By the end of "Doctor Who"s eighth season, the first starring Peter Capadli as the 12th Doctor, Clara Oswald had lost the love of her life and rediscovered her devotion to traveling in the TARDIS with her funny new Doctor. In Season Nine, this lust for life borders on sheer recklesness. And at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Jenna Coleman herself told us all about it in a roundtable interview. Plus, she gave us an insight into what it was like working with "Game of Thrones" Maisie Williams and what fans can expect from the BBC series when Season Nine gets underway in September.
So what’s different about Clara this year from Season Eight? Has she let go of her Earthly connections and embraced travelling a little bit more?
Jenna Coleman: Exactly, yeah! Exactly that, well guessed. [Laughs] Yeah, I think since she’s lost Danny, she’s kind of cut ties a little bit to Earth, her perspective has changed. And all she wants to do is travel and have fun and meet some aliens and enjoy everything time and space has to offer. So it’s kind of a freedom and an adrenaline-seeking high that she’s always running towards, which obviously creates some danger along the way.
Does that mean the tone of the season is a little more rompy perhaps?
I wouldn’t say "rompy," but a lot more seizing the moment and adrenaline-fueled. Because you know, the nature of some of the episodes are darker. There’s some really provoking episodes, actually. But each episode has its own feel. But it's definitely the glory days of Clara and The Doctor.
What do you mean by “really provoking” episodes?
What do I mean without telling you (too much)? I suppose something that has a relevance to some stuff kind of happening today, really interesting, makes you think, provoking. It feels like a new kind of episode for "Doctor Who," maybe more political.
Will her new attitude make her more reckless? And will the doctor appreciate that?
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, he’s totally with her. They’re both pretty reckless; they’re both having the time of their lives living in the TARDIS—nothing to lose, seemingly. So yeah, it’s definitely got that reckless abandon about it.
And their relationship is--
Solid, yeah. I mean, I’m sure there’s some slaps in there somewhere and they obviously disagree, but I'd say they’re much more on an even keel, I suppose. And there’s a lot more give and take. She can tell him off, and vice versa, and then they’ll kind of forget it and carry on. It’s a really lovely relationship. They’ve definitely found their groove together.
Is it true that you’re about to be the longest running companion?
I don’t know, someone told me yesterday I was the fourth, after Sarah Jane. I don’t know.
You’re definitely up there.
How much until I get to number one? How many more?
Is that an ambition, you want to stick around that long?
It’s not really an ambition. I mean, I love the show and, you know, there really isn’t any time to get bored. Every episode is so, so different. But it’s really nice to have the history of having known The Doctor for so long, and having worked with Matt [Smith] and met some of the other doctors and the character going through a time stream. So that kind of history of knowing that character for so long and being his friend for so long, it’s really nice to have that.
When it happens, how would you like to see Clara go?
I have no idea. I really don’t. I mean, I think the problem is that she loves the Doctor so, so much. I have no idea what it would take to make her leave! [Laughs] I mean, I supposed when you’ve seen all of time and space and you’ve been given those opportunities, how do you just go back to your own life? How do you go back to teaching? Because suddenly you’ve opened your eyes to the universe? So really, I have no idea.
So she’s sticking around the whole season?
You’ll have to watch to see.
So you worked with "Game of Thrones'" Maisie Williams this season. Can you talk about what she was like and what that episode was like?
Yes, she was brilliant and the three of us have a really good dynamic. Peter was so outnumbered. It was brilliant! And the three of us we recently went to the Glastonbury Festival and we taught Peter some new cool terminology. I was trying to be cool the first day she arrived. I think she’s brilliant and sharp and honest and just really cool as well. We've kind described her performance as metamorphic.
Did you two share deep dark secrets about each other’s shows?
No! We refused to let her. We didn’t want any spoilers about "Thrones" at all.
What terminology were you teaching Peter?
The word "ape" and "sick." That means when something’s really good, that’s ape.
That’s new to us too. Is sick good or bad now?
It’s good now.
Is Peter using them now?
Yeah, yeah after a take he says, 'That was ape.'
Yeah, he’s completely different from his character.
So different! I think people expect him to be growly and moody and a bit mean, maybe. But he’s so the opposite of that. He does it really well.
He just turns it on and off?
Yeah, I think it’s the Scottishness as well.
Does he ever divert to the character we know him for so well and just curse like "Into The Loop"?
Does he revert to Malcolm Tucker? No, no he’s very far removed from that character. But he does improvise a lot. Sometimes, in between scenes, the two of us will improvise a lot together and let the cameras roll and then work our way into the scene a bit. So there’s quite a lot of that kind of stuff that goes on. But he’s great. He just throws (himself into it). He’s so unvain. Is that the word? Unvain, is there a better word?
Like not self-conscious?
He’s not self-conscious, but also, he has like no ego and he’s willing to look stupid. He’s so generous and he will go into a scene and try a million things and isn’t afraid to be right or wrong. It makes him such an interesting actor. He’s like a rocket in this series. He's like an absolute firecracker with the performances that he’s pulled out, which is so funny but also really deep and moving and striking as well. It’s quite a good journey for the Doctor this series.
Is there anything from Season 7 that was improvised that you can think of?
There was actually. It didn’t have to do with me, but I’ll tell you everybody else's secrets. The scene with Tom Baker and Matt in the 50th has a bit of it there. The whole "thank you very much," that bit was improvised.
Do I remember correctly hearing the Christmas episode was written differently at the end? It had written you out originally and you changed your mind?
No, it was very confusing, but my contract was up. But much earlier [than the Christmas special was shot], I decided to stay and do another series with Peter.
So it probably only got to the draft stage?
So the rumor that the ending (of "Last Christmas") where you're old, that was never on its own the original ending?
I don't know. But it was decided much earlier that we would stay and do Season Eight.
So you never saw a script where it ended there?
It feels like so much of the news around "Doctor Who" is like, who’s parting and who’s coming on. And I’m curious, is that at all frustrating? Constantly being asked if you’re quitting your job?
Mmm that’s something I was really very aware of when I started, because you literally start and people say 'When are you going to leave?' When Peter was cast people were like 'Who’s going to be the next Doctor?' and he’s like give me a week! But I suppose it’s the nature of the show and it’s what makes the show really exciting. But as I came in Arthur [Darvill] and Karen [Gillen] were leaving, so there was that in the air, and obviously Matt left soon after. So I think you’ve always aware of the ticking clock, I suppose. And enjoy it while it lasts because it’s really a one of a kind job.
It seems like the opposite is true too. Like, a lot of fans want you to break records, want you to stay as long as Sarah Jane and want someone to break Tom Baker’s record as longest running doctor.
What is it like 7 years?
I mean, I doubt anyone is going to do that.
You worked with some female directors this year as well, like in the season finale. Can you talk about that and what the finale was like?
Oh of this series? This series we haven’t done the finale yet, we’re mid-shooting, we’re literally on episode 11. So we haven’t even seen episode 12. That’s quite good actually, so it’s not like I even have to pretend (that I don't know things).
So you haven’t even seen the script for 12?
No, we go back to shoot it in a couple of weeks. We’ve had Hettie MacDonald in episode 1 and 2, who is brilliant. It’s hard because I actually haven’t seen them yet. But in terms of on set, working with Hettie and Michelle there’s a lot of days where it’s the three of us. It’s been rare we’ve had some female directors, but she’s strong and a brilliant storyteller, visually really interesting.
"Doctor Who" Season Nine begins September 19.