Matt Smith took the stage at Los Angeles Comic Con last weekend to discuss his prolific career. He was more than happy to dive into his starring roles in Doctor Who and House of the Dragon!
While I missed the first 10 minutes of the panel (I was interviewing Josie Campbell), I arrived just in time to hear some audience questions and snap a few great photos from the press pit at the front of the stage. Read on to hear some highlights from the panel, like which Ninja Turtle is Matt Smith’s favorite!
[Editor’s Note: Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.]
Matt Smith talks his friendship with Karen Gillan, life lessons and improv on Doctor Who
The fans at comic convention panels always have incredible questions for actors, some of which can get pretty deep. Case in point: the first question a fan asked Matt Smith was, “What life lessons have you taken from Doctor Who and kept through this past decade?”
Smith responded, “Wow. Well, that’s a very profound question. He’s very interesting, the Doctor, because actually, everyone thinks he’s the best- which he is, he is the best, or she, whoever, they are the best. But he’s also got a lot of blood on his hands. He’s pretty mad, you know. When you look at the amount of planets that he’s left in the TARDIS, and in the background, you see like [explosion sound], and there’s all those planets and stuff on it. So I think there’s a sort of ruthlessness about the way he is totally independent that I love. And I also think there’s a lot of great lines and wisdom from the Doctor, like ‘life is a pile of good things and a pile of bad things’. And I think there’s a beautiful, profound sense to that. And actually deep down, he’s really just a quite kind, very strange, alien. So it’s alright to be kind and strange, ultimately.”
Another fan asked, “What was your favorite moment of improv that you did during your run as the Doctor?” That one almost stumped Matt Smith! He replied, “Oh, favorite moment of improv… you know, I mean, it wasn’t really improv. But I kept saying it, and then it’s stuck. So they never really wrote ‘Geronimo’ in. I just kept saying it… actually, it was quite good. So it was in once, in the first… in the regeneration, when he’s like ‘I got legs, I got ears’, all that sort of stuff. Then I said ‘Geronimo’, then I just kept saying it, and saying it, and saying it, and that stuck, and I was really happy about that. And there was lots of stuff with the fez that I used to like playing around with. I can’t remember.”
Other audience members wanted to know more about behind-the-scenes decisions on Doctor Who. “Obviously, every Doctor has their own flair. When you are invited to come in to be the Doctor, how much collaboration is there between you and the show creators, to [decide] who this iteration of the Doctor is going to be?”
Matt Smith said, “Well, a lot because I think with the Doctor, it’s a bit like Hamlet or something like that. It’s gotta be intrinsically yours, really. I mean, I looked at David’s [Tennant] and I knew he was sort of swashbuckling, and brilliant with the ladies, and stuff like that. And my Doctor, I thought initially, well, maybe it’s interesting to sort of make him clumsy, and terrible with ladies. I always knew I wanted him to feel quite old. Because I thought it was interesting that, at the time, I looked quite young. But it was ages ago […] I was 26! And so, you know, you have these fixed ideas. And then, yeah, you throw caution to the wind a bit. It’s a very nerve wracking experience, I have to say, because there’s a lot of people that love Doctor Who around the world, and I walk down the street and people are like ‘Oi mate! Don’t break Doctor Who!’ and I’ll be like, ‘Okay, sorry!’”
The panel moderator also chimed in here, saying “Well, you also came into Doctor Who at a time where it really was reaching that sort of global fever pitch.”
Smith acknowledged the series’ growing popularity: “Yeah, yeah, it was huge. But you know, I just had the bes, best time. It’s such a great show to make, so much fun. I miss it. But I’m still kind of best friends with Karen [Gillan] and stuff. I see her loads, and she’s utterly hilarious. So yeah, I’ve got some wonderful friends from that period in my life. It’s good. And you guys.”
Finally, Matt Smith was asked the question on every Whovian’s mind: “Do you ever want to return to Doctor Who? Why or why not?”
“Look, I mean, who knows? It’s a difficult thing. I think the story has to be right. I think that the reason for going back would have to be really right. And I don’t think you know until the opportunity is in front of you. But I love being a fan. I love keeping in touch with the show, and I’m really, really proud that I was part of it. I just had the best time, and I love the Eleventh Doctor. You know, I love that version of it. Yeah, I had a great kind of companion story as well. I think the way he met Amelia was just really mega. I have a lot of good memories, but you never know. Let’s see, maybe one day.”
On dragon riding and why the Targaryens are the best on House of the Dragon
Of course, Doctor Who isn’t the only thing Matt Smith is known for. While (sadly) no one asked him about his Oscar-worthy performance in Morbius, he did get some great questions about House of the Dragon!
The first burning question on a fan’s mind was, “If you were not a Targaryen, what other House from Game of Thrones would you want to be in?”
Matt Smith had his answer locked and loaded. “I can’t possibly answer that, I would never be anything but a Targaryen. […] Who wants to be a Stark? The Targaryens, man, we’ve got dragons and blond hair. What else are you gonna be? It’s the same with the Greens or the Blacks. No, no, no, there’s only one side to be on, and it’s ours.”
Another interesting question centered on the magic of visual effects. “In House of the Dragon, how did it feel riding? Because you weren’t riding dragons. When you’re on the dragons, recording, how did that feel when you actually saw yourself?”
All Smith could say was, “How does it feel to watch yourself riding a dragon? I think the answer is in the question, my friend. How do you feel wearing that cool, sparkly- pretty good, no? Yeah, it feels good, doesn’t it? There you go! You’re looking good as well, man. No, it’s great, you’re riding a dragon. It’s like, come on. And you’re a Targaryen.”
Thankfully, the panel moderator kept this conversation going by asking, “What was the dragon riding mechanism that they had for you?”
Matt Smith said, “Well, it was like a big sort of bucking bronco. It’s quite good fun actually, but you’re up there for like 12 hours. By the end you’re like “Oh my god.” And then it moves around, and there’s a guy with us, you know, controls and stuff. And the fire, wind, and rain. And you have to do your best, sort of, ‘I’m riding a dragon’ acting.”
The moderator wasn’t done there, asking “Do you think that your ‘I’m riding a dragon’ act will change now having seen yourself? Have you ever watched yourself back?”
Matt Smith simply said, “Yeah, it’s all up for grabs basically.”
Matt Smith wraps up his panel at L.A. Comic Con 2023
For the final question of the afternoon, a fan asked “Did being on strike this summer and kind of away from the industry give you an opportunity to introspect on your career thus far? And if so, what are you looking for in projects now?”
Matt Smith addressed it by saying, “Well, I don’t know if you’re aware, but House of the Dragon didn’t actually go on strike. It was one of the few- it’s a very complicated unionized story, which I won’t get into. So it did give me cause for introspection for a million different reasons. Because then it was all very conflicting. I won’t get into that. And then the second part of the question was, what do I want to do next? I don’t know, really. I’m about to do a play next. So I guess that’s what I want to do. Because that’s what I’m gonna go do. So I’m going to do that in London, if any of you find yourself in London… Yeah. And then after that, you know, I’m going to do something else. And in the meantime, I’m gonna walk my dog.”
Finally, we got to hear an absolutely unhinged dog name. In response to “What’s your dog’s name?” Matt Smith responded “Bobby.” Clearly, he thinks our furry friends should have human names! Though as the owner of an adorably gentle pitbull named Thanos, I may not be one to talk.
He did say “I really want the Doctor to have a dog. That isn’t a robot. Or even just get K-9 back.” Here’s hoping we see the Eleventh Doctor return in a future Doctor Who special, complete with a new species of companion!