TV Series

Q&A with Jinkx Monsoon, aka Maestro

The star of The Devil's Chord discusses playing an all-powerful villain and the camp nature of Doctor Who...

Doctor Who returns this weekend with a double bill of adventures for the Fifteenth Doctor and Ruby Sunday. First they meet the adorable Space Babies in the far flung future, before heading to 1960s London for a musical showdown in The Devil's Chord; where they face off against the terrifying Maestro - the first of the Toymaker's legions - played by actor, Broadway star and 'Drag Race' sensation Jinkx Monsoon.

We spoke to Jinkx about her recent performances, watching Doctor Who during lockdown, and playing a character partially based on yourself...

Doctor Who is now streaming on BBC iPlayer in the UK and Disney+ where available.

Jinkx Q&A

How did you get the part of Maestro in Doctor Who?

I have been friends with Russell T Davies (showrunner/executive producer) for a long time. He has been to so much of my stuff, and always been so supportive. He came to see my show in Manchester, which is a farce set in the future. It’s me and my music partner Major Scales in our 80’s reflecting on our careers. It's a really ridiculous show. I'm playing an older, stylised, somewhat grand, somewhat mean version of myself. Russell told me after he saw that show, he was walking home that night and he realised he wanted me to play the role that I ended up playing in Doctor Who. At that moment, he started writing the role a little bit more with me in mind. When I got the script, the character’s description said, “One part the Joker, one part Jinkx Monsoon.”

What did Russell see in that show in Manchester that made him think that you would be perfect for the role?

I like to play with the Jinkx Monsoon character I've created, and in my show he saw I was really leaning into this farcical future version of Jinkx. She has an ability to switch emotions on a dime. She can be completely enamoured with herself one moment, and then in a boiling rage the next. One of the scariest things about a villain is when you don't know what they're going to do next, when you have no way of reading them, when they're smiling at you but they're about to attack. I think that’s what Russell saw in my show. 

Can you outline your character for us?

Maestro is exceptionally powerful. When human rules don't apply to you you get to do whatever you want. You don't have to worry about whether your emotions make sense to people because you don't have to answer to them. And that's really freeing when you’re playing a character. The thing I love about a villain is that they can't think they're doing something wrong, or if they do think they're doing something wrong, it's justified because it's for something greater that they've planned. What I love about Maestro is that while objectively evil, they are an artist, they have a mission statement. And that was really lovely to play.

Did you enjoy playing Maestro?

Absolutely. Maestro treats the Doctor like he is no threat, and that's a really fun thing to work with. When you have someone trying to take you down, but they don't really scare you that much, that is so enjoyable. It made for a dynamic performance between Ncuti and me. Maestro has a fascination with the Doctor. To get to play against someone who hates you and is trying to tear you down and trying to stop you when you just find them adorable - that's great to play. It really informs the character of the villain. 

Jinkx Q&A

How did you find it working on Doctor Who?

I loved it! Every person on the crew, every person I interacted with, from day one until the day I left, was absolutely lovely. I couldn't name every single person at this point, but I just didn't have a bad experience with a single crew member. Everyone was happy to be there. Everyone was having fun doing their job. Nothing is worse than when you come to your dream job, and everyone else seems to be apathetic. It really felt like this was all our dream job, and we were all doing something we really cared about. 

That made for a really, really lovely environment on set. Ncuti was just so generous. We’ve been entertainers for about the same amount of time, but he's done a lot more work on film and television. So I was taking my cues from Ncuti and Millie who are better versed in scripted television than I am. Everyone made me feel like I was a professional brought in to do my thing. And no one cared that this was only my third live-action scripted TV appearance!

What do you adore about the world of Doctor Who?

What I love about Doctor Who is that it's got this element of camp, and this sci-fi suspension of disbelief, where it's stylised and it's fun, and it's funny. But it's also written so well. Each episode can move you. Every story has got a point and is trying to teach you something small or large. I'm really excited to be a part of this episode, in a season that's going to really shake the foundation of the Whoniverse.

I understand you really got into Doctor Who during the pandemic. What do you love about the show?

Doctor Who is timeless because it takes place at so many different times. It's not really about what's happening in our world right now, but there are always parallels to be drawn. Each episode is set in a period that teaches us something about that period, but that we can also apply to now, whether that is a past mistake that we're learning from or something that we've forgotten about that the Doctor is reminding the audience of. It's just great. It's fun. It's entertaining. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It’s camp, but it's informative and educational and it inspires you. 

Could you describe your experience on Doctor Who in five words?

Dream job of a lifetime.

Doctor Who is now streaming on BBC iPlayer in the UK and Disney+ where available.

More on TV Series

more from the whoniverse

More From Read and Watch

from the store

More from the store