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29 October 2014
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Monarch of the Glen
Tom Baker plays Donald MacDonald

Monarch of the Glen - series seven

Starts this September on BBC ONE

Tom Baker plays Donald MacDonald

Nowadays, when Tom Baker bumps into fans in the street it's not Doctor Who they have on their minds.


Since appearing in the sixth series of Monarch, all anyone wants to talk to him about is Donald MacDonald, perhaps Glenbogle's all-time most eccentric and unpredictable inhabitant.


"A lot of people have come over to talk to me, saying how much they enjoyed my performance, and that they were very relieved to see some extraordinary overacting in the show - which I take as a compliment," says Tom.


"I enjoy overacting and I'm very good at it - I suppose you could say I've made a career out of it.


"Donald MacDonald is a part I can have fun with, which is marvellous because I have a horror of self pity and I try to see the funny side of everything.


"As you get near death, as I am, you have to laugh at everything - otherwise the alternative is to be utterly depressed."


This series, the veteran actor particularly enjoyed filming a scene with a real-life panther for a very dramatic Monarch storyline later in the run.


"Oh, the panther was wonderful!" exclaims Tom. "One of my best co-stars ever, because let's face it, cats are so much more interesting to look at in close-up than actors."


Having protested that he didn't want to live there, Donald is now finally feeling at home at Glenbogle. In fact, when the estate's future is threatened, Donald is the one who becomes fiercely protective of his childhood home.


"I think Donald has finally accepted that the grass isn't always greener and he isn't trying to escape anymore. But the thing with him is that it's difficult to know what he is thinking because I don't think he's quite well in the head.


"He's a self-seeking eccentric old git who is extremely manipulative - and you never quite know whether he's telling the truth or not," suggests Tom.


"In many ways I am very like Donald, both in age and in our slightly skewed mental capacities. We both have all sorts of bizarre impulses and experiences.


"Like last week - I had a day off and I hired a car, which was very modern and high-tech and I had great difficulty even locating the handbrake.


"Anyway, there I was away from home, a bit out of sorts and missing my wife, sitting in this strange vehicle and I began to hear voices. A kind of muttering in my head, people talking about sex, power and murder.


"Well, I started to get very worried. I drove in a terrible rush until I saw somebody I knew and said, 'I'm hearing voices'.


"So he got in the car and held my hand for a while, and I said 'This is terrible, it's the onset of dementia or something like that.'


"He said, 'No, it's not. This is a very modern car and the radio is on. But very low.' And because it had four speakers it was complete surround sound, which was a huge relief to me," smirks Tom.


As usual, Donald gets up to plenty of mischief for the final series and is always on the hunt for the next scam to make a quick buck.


So much so that in the opening episode he bets all the money intended to buy a much needed new generator for Glenbogle on the horses. Typically, he is aided and abetted in his mischief-making by impish young chef Ewan Brodie (played by Martin Compston).


"It just shows that sometimes, thank God, youngsters can enjoy the company of older people. They can be adventurous together. Ewan and Donald have a real bond and the audience love their relationship. They seem to enjoy entering into the tumult that is Donald and Ewan's world and being amused and diverted by them."


But as the series progresses, Donald starts to question whether he's a burden to the inhabitants of Glenbogle, and wonders whether everyone would be happier without him.


Meanwhile, Tom's talents are in as great demand as ever. The man who played the fourth Doctor Who is currently working on his iconic voiceovers for the third series of Little Britain and is also considering an offer to tour Australia in a play especially written for three former Doctor Whos.


"Well, let's face it, this country is littered with Doctor Whos at the moment, starting with Christopher Eccleston," he jokes. "I haven't seen the new series, but then I didn't watch it when I was in it either, so I'm not about to study someone else being him.


"I am really pleased it has done so well. I saw some pictures of David Tennant the other day and I thought he'd got a lovely face. It will be interesting to see how he goes from classical lothario into a timelord," ponders the 72-year-old actor.


"I've never had a problem with the fame thing, but as I get older I feel I am starting to look less and less like Tom Baker. People used to mistake me for Shirley Williams, but now they just seem to mistake me for my Great Auntie Molly. I have a line I always use when people say to me: 'Excuse me, are you Tom Baker?' I have to reply: 'Well, I'm what's left of him...'"

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