It’s every actor’s dream to star in an episode of Doctor Who, particularly to bring to life an icon of history… or to become the stuff of kid’s nightmares!
Two of the stars of this week’s Doctor Who episode, Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, Goran Višnjic and Anjli Mohindra talk about starring in Series 12, wearing advanced makeup and prosthetics, becoming part of the team and catching up with an old friend…
How does it feel to be part of Doctor Who?
Anjli Mohindra (AM): It’s a real dream come true! I've been a huge fan of the show ever since being a part of The Sarah Jane Adventures and being absorbed into that world. I was totally thrilled when the call came.
Goran Višnjic (GV): It was very interesting and exciting to even be considered to be a part of Doctor Who because I never thought we were going to cross paths – it’s kind of two different worlds. I’m a big fan of the show so when the question came, and especially with the character, I was like… “Okay, this is a yes and yes situation”. So it was this level of coolness before even getting to Cardiff. It was already like “Oh my God, this is really exciting!”
How was it working with Jodie and the other cast?
AM: I've been a huge fan of Jodie’s work since Broadchurch and actually since her role in Tess of The D'urbervilles, quite a few years ago. She sort of glows a little bit as a person, so it's just a real treat getting to work with her. Tosin is so lovely and Mandip is hilarious. Brad? Well we’ll come to him in a second!
GV: It was really pleasant, they’re really nice. They made me feel at home. It’s always a little weird when you’re a guest star, you walk in amongst people that really know each other, they’re full of stories and things they’ve done in the past and you can sometimes feel a little like an outsider. But from day one, they were really kind and welcoming. I felt like part of the gang and it was a really great shoot. It was a very nice gang to work with.
Have you worked with any of the cast before?
AM: I've worked with Bradley Walsh because he played Odbobb the Clown, an alien in my first ever episode of Sarah Jane years ago. So yeah, getting to work with him again was brilliant and he didn’t actually recognise me as I was under 3 hours of prosthetics (laughs).
It was hilarious because he sort of introduced himself to me and I thought he was joking. Cause I was like ‘Oh he’s probably seen my name on the call sheet’ and is pretending, was just taking the mick. I think an entire day had passed before he said: “You’re going to have to show me a picture of what you look like because I'll probably pass you in the street at some point and have no idea”. And it was at that point that I was like, oh, he really doesn’t, he really hasn’t twigged. (laughs).
How was it working on a show like Doctor Who with lots of special effects, aliens and prosthetics?
GV: We actually had a lot of physical props but we did have some stuff that we needed to imagine. There’s a green screen with these aliens coming from the side and you have to imagine that and react. There were days like that but there was also a lot of practical elements too. We spent time inside the TARDIS too which was great.
What was it like wearing all the prosthetics?
AM: A bonkers but exhilarating process. Being fitted for the prosthetics was a little bit surreal because it felt very strange. Being live cast. But the team that work on the prosthetics and create everything were just so brilliant to work with and so lovely and fun and just made the experience exciting.
Is it quite different when you're in prosthetics in terms of playing a character, is it a different experience?
AM: For sure! I think that makeup definitely helps with your character transformation. You feel very different, your skin feels very different and therefore, yeah, I think any piece of costume enhances performance or helps actors sort of like transcend their current reality. So when you've got that much makeup on it’s great to work with.
How did you find playing Tesla?
GV: Tesla was born in Croatia so I know a lot of about him and we studied Nikola Tesla more than I would say an average European or American student, so I knew a lot of details way before I was playing Tesla. I read his biography, a lot of fantastic elements about him, a lot of the things that are mysteries – I was very familiar with a lot of it. When they asked me if I needed any help with the research, I was like “no, I’ve already got it!” (laughs).
How does playing a historic character differ to playing an entirely fictional character?
GV: Well I would definitely skip a moustache if it was a fictional character – those things are so uncomfortable (laughs). There’s very well-known photograph of Nikola Tesla, he always had his moustache and there are known things about him, what he liked and didn’t like, so I kind of incorporated some of those things into the character. In a way it’s a double-edged sword, it’s a blessing because you know things about your character already because they’re given to you but the other side is that you have to do certain things with your character that are established.
In truth, I can’t even consider Tesla as a historical character from “the books” because I feel like I grew up with him, I knew who he was since I was a kid so in some ways it was like playing someone you know.
How did this role differ from others you’ve had in the past?
GV: I’ve never played a historical character that was so well-known. When I say well-known, he was living in a time that was well-described and he was internationally known as an inventor. Every character is different, every time you work in a new job there’s so many different things to consider, for example is it a film or series? This was just one episode so you have to make the character quite quickly. In ER, I played the same doctor for years, you really know the character and you become the character. You play everything through yourself. When you have an episode like this, you have to build it through building blocks and hold it all together for the duration and then you can let it go.
Do you have a particular highlight of filming/favourite memory?
GV: I just had this big warm feeling about working Doctor Who. It was a really good experience. There wasn’t even one tiny friction of something negative or any bad memories. It was just smooth and pleasant. The actors, producers, crew… it was just smooth sailing and really pleasant. I really had tons of fun, I think you’re going to see that.
What was the most exciting part for you about your Doctor Who experience?
AM: Just the whole thing. Jodie is one of my favourite Doctors so far, so to work with her, and being on those sets as a fan and as an actor is just an experience that I won't forget.
You can catch Goran Višnjic and Anjli Mohindra in Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, opposite Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh.
Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror is coming this Sunday 19th January at 7:10pm on BBC One, or on BBC America at 8pm ET, 7pm CT.