David Tennant?

He’s amazing, he’s absolutely amazing. I remember on the first day of filming, I was really tired, I’d had a late night before, and he just jumped on the sofa with his sonic screwdriver and started doing all his stuff. He just makes you feel really energised because he’s so fun to be around, and he’s Scottish, which is just like, one minute he’s speaking in an English accent and a few minutes later he’s Scottish. Woo, go Scotland!

What about working with Matt Smith?

I know you’re going to say I said the exact same thing about David Tennant, but amazing! Both Matt Smith and David bring totally different things to their characters. David was quite old-school with his Doctor and Matt Smith is quite young and spunky and added lots of new flash things to him. They both have such fun with their characters. I really, really enjoyed working with [Matt]. We just gelled, he’s a pretty cool guy, very good looking, which helps, he’s got a girlfriend though, so… what can you do?

Is Matt Smith in the new series?

I can’t tell you that. I can’t tell you, you’ll have to watch it.

Luke or Clyde?

Oh, I can’t answer that! That’s impossible. Sometimes Luke more than Clyde, sometimes Clyde more than Luke. I don’t know, as a character I think I prefer Luke because Clyde’s jokes get a bit tiring, but as people, I love them both. I know that’s a rubbish answer, but it’s true.

How did you get into the acting career?

I wanted to do it ever since I was really tiny and then I went to a drama group in Nottingham, which is where I live, and I went there every year until I was thirteen or fourteen. Then I got my first job on Doctors, which is a BBC programme on during the day that old people or people that don’t work watch. I was a gobby teenager with a bad attitude problem and a bad acne problem. It’s good, it’s alright, I wasn’t very good in it. If anybody wanted to go into acting I’d say just go to a local group or do it at school. Just keep doing it, doing it, doing it and you’ll find that opportunities will just come to you if you’re really passionate about it.

Why did you want to be in The Sarah Jane Adventures?

I watched it when Yasmin Paige was in it and I really liked it. Then I got a call from my drama teacher to ask me if I wanted to have a go and I did and then I was cast. And for ages actually I didn’t believe it because I’m a little bit older than Rani and when I went to audition everybody was really small, a lot smaller than I was. So, for ages when we started filming, for the first month, I kept thinking someone was gonna come up to me and say “I’m really sorry but we’ve made a massive mistake and it’s not actually you”, but nobody’s said anything yet, so they obviously haven’t made a mistake.

How did you feel when you first started on the show?

Like I said, I thought it was a mistake. I just fumbled along waiting for someone to say “I’m really sorry but you’re not supposed to be here” but then something really embarrassing happened. They have these microphones that they stick to your tops, so when you’re running they can hear everything you say and I forgot to turn it off when I went for a wee. Then I came out and everyone was staring at me for ages making “drip, drip, drip” noises and I didn’t know for a week until somebody told me. It was really embarrassing. Could have been worse, I could have been having a poo.

Are you going to appear in Doctor Who?

I wish! That would be absolutely amazing! I keep hinting that I would like to, but no, I don’t know. Maybe one day.

Who’s your favourite alien from the show?

It’s gotta be the Graske, man. All day every day. Those three little tentacles when he’s running, there’s no way you’re not laughing.

Which alien were you scared of most?

Probably Androvax, the idea that he could just possess you was quite frightening.

If you could play any alien, which one would you choose?

I think I’d be the Trickster, I think he’s the most powerful really out of all the aliens, and also I’d just love the experience of wearing a pair of tights on my head, which is what they used to do. [To the man who asked this question] What about you? [He says “Zygon”] Yeah, I know which ones you mean. They haven’t come back since, have they? I wonder why. The costumes from classic Doctor Who were always like tinfoil and little bits of lycra. I quite like that DIY-ness about it all. I would love to have the Cybermen on Sarah Jane, but we’re not allowed, because if we show that we can defeat Cybermen then that apparently makes Doctor Who look weak. If a bunch of kids can defeat the Cybermen, then really… That’s why don’t get any of them really, we’ve never had the Daleks or the Cybermen. It’s not fair, we could take them!

What’s your most memorable moment from filming?

Getting gunked is the most frightening experience, because it’s the day when half the crew that you’ve never met before who don’t really work on the set just turn up randomly, which is such a coincidence. They just sat there with bags of popcorn watching and you’ve got costume literally biting their nails and sweating because if anything goes wrong and you laugh then the whole set, all of you and your clothes and your hair and your make up, everything has to be rewashed and started again, so if you laugh or smirk or say a line wrong you actually get in so much trouble.

Have you seen any of the old Doctor Who and, if so, who was your favourite Doctor?

I didn’t until now and my favourite one has got to be Nick Baker, I think, but it changes, it changes all the time. Sometimes I’ll watch an episode with Matt in and I’ll just think “I totally love that” like The Lodger. That for me was one of the best, in the first series with Matt. They’re all just so different, they all bring such a different thing to it, it’s really hard to say. [To the person who asked this question] Who’s Yours? [He says “Tom Baker”] Tom Baker. Cool. Did I say Nick Baker? I meant Tom Baker. That’s so embarrassing. I’ve got a friend called Nick Baker and he’s not a doctor.

What was it like working with Nick Courtney?

Amazing! He’s such a dude. He was a proper gentleman and he was really funny. He’d just sit there and wouldn’t feel the need to enter conversations too much and then he’d just say one really quippy line and have everyone on the floor in stitches. He was cool.

There are some fantastic inventions on the show; if you could take one home and make it real, which one would it be and why?

That thing that Clyde and Luke have where they press a button and Maria’s there talking to them from America and she’s 3D or when the vulture creatures appear to tell us that Matt Smith’s dead and they’re 3D holograms. I’d love that. How cool would that be? You’d just get your mates to be around your house all the time in hologram form. I’d love that.

What would you do if you weren’t an actor?

Have you ever seen Spooks? I want to be in MI5. Although I can’t now, because I’ve told you, so they’d never employ me. That’s what I’d do, I think.

What other projects are you currently working on besides SJA?

I’m going to the Edinburgh Fringe festival as soon as I’ve done this and I did a show called Beaver Falls, which is like the new Inbetweeners, which is coming out soon.

Anjli's Edinburgh Fringe show, The Curse of the Devil's Verse by Nic Harvey, is on from the 3rd to the 13th of August. As she said, look our for her in Beaver Falls, currently showing on E4 on Wednesdays, and the new series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, coming to the BBC this autumn.
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