'Doctor Who': Matt Smith regenerates on American shores

doctor-who-matt-smith-320.jpgThe latest season of "Doctor Who" is all about renewal -- from the 11th Doctor's regeneration and the parallel TARDIS redesign to the introduction of a new logo and companion.

Matt Smith, the youngest actor to take on the role of the intergalactic Time Lord, makes his U.S. "Doctor Who" debut on BBC America on Saturday, April 17th at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

In the premiere, titled "The Eleventh Hour," the Doctor is still adjusting from his last regeneration -- a necessity after absorbing a bit too much radiation in his previous incarnation (played by the exiting David Tennant) -- when he's drawn to the home of his future companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan).

Naturally, some evil influence interrupts their budding friendship, requiring the Doctor to get up to speed quickly and lay down the Time Lord smackdown.

Smith was gracious enough to speak with Zap2it about taking on the famed role:

Were you a fan of "Doctor Who" while growing up? Which actor do you associate with the role most?
Matt Smith: I didn't watch it as a kid because it wasn't on then. I had to come back and watch it. My favorite of the Doctors is Patrick Troughton [the second Doctor]. I dunno why. I think he has a peculiar face that works for the Doctor without trying to be cool. He's also a very fine actor.

What can you say about the TARDIS' renewal?
Smith: That's been really exciting. I was involved a bit of that process, with the knobs and colors and things like that. It's such the mad scientist's lair. Of course to a degree I'm involved, but we employ a production design team that keeps me informed of what's happening.

doctor-who-karen-gillan-matt-smith-tardis-interior-500.jpg Did watching previous Doctors inform your performance or did you begin anew?
Smith: I haven't looked at them for performance notes. It's my own invention and that's the way I like it. The role is too big to borrow from anybody. The experience is one that I've enjoyed thoroughly. I had no considered ideas of what I should try to do. I just went and did it every day. I had no grand plan. I think it's turned out that he's a bit bonkers. Hopefully the madness of his thoughts will come through as the show continues.

How is this Doctor different from David Tennant's? Did you try to bring out a new aspect of the Doctor's personality?
Smith: I'm a different human being, a different soul, a different mind. David Tennant and I, we just do it a different way. It's for other people to decide how my Doctor has changed from the previous. I never consciously did anything to be different. I just play the role as truthfully as I could in my body and soul and mind.

Since you're the youngest actor to play the Doctor, it seems like the Doctor getting younger. Can you speak to that for the fans?
Smith: No, he's still 907. He's regenerated into a younger skin, a younger flesh, but that's no bearing on his actual age. It's just a functional part. I don't think the doctor is just one thing over the course of the series. By the same token, I am physically at this time in my life. I'm not consciously the same man that came before.

The rules of regeneration always seem to change. Were the rules laid out for yours?

Smith: No we didn't discuss it. I just got the script. There are all sorts of theories spouted around and a lot of it is hearsay. I'm just the 11th regeneration from No. 10. I took the scene on its merit. That's all you have.

Check back with Zap2it for Part 2 of the interview in which Matt Smith discusses the U.S. fan reception and the non-science fiction elements to the show. 

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Photo credits: BBC America