Saturday, 3 January 2009

Official: Matt Smith is the Eleventh Doctor

26-year-old actor Matt Smith has been cast as the Eleventh Doctor, as revealed in today's special broadcast of Doctor Who Confidentialon BBC One. Smith will succeed David Tennant in the role for the fifth series, which begins filming this summer and will air in 2010.

Smith has appeared in various television productions, including alongside Billie Piper in the BBC's adaptations of the Philip Pullman novels The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North. He co-starred in the drama series Party Animals, and on stage was in Alan Bennett's acclaimed play The History Boys.

Smith was born and bred in Northampton, England, and later attended the University of East Anglia in Norwich. He is the youngest actor ever to have been cast as the Doctor in the TV series.

BBC News quotes Smith as saying: "I've got this wonderful journey in front of me where I've got this six months to build this Time Lord - and that's such an exciting prospect." Executive producer Piers Wengerhas said that: "It was abundantly clear that he had that 'Doctor-ness' about him. You are either the Doctor or you are not." The BBC News site has also published a profile of Smith, while the official website has avideo interview with the actor available to UK users. The first BBC News story has been updated with a clip from an interview with Smith, which is available to users worldwide.

The BBC Press Office, meanwhile, has a full release with quotes from new chief writer Steven Moffat, who was one of those behind Smith's casting. "The Doctor is a very special part, and it takes a very special actor to play him. You need to be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe. As soon as Matt walked through the door, and blew us away with a bold and brand new take on the Time Lord, we knew we had our man."

Some biographical notes on Smith follow, from the official BBC Doctor Who website:
Matt Smith, 26, grew up with his family including one sister in Northampton. He was head boy at Northampton School For Boys where he excelled at sports, music and drama. Initially, Matt wanted to be a professional footballer and played for Northampton Town Under 11 and 12s, Nottingham Forest Under 12,13,14s and Leicester City Under 15 and 16s before a back injury forced him out of the game.

Following his injury, and with the encouragement of one of his teachers, Jerry Hardingham, Matt decided to join the National Youth Theatre. It was during this time that Matt first gained attention at the Royal Court Theatre when he was cast in the play Fresh Kills, directed by Wilson Milam, whilst still at the University Of East Anglia where he was studying Drama and Creative Writing.

Already a stalwart of the National Youth Theatre, his performance at the Court led to a variety of theatrical experiences at the National Theatre: in the award winning History Boys (directed by Nick Hytner), On The Shore Of The Wide World (directed by Sarah Frankcom) and also in the acclaimed trio of plays Burn / Citizenship / Chatroom (directed by Anna Mackmin).

These roles led to Matt's first outings on the small screen, alongside Billie Piper in Phillip Pullman's period detective stories, The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, where he played Jim, right hand man to Billie's detective heroine Sally Lockhart. These pieces were followed by the lead role of Danny in the BBC Two series Party Animals, the brilliantly observed drama set in the world of young politicians.

In a dazzling return to the Royal Court in 2007, Matt played Henry in Polly Stenham's award winning first play That Face, opposite Lindsay Duncan. His performance gained Matt an Evening Standard Best Newcomer nomination and a year later the play had a second life in the West End at the Duke of York's Theatre. In between the two runs, Matt played Guy opposite Christian Slater's Buddy in Swimming With Sharks, Mike Leslie's searing West End adaptation of the 1994 Hollywood film. In this time he also played a lead role in the BAFTA winning BBC One series, The Street, opposite Gina McKee and Lorraine Ashbourne.

Matt has recently completed work on Moses Jones for BBC Two, directed by Michael Offer, in which he plays the lead role of Dan Twentyman, alongside Shaun Parkes in the title role.