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Interview With Doctor Who Legend Katy Manning - Part 2
By James Whittington, Tuesday 2nd June 2015

Katy ManningMulti-talented Katy Manning has been acting and directing for over 40 years but to Doctor Who fans across the globe she will always be associated with the character of Jo Grant. Companion to the Third Doctor, Jo was brought vividly to life by Katy and so became a fan favourite.

We were lucky enough to chat with Katy and here in the second part of an exclusive interview Katy talks more about Jo, her return to the character and her plans for the future.

HC: Was Jon Pertwee very different in private then he was in public?

KM: No, on some levels no. But on other levels there was an adventurous child lived inside Jon.  Of course I still have child in me and never grew up. He had a very silly sense of humour which you didn’t see much in public. He took the job very seriously which was wonderful he’s that kind of actor, a bit like (Peter) Capaldi.  We worked really hard if we thought there was something illogical in script we’d stop and work on it. Some people would say he was difficult, I don’t think that’s difficult I think that is caring. If you really care about what you’re doing, you’re going to want to make sure that every little bit along with everyone else if you see something you’ve got to put your hand up and say so. This was technically Jon’s first straight role and this was very, very important to him. But for me he was a joy to work with and if he did get a bit difficult I was the one sent in to make it fine again.

HC: We’re showing a couple of your adventures on the Horror Channel; Terror Of The Autons and Carnival Of Monsters, do you have a favourite one between the two?

KM: Well obviously Terror Of The Autons as it was my first one, that was the one I did my leg in and had to go to hospital and some naughty boy said that they’ll recast as I’d only did a minute on film and I was in tears, Jon nearly killed him! He said, “How dare you wind her up!” (begins to laugh), anyway when we got into the studio and I can’t see and I didn’t have my glasses with me I went to shake hands with Jon and they had put up all this laboratory stuff and all I could see was a blur of tubing so I put my hand through the machinery (laughs) which set jo up straight away. It as a lovely moment to the start of this couple who got on very well.

HC: I have to ask, what’s your favourite moment from working on the series itself?

KM: Oh, that’s an impossible question to answer for anybody who has been it. You can’t have a favourite memory, you can have so many, the stories just go on and on and on, I’m not very good at picking favourites in anything such as what’s your favourite piece of music, I have 92 pieces! Because every moment tells a different kind of story. I suppose, for me really, meeting Jon for the first time, the nerves and the excitement is something I’ll never really forget and I’ll forget being rushed to hospital with all those torn ligaments! Going right through to the very end, all those emotions and most emotional endings you know, no dialogue was necessary.

HC: Yes, The Green Death is a brilliant story, a cracking sucker punch ending, as you do think she’ll come back. This is really where the series matured.

KM: It was lovely when Russell T Davis wrote that one for me to come back, (Jo Grant appeared in Death Of The Doctor, an episode of of The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2010) he couldn’t have gotten her story better , it really was a wonderful return and the storyline as that is exactly how one could see would have happened with Jo.

HC: Did you have any reservations about bringing her back to the screen?

KM: Oh yes, I thought who wants to see Granny Grant? (laughs) It never crossed my mind for a second. Its nothing something that goes through your mind through your career wondering if you’ll ever come back again, it just would have never gone through my mind. When I was offered it it was just completely out of the blue. That’s the wonderful thing about life isn’t it? You don’t plan it it just happens. And when I read the script I just couldn’t have imagined it a better way of putting Jo’s life down. The Doctor to her, she married Stuart’s character, the Professor he was the closest anyone could be to the Doctor plus the fact she decided that she wanted to look after this planet and that’s exactly what she did and continued her work on this planet and everything she had learned she’s learned from the Doctor. I thought that was lovely.

HC: So what was it like working with Matt?

KM: Ah! What a treat. Now there’s an example of a wonderful, fascinating actor. Just his physicality is brilliant and made him slightly of another world where as Capaldi’s head and thought processes make him of another world, its very exciting to see all these actors playing the same character so uniquely and to work with Matt, what a darling boy and wonderful actor and to be with Liz which was divine because the two characters work so well together.

HC: Sarah Jane Smith was a wonderful character, and Liz played her perfectly

KM: We had such a joyous time working together as she took over from me working with Jon and she said boy you don’t know how difficult it was because everything she did he’d say, “Well Katy would…”

HC: Does it feel like over 40 years since you first played Jo?

KM: No, I don’t do time at all. It’s when I see the dreadful fashions that I realise how long ago it was. I have no concept of time at all. I really don’t. It just is. My memory is very strange, I don’t remember in years I remember in stories. People ask me about things in years and I tell them I don’t remember.

HC: You’re a very talented person, Katy. You’re a writer, actress, director do you have a favourite role or job?

KM: I love doing it all. Being able to play using 26 voices in a play. It’s scary but I can slip in and out of voices and interrupts myself in a different voice and emotion frighteningly easily. I love multi-voicing and its kind of one of my strengths. I love the process of writing. There are things I wouldn’t be interested in writing things that are not logical to me, there has to be random as that’s the way I think. I love directing, absolutely love directing and I find it deeply satisfying. People said would you like to direct and I’d say no but I did and I loved it. Actually acting is where my heart, my whole soul lies. Its what I get up every day for. I said to my children, “When I talk we’ll eat”. What an extraordinary thing to happen in your life to land a job like that and suddenly find when you’re 103 like I am now(!), there’s little plastic figurines, and you’ve been on postage stamps its so exciting and its still going and I have like now four generations of fans and thanks to Sarah Jane Mysteries I have picked up all these young ones and these young kids are watching the old Doctor Who.

HC: Do you find it surreal when someone makes another figurine of you or when you appear on a t-shirt?

KM: Its gobsmacking, as I say to my kids, “This is all I’ve got to leave you darlings, plastic figures and a few postage stamps!” (laughs) It is lovely and what’s heart-warming too is the fan mail that comes in from 5 to 95. How many shows have that size following in terms of age group?

HC: You must be very proud of the character of Jo?

KM: I loved her, I thought she was wonderful. I thought she was feisty, she was naughty, she was friendly and yet how many times did she say, “No, take me not him!”? That was very cool I think a lot of what Jo was like got lost in the way of miniskirts. I got associated with screaming a lot but you know I think I screamed less than some of the other girls.

HC: Yes, because she was very different.

KM: Yes! And people will say, “Yes, Jo. Wore miniskirts. Screamed a lot!”, well no! I screamed when necessary! Very rarely. But you had to be able to that was one of the pre requisite of being a Doctor Who girl! I thought she was lovely because she was modern and she appealed to the teenagers, she appealed to the fathers and the kids as she would ask what things meant and as soon as she was told not to do something she would do it.

HC: She was a good role model.

KM: I think she was absolutely lovely and she was a joy to play, and although she was associated with UNIT she was always with the Doctor.  She could hang out on any planet!

HC: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?

KM: It sounds awful doesn’t it, as people have huge ambitions I live very much in the moment, I literally enjoy life by the moment and that way I’m always surprised, always excited and always on an adventure. If you have plans and hopes you can always be let down and disappointed and I don’t see the point in that. When I got Casualty it was a lovely surprise. I never have a plan, if I can just keep on working I’m a happy person.

HC: So what are you up to at the moment?

KM: As I’ve just mentioned, I’ve done a Casualty (laughs) my character loves animals (hello!) and appears in hospital with a dog and is a lady who runs a therapeutic farm so there’s little bit of Jo in there.

HC: And does she wear miniskirts?!

KM: (laughs) No, that’s not something I’ll inflict on anyone again! I did a wonderful play with Susan Penhalligan who I did a Doctor Who with which we did at the Edinburgh Festival. 2014 was a really busy year, recently I’ve been to America twice, back to Australia and I’m going back! So I’m keeping going, darling, keep going and fortunately the work just pops up and says, “Hello”.

HC: Katy Manning, thank you so much.


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