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Jim Norton - Major Thomas Kennet .
Could you tell us who you are playing?
I’m Jim Norton and I play the part of Major Thomas Kennet of the Royal Green Jackets who is the military man in this Doctor Who story. There’s always a military commander who seems to be in direct opposition to Doctor Who’s eccentricities and brilliance and that’s the role that I play.
I’m thrilled to be doing this because my kids, when they were growing up, loved Doctor Who. They were terrified of it but they loved it, and they used to watch it through the crack in the door of the drawing room. They’d actually peer through the door and they’d put cushions over their eyes when it got too frightening.
They’re grown up now of course, but I was telling them I’m in this and they were thrilled because they’re huge Doctor Who fans. It’s going to be fun to see how it turns out. We’re having great fun doing it and I think Richard E Grant is going to make a really interesting Doctor Who.
Ego and embryo
Who was your children's favourite Doctor?
I can’t quite remember, they didn’t actually specify any favourite. They were very interested to know that Richard was playing it. One of my daughters said that Doctor Who is all the ego and embryo and whoever plays him that is the individual everybody else has to react to.
What’s it like working with the rest of the cast?
It’s going fine, it’s just like a big tea party. These kind of gigs are great, it’s just great fun, there’s terrific actors, you know, Derek Jacobi is wonderful as the baddie.
We change a lot of it in the recording, we get some re-writes and we have some input ourselves into the character. Wilson is very open to suggestions and ideas so it’s great fun. And we’re also part of history now.
Where would you travel to if you had a TARDIS?
I’ve never been asked that question before, I’ve never thought about it. Off the top of my head, as a kid I grew up in Ireland and my grandmother came from a little village up in Monahan, a tiny little hamlet and as a kid I used to go there for holidays and I used to hear these wonderful stories of the nineteen hundreds.
Although people weren’t well off, life seemed to be so much less complicated and it was quiet and leisurely and I always had a feeling it must have been wonderful to live then, just to have your little farm and just to have that responsibility and no jet planes flying overhead.
As I live in London and sometimes in New York I tend to be in places where there’s lots of noise and I pine for the countryside. So if I could take a little trip back it would be back to the leafy glades of Monahan in the nineteen hundreds.
TV, film or radio?
Do you think science fiction works best in audio?
I think all the mediums are equally valid if the material is good. I’ve worked a great deal in radio over the years; in fact I started out originally working in radio in Ireland before television came to Ireland. It’s a wonderful medium because you get the chance to use your imagination, you can do anything.
An actor can play a character that’s two inches tall or he can play Ben Hur because it’s all in your vocal dexterity and in the imagination of the audience, so I think it’s a terrific medium for science fiction.
I used to listen to Journey Into Space years ago, which I thought was wonderful and I painted all the pictures myself. I had my own image and when they started to draw those characters it was totally at variance to what I had in my head.
Looking the part
Have you any thoughts about how you should look?
No. I did try to have an input there but I was met with steely gazes, they weren’t giving away any of their secrets. I suggested at one point, ‘If you are going to use our faces as a basis for the characters do you think that the Captain, the Major would have a moustache, it seems to me that he would like closely cropped hair and a moustache,’ and they said ‘No, we rather like what we’re seeing’.
I become sometimes a bit self-conscious in the studio because there is this big sheet of glass and they’re behind there and we’re acting away and doing various things and I look in and the artist is drawing me and I thought ‘What’s he doing? What have I just done?’. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
What a scream
What’s been your favourite moment of the recording?
We had a lot of fun because one day they said ‘Do you guys mind coming and helping us out playing Shalka?’ – doing screams because they communicate with these very high pitched screams, and Diana Quick of course is playing Prime, and she screams like nobody else in amazing, wonderful coloratura screaming. A couple of the guys joined in and we did end up with very tight throats and tears drowning down our eyes, but we did our best. That was fun, that was very liberating. I don’t often get a chance to scream in real life.
Einstein and Hawkins
What has been the most unusual role of your career?
I think the most unusual I’ve ever done was I was in Los Angeles a couple of years ago and they were casting an episode of Star Trek and they wanted somebody to play Einstein and my agent said ‘You know they’d like to see you,’ and I said, ‘Well I’m totally wrong for Einstein because he had brown eyes and...’
Anyway I went in and read for the part and I got it and after five hours of make-up I was Albert Einstein and I got a chance to work with Stephen Hawking. So I played poker as Einstein with Stephen Hawking. Yes, that was the most unusual; it doesn’t get any crazier than that. That was great fun.