David Bradley speaks about playing iconic “Doctor Who” role

We’re now only a couple of weeks away from being able to watch David Bradley’s turn as William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time, but to tide you over the actor has spoken to BBC about what it has been like to play this iconic role.

William Hartnell was the first actor to don the title of “Doctor” on the now-classic show, and stepping into the shoes of Hartnell has given Bradley some insight into the older actor’s career and personality.

It has to be said, after some initial reluctance to do something for children’s TV I think [Hartnell] was quickly convinced that it was the right thing for him to do. He felt quite insecure about it [since] it was new territory for him, but once he started he embraced the whole idea of the part… I know he had a reputation at times for being cantankerous and rather difficult, and one has to play that. It was clear from research and hearing his colleagues talk about him that he was a perfectionist. He demanded a lot of himself, and he expected everyone around him to show the same level of commitment.

He was invited to school fetes in the full outfit, and I thought how brilliant and touching that was. It’s clear that he absolutely loved it and found it very hard to let go. That’s an element that [writer] Mark Gatiss brings out in the script… I think maybe when people joined the show later, different directors and different actors, if they showed a lack of commitment then it would upset him, and he would let people know that’s how he felt. There are moments of sadness in Space and Time where he becomes aware that he hasn’t got the strength to do it anymore.

Bradley, who grew up watching Doctor Who, also spoke up about how he thinks current Doctor Matt Smith compares to earlier Doctors like Hartnell, saying,

I really admire him as a Doctor. He’s got that curiosity and that slight eccentricity that the part requires, not in the same way as Bill Hartnell, but I think some of those characteristics have gone all the way through everyone [who]’s played the Doctor.

Finally, Bradley added that playing William Hartnell has been the experience of a lifetime.

It’s been one of those great jobs and an experience I’ll always remember. We’re honouring something that’s been part of television history for 50 years, and I hope I’ve done justice to an actor [whom] I admire greatly.

Will you be tuning into An Adventure in Space and Time? Let us know in the comments!

Jessica J.

I've been making magic at MuggleNet since 2012, when I first joined the staff as a News intern. I've never wavered from the declaration in my childhood journal, circa October 2000: "I LOVE Harry Potter! If I clean my room, my mom says she'll make me a dinner a wizard would love!" Proud Gryffindor; don't hate.