The Interview

DWO interviews Actress, Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant - companion to The Third Doctor in the The Classic Series of Doctor Who.

You have been playing Jo Grant since 1970 on television and more recently in Big Finish’s range of Companion Chronicles. How do you think your approach to playing Jo has changed?

Do you mean when I came back, forty years later? Well, actually, not much had to change as Jo was out there and she wasn’t going to stay with The Doctor, which was a very sad parting because I think The Doctor and she had a very special relationship. However, she meets a man who was kind of the earthy version of The Doctor, who was going to save this planet as opposed to Meteblis Three. The fact that she married Cliff and stayed faithful to him, as she would have done to The Doctor, was wonderful.

I think what was lovely with Russell T. Davies is the fact that he saw all this and when she chained herself to Robert Mugabe; went down the Yansie; had children and dropped them in places, like Santiago, he truly portrayed her absolute fierce determination to do everything. They went to find an alternative food which we now know is Quorn which was way before its time. So Quorn became something which we have now and I find that all absolutely fascinating.

What Russell wrote was a wonderful continuation of the same woman who loves children; who loves this planet; who loves her husband and who will fight for the right of saving forests. It was a wonderful way to take the character as there was no other way she could have gone. She had thirteen grandchildren and seven children, it was perfect for her!

To come back with Lis [Elisabeth Sladen] was a wonderful coupling because she was my favourite and we were great friends. It was a joy for both of us to do that, an absolute joy. It was a great story and the two characters worked very well together. She said to me “It’s great because your character gives my character flexibility to have fun.” Jo was kind of the hippy, if you like, and we didn’t have to play jealousy or anything like that because Jo wasn’t that kind of character.

In 2010’s “Find and Replace,” you played both Jo Grant and Iris Wildthyme. Was it more of a challenge to play two such contrasting characters in one story?

I do a lot of those! I’ve already played 26 characters as they come off the page so it doesn’t present me with any difficulty; I just cut into the voices. I have done it again with The Scorchies which is the latest one. [The most recent Companion Chronicles starring Katy as Jo Grant.].

When I did my own play “Not A Well Woman”, I did twenty six people. I didn’t do them separately I did them as they were coming off the page. For instance, I would go from a tiny baby crying to a really angry African man. I did it on stage with the Bette Davis play [Referring to “Me and Jezebel”, a play written about a true event when Bette Davis invited herself to a fan’s house and stayed a month]. In that particular play, there was Bette Davis, the four year old child, the evangelist, the grandmother and the husband; so I’m multi voiced.

It is because I’m a bit mad and I can cut in and out of emotions. So what I need to be able to do is interrupt myself crying with somebody who is laughing. It is just one of those things that I do. As my partner in life always says to me “It is lovely when all your characters are working, you are so much nicer.” He said “And that means about thirty people have to be in work!” It is really weird because my children laughed at me, as they were growing up, when I was angry, they have never taken me seriously in my life, not once. They tell me now that when I was really angry they would just stand there! I’m dying for my daughter to see it [A Murder is Announced] and she will see how angry I am!

Do you find all The Doctor’s you have worked with very different in the way they portray The Doctor?

They are all wonderfully different actors who have given their own interpretation of the same character and I think every one of them has brought something magnificent to it. The new series has blown me away! I don’t miss it, where as before I was starting to go off it. I don’t miss it now. It is wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I’m an absolute fan! [laughs].

You know when I go to conventions and I meet them all; I go up to them and say how wonderful it is. I went up to John Barrowman and said to him, like a school girl, “How do you do, I’m Katy Manning” and he said [putting on American accent] “I know who you are!” [laughs] but you know I don’t think that way. They say he [Barrowman] is a massive fan and you sort of don’t believe them! [laughs].

Do you think working on Doctor Who has given you this lust for adventure?

No, I’ve always been like this, I would do anything, bungee jump oh yeah, I love that moment of fear of the unknown. It is the most exciting thing in the world; it is what gets me out of bed every morning. If we knew what life would bring us, we wouldn’t move.

I worked all through with my children; you know that is why I went to Australia, they were very poorly and I had to go to a warmer climate. We do what we have got to do. It was another adventure and another career and then when I went to live in America. Life is wonderful, if you let it be. We are going to have pain and we are going to have great sorrow and we can all have loss and so on an so forth but that is a part of what it is to be human. We have to work with everything and as I say, I always stand on the edge of cliffs in life and I stand there and think, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” I can jump and that is the only way I can get major new exciting things to happen - I have to take the courage and to step forward.

Finally, if you could have one round trip in the TARDIS, anywhere in time and space, where would you go and why?

Where would I go? I’ll tell you something, I mean truly, in the reality of this, that if I had money and my daughter wasn’t getting married I’d use the money to go up to space! [laughs] I swear I would book my place on a rocket and go in a heartbeat. I’d be fascinated by it.

© Copyright Will Barber & Doctor Who Online, 2013.
Page Updated: 12/2/2013

Interview Details

Interview with:
Katy Manning
Jo Grant in The Classic Series
Conducted by:
Will Barber for Doctor Who Online

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