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Sophie Aldred Aces It

EXCLUSIVE: The Dr Who actor talks to us about work, the possibility of being the first female Doctor, politics, personal development and more

 

She’s had a long and varied career including being the voice of some of the UK’s most loved children’s characters – and yet Sophie Aldred is still probably best known for playing Ace, the 7th Doctor Who’s baseball bat-wielding, Dalek-killing teenage companion. We put your questions to her and talked about the UK general election, personal development, the possibility of playing the first female Doctor Who, David Tennant, Dennis the Menace, Tree Fu Tom, Wikipedia and more...

 

IC:

Hello Sophie, welcome and thank you for joining us. Let’s do the serious bit first: there was a general election in the UK last month: What did you think of the campaign? And what do you think Ace would have thought of it?

 

SA:

I think Ace would be very fed up with the politicians. I do believe in voting and democracy with my whole heart but you look at the options and I despair for young people – it must be a pretty tricky choice. It’s really difficult to find a party who operate with integrity and who you really believe are going to make a difference.

 

IC:

You sound like you might have voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 and been disillusioned…

 

SA:

No I didn’t actually. I usually vote Labour in the general election and then in the local elections, when we lived in SE London, I used to vote Green, as it was a safe Labour seat. I really liked their policies and there were actually several Green councillors, which made an important difference to the environment around Ladywell. It would be nice to have a completely different system because our political structure is quite outdated.

 

IC:

You mean it’s no longer fit for purpose?

 

SA:

Yes and I hate the idea that everyone has to be against everyone else and scoring points off each other. It would be fantastic to find a structure where everybody could work together and find solutions to problems that work for everyone.

 

IC:

Would you consider standing for political office yourself?

 

SA:

No, I wouldn’t; it’s too much like hard work!

 

IC:

So here’s our first reader question: Becky H from West Malling asks, “I hear you’re passionate about personal development; can you tell us more about that?”

 

SA:

I’ve always been interested in personal growth and development. I’ve read lots of self-help books, had therapy, done lots of interesting courses and workshops and think everybody should do something. Most of us in the West have the luxury of a comfortable lifestyle, so our brains get involved with more intellectual stuff, like “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?” “Why am I the way I am?”, all of life’s big questions like “Where am I going?”and “What am I doing?” One course I’m doing has answered a lot of those questions and I’ve learnt that I’m much happier making a difference to other people, rather than focussing solely on my little gripes and grouses about the world. So my contribution on this course is to work with young people and teens, which I’ve always loved.

 

IC:

Next, Max W in Hampton Hill asks: “How did you find working with David Tennant on Tree Fu Tom?”

 

SA:

It was brilliant! I was cast as Tom, as I specialise in playing children. Actually, real children are only allowed to work very limited hours so producers often use adults instead and I’m one of a group of middle-aged female actors who go around playing the voices of young boys and girls. I’ve always loved doing silly voices as well.

 

So I went for the audition and got the job, and when my agent was negotiating my fee she told me she couldn’t get me any more money as someone famous would be playing my sidekick, the character of Twigs. When I asked who it was she said she hadn’t been told yet.

 

So my husband (actor and presenter, Vince Henderson) and I were speculating about who it could be and a couple of weeks later, I got a message from Vince saying, “Guess who’s playing Twigs? It’s someone you fancy”. And I replied, “No, no, no darling, you’re the only man I’ve fancied, ever,” and he said, “No, you tell a story about this guy,” and I said, “Oh, it’s David Tennant.”

 

The story is that years ago, after the TV show had been cancelled, Sylvester (McCoy, who played the 7th Doctor) and I were making a Dr Who audio adventure with a company called “Big Finish”. David Tennant was a fan and wanted to be in it, so he played this soldier in a story we did about Colditz; a really nasty Nazi character. Anyway, the first time David walked into the room, I literally went weak at the knees. As I said to my husband, I haven’t looked at another man since I met him, so it was hilarious when that happened. And that was before he said, “Remove your clothing Ace”, in this German accent.

 

David was delightful to work with as he’s such a lovely guy and we got on very well. His method of performing is very different from mine. I have to strangulate my voice a bit to get a boy’s voice out and I tend to be quite still in my body, as my focus is all on my vocal chords, whereas David's very tall and flapping about all over the place. It was great working with him; I really enjoyed it.

 

IC:

Sophie C from south west London asks: “Did you empathise with Dennis the Menace when you did his voice?”

 

SA:

I was a member of the Dennis the Menace fan club when I was young and loved his character. My kids were delighted too as they got to come to the studio and do burp noises. And they both got free copies of The Beano for life, which is pretty great.

 

IC:

Richard H from Streatham asks: If you were going to do a late night revival of Corners (a BBC children's television series from the 1980 which answered viewers’ questions and queries) who would your co-host be?

 

SA:

That’s easy! That would be my wonderful husband, Vince. He’s a great presenter and very funny.

 

IC:

What has he presented?

 

SA:

He did a game show called Chain Letters, he did a religious programme with Gloria Hunniford and a daytime show with Vanessa Feltz, a railway programme; so many different things.

 

IC:

Jonathan C from Teddington asks: “What do you think of your Wikipedia article?”

 

SA:

It’s fine. I had a look and most of the facts are correct. It could add a few things, for example I'm also voicing Mrs Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy and Mrs Bobtail for Peter Rabbit for CBeebies; Bob the Builder was the US version and Vince is a street performer and TV presenter. And there are a few things about Tree Fu Tom: it's ongoing; David Tennant did the first two series, now Twigs is played by Mark Bonnar; and my son Adam appears as Tom in Tree Fu Tom at the beginning and end of each programme.

 

IC:

It mentions Les Dennis...

 

SA:

Yes, Les and I don’t see each other much as he lives in Cheshire with his family. We sometimes bump into each other at events like the Edinburgh Festival. We’ve met one another’s families and he’s a friend. When you’ve had a relationship with someone, it’s a bit weird if you then don’t see or talk to one another. I’m friends with most of the people I’ve been out with. Why wouldn’t you? They’re still the person you fell in love with after all.

 

IC:

Here’s a question from David C in Kingston. “There’s talk that you may be in the running if there's ever a female Dr Who. Is this true?”

 

SA:

Well every time the Doctor regenerates, the Press love it because they get to speculate on the world and his wife, including me. They always come up with the possibility that the Doctor will be female and come up with suggestions such as Judi Dench and Joanna Lumley. When Dr Who restarted in 2005, one of the papers did an interview with me and asked if I’d like to be the new Dr Who.  I loved playing the character of Ace so much that I’d prefer to complete her story rather than play the Doctor. We never found out what happened to her; she walked off through a bush with her Doctor and we never saw her again.

 

IC:

But if the BBC asked you to play the Doctor, you wouldn’t say no?

 

SA:

No, I wouldn’t but there’s no possibility of that happening at the moment – the role is taken.

 

IC:

Is Ace your favourite character?

 

SA:

She’s one of them, as I’ve played so many great characters. She certainly opened a lot of doors in the acting world. It’s amazing that I’m still playing her at the age of 53, when she’s supposed to be 16.

 

Vince considers my greatest character to have been Maureen in Melvin and Maureen’s Music-a-grams which was a children’s programme I did years ago, ostensibly explaining music of all kinds to pre-schoolers. In fact, it was a good excuse to have a lot of fun. I played a wild character called Maureen, who was bossy like Sybil from Fawlty Towers with the dress sense of Lady Gaga. I had the most brilliant and outrageous costumes and makeup and I thoroughly enjoyed that job. I’m the kind of person who enjoys whatever I do though. People complain about the acting profession being bitchy and nasty but I’ve never witnessed that at all.

 

Join us in the next edition for Part 2, in which Sophie talks more about
Dr Who, celebrity friends and her – and Ace’s – plans for the future.

 

Image Credit: Sophie Aldred by James Dimelow. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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