Matt Smith (actor)

Matt Smith (actor)
Matt Smith

Smith at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2011.
Born Matthew Robert Smith
28 October 1982 (1982-10-28) (age 29)
Northampton, England, UK
Occupation Actor
Years active 2003–present

Matthew Robert Smith (born 28 October 1982)[1] is an English stage and television actor. He is known for his role as the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor in the British television series Doctor Who, for which he received a BAFTA Award nomination in 2011.[2]

He initially aspired to be a professional footballer, but a back injury forced him out of the sport. After joining the National Youth Theatre and studying Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, Smith became an actor in 2003, performing in plays like Murder in the Cathedral, Fresh Kills, The History Boys and On the Shore of the Wide World in London theatres. Extending his repertoire into West End theatre, he has since performed in the stage adaptation of Swimming with Sharks with Christian Slater,[3] followed a year later by a critically acclaimed performance as Henry in That Face.[4]

Before his role in Doctor Who, Smith's first television role came in 2006 as Jim Taylor in the BBC adaptations of Phillip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North while his first major role in television came as Danny in the 2007 BBC series Party Animals. Smith, who was announced as the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor in January 2009, is the youngest person to play the character in the British television series.[5]


Early life and education

Smith was born and brought up in Northampton where he attended Northampton School for Boys, a state comprehensive secondary school. He had planned to be a professional football player, having played for the youth teams of Northampton Town F.C., Nottingham Forest F.C. and Leicester City F.C.[6] After a serious back injury, his drama teacher introduced him to acting by surreptitiously signing him up as the tenth juror in an adaptation of Twelve Angry Men.[7] Although he took part in the play, he declined going to a drama festival that his teacher had signed him up for.[7] His drama teacher persisted, and eventually persuaded him to join the National Youth Theatre in London. After leaving school, Smith studied Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.[7] He has cited his favourite band, Radiohead, as an inspiration: "That’s what I want when I go to the theatre, when I’m in a play, is them, and that experience that I get from them."[8]

Smith's first theatre roles came as part of the National Youth Theatre were Thomas Becket in Murder in the Cathedral and Basoon in The Master and Margarita. His role in the latter earned him an agent and his first professional jobs: Fresh Kills and On the Shore of the Wide World. His new professional roles led to him being required to seek an agreement with his university so that he could graduate without attending lectures in his final two terms.[9]

Professional acting career

During his tenure in On the Shore of the Wide World, the play transferred to the Royal National Theatre in London. After finishing the play, he took on the role of Lockwood, a pupil in the Alan Bennett play The History Boys. After The History Boys, he would act in the teen play Burn/Chatroom/Citizenship and Swimming with Sharks; the latter being his West End début, with Christian Slater.[7][9] His first television role was as Jim Taylor in the BBC adaptations of the Sally Lockhart quartet books The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, opposite Billie Piper in the lead role; he acted with Piper a third time in an episode of Secret Diary of a Call Girl.[10]

Party Animals

Smith's first major television role came in the television series Party Animals, a BBC television drama series about fictional parliamentary advisors and researchers in Westminster. In Party Animals, Smith portrays Danny Foster, a parliamentary researcher to Jo Porter (Raquel Cassidy), the Labour Party Home Office junior minister. At 26 years old, Danny is described as an intelligent but timid "politics geek" who should have moved on from researching at his age. Within the series' narrative, he attempts to balance his affections for Kirsty MacKenzie (Andrea Riseborough), his intern, while trying to prevent Porter's imminent decline.[11]

In an interview in 2007, Smith discussed his character's motivations. He summarised Danny as having a romantic outlook of the political world while being cynical elsewhere. The character was drawn into politics by his father and his own political drive. He defended his character's age by characterising him as being loyal to Porter, instead of being incompetent. He talked about his character's emotional and intellectual maturity: emotionally, he lacks confidence around women—most notably seen with his unrequited love towards Kirsty—but Smith portrays Danny as a caring and sensitive but "wry, sarcastic, [and] witty" romantic; and intellectually, Danny is portrayed as attentive and of possessing a strong work ethic.[12]

That Face

In 2007, Smith appeared as Henry in the critically acclaimed Polly Stenham play That Face at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in Chelsea with Lindsay Duncan as Henry's alcoholic mother, Martha, and Felicity Jones—later Hannah Murray—as Henry's drug-addicted sister, Mia. The play transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End in 2008 and became Smith's second role there. That Face focuses primarily upon alcohol and drug addiction in an upper-middle-class family after the paternal figure in the family leaves. As Henry, Smith portrayed an aspiring artist who left school to take care of his mother. To prepare for the role, the cast interviewed alcoholics and their families. Smith discussed his character's relationship with his mother in an interview with the Evening Standard:[7]

The thing I find tricky to get my head round is why doesn't he just leave? An awful lot of it is codependency. [...] With Henry there's a real belief—or denial maybe—that he can change his mother. When she is finally pulled away from him to go to rehab, his identity collapses. His sacrifice has been for nothing.

Matt Smith, 6 May 2008, "That face to watch", Evening Standard[7]

The entire cast of the play was nominated for the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre,[13] and Smith won the Evening Standard's award for "best newcomer" for his role.[14] Upon its transfer to the West End, the play was critically acclaimed, with Smith's performance as Henry highlighted as one of the positive aspects of the play by critics for The Evening Standard, The Daily Express, The Guardian and The Times.[15]

Doctor Who

Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, with Matt Smith as Eleventh Doctor (2009)

"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."

Executive producer Steven Moffat on Smith's casting.[16]

Smith was revealed as the Eleventh Doctor in the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who in January 2009[17] to replace David Tennant, who announced his departure in October 2008.[18] Smith was a relatively unknown actor compared to the actors then speculated about possibly taking on the role, who included Paterson Joseph, David Morrissey, Sean Pertwee, James Nesbitt, Russell Tovey, Catherine Zeta Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Robert Carlyle and Billie Piper.[19] Smith was first named as a possible successor less than a day before he was announced as the Eleventh Doctor, on the 3 January 2009 edition of BBC Breakfast among the names speculated about.[20] His obscurity prompted the news headline "Doctor Who?", a pun on the show's title.[21][22][23]

Doctor Who filming, with Matt Smith as Eleventh Doctor, and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond

Smith was one of the earliest actors to audition for the role, performing on the first day. The production team, consisting of the incoming producer, Steven Moffat, and BBC Wales Head of Drama and executive producer, Piers Wenger, immediately singled him out based on his performance.[17] Smith additionally auditioned for the role of John Watson in the Moffat-created Sherlock, undergoing auditions at the same time; he was unsuccessful, as Moffat believed his eccentric acting style was closer to Holmes, whose role had already been given to Benedict Cumberbatch.[24] At 26 years old, Smith was three years younger than Peter Davison was at the time of his casting as the Doctor in 1981, and younger than any other actor suggested for the role.[17] After three weeks of auditions, Moffat and Wenger agreed that it had "always been Matt" and approached him to accept the role.[17] The BBC were cautious about casting him because they felt that a 26-year-old could not play the Doctor adequately; Wenger shared the same sentiment but thought Smith had proven his acting quality in Party Animals, which Wenger thought highlighted Smith's "mercurial qualities".[16][17] Some fans of the show believed that Smith was inexperienced and too young for the role, while others supported him by citing his demonstrated acting ability.[25] For his performance in his first series he was nominated in the Outstanding Drama Performance Category of the National Television Awards.[26]

In June 2010, he appeared on stage with Orbital, and performed with them a version of the Doctor Who theme, at the Glastonbury Festival.[27] Smith hosted the Doctor Who Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on 24–25 July 2010.[28] In June 2011, the BBC announced that Smith had been signed to film a further fourteen episodes of Doctor Who as the Doctor.[29]


Film and television credits
Title Year Medium Role Notes
Ruby in the Smoke, TheThe Ruby in the Smoke 2006 Television film Jim Taylor
Party Animals 2007 Television series Danny Foster
In Bruges 2007 Feature film Young Harry Scenes were deleted; available on DVD out-takes
Secret Diary of a Call Girl 2007 Television series Tim Series 1, episode 6
Street, TheThe Street 2007 Television series Ian Hanley Episodes: "Demolition" and "Taxi"
Shadow in the North, TheThe Shadow in the North 2009 Television film Jim Taylor
Moses Jones 2009 TV miniseries DS Dan Twentyman
Together 2009 Short film Rob
Womb[30] 2010 Feature film Thomas Production began March 2009[31]
Doctor Who 2010–present Television series The Doctor Lead role, series 5 (2010) and 6 (2011) and 7 (2012)[32]
Sarah Jane Adventures, TheThe Sarah Jane Adventures 2010 Television series The Doctor Series 4, episodes 5 and 6: Death of the Doctor[33][34]
Christopher and His Kind 2011 Television film Christopher Isherwood
Bert and Dickie[35] 2012 Television film Bert Bushnell Production begins in August 2011
Theatre credits
Title Duration Role Theatre
Murder in the Cathedral 2003 Thomas Becket
Master and Margarita, TheThe Master and Margarita 2004 Basoon Lyric Hammersmith, London
Fresh Kills 2004 Arnold Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London
On the Shore of the Wide World 2005 Paul Danzinger
History Boys, TheThe History Boys 2005–2006 Lockwood National Theatre, London
Burn/Chatroom/Citizenship 2006 Tom/William/Gary National Theatre, London
That Face 2007 Henry Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London
Swimming with Sharks 2007–2008 Guy Vaudeville Theatre, London
That Face 2008 Henry Duke of York's Theatre, London
Voice credits in video games
Title Year Role Notes
Doctor Who: The Adventure Games 2010 The Doctor Episodic video game
Doctor Who: Return to Earth 2010 The Doctor Nintendo Wii video game
Doctor Who: Evacuation Earth 2010 The Doctor Nintendo DS video game


  1. ^ Northampton School for Boys
  2. ^ Plunkett, John (26 April 2011). "Doctor Who's Matt Smith and E4's Misfits win Bafta nods". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Entertainment | Who on earth is Matt Smith?". BBC News. 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  4. ^ "That face to watch| Theatre". This is London. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  5. ^ "Press Office — Network TV Programme Information BBC Weeks 51/52 BBC ONE". BBC. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  6. ^ "Meet the Eleventh Doctor". Doctor Who microsite. BBC. 5 January 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f "That face to watch". This is London. 6 May 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  8. ^ "Matt Smith: The Official London Theatre Guide". Official London Theatre. 14 May 2008. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  9. ^ a b "Fresh Face: Matt Smith". 18 October 2007. Archived from the original on 30 March 2009. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  10. ^ "Matt Smith Is New Doctor Who". Empire Online. 3 January 2009. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  11. ^ "Danny Foster". Party Animals microsite. BBC. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  12. ^ "Matt Smith interview". Party Animals microsite. BBC. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  13. ^ "Olivier awards 2008: nominations in full". The Guardian (London). 7 February 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  14. ^ "Who's that girl? Matt Smith in the cross-dressing role that helped land him role of the new Time Lord". Daily Mail. 12 February 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  15. ^ Rynn, Melissa; Jackson, Kate; et al (12 May 2008). "Review Round-up: Stenham Saves West End Face". What's On Stage. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  16. ^ a b "Matt Smith is the New Doctor". BBC Press Office. 3 January 2009. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c d e "The Eleventh Doctor". Doctor Who Confidential. BBC. BBC One. 3 January 2009. No. 15, series 4.
  18. ^ "David Tennant quits as Doctor Who". BBC News. 29 October 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  19. ^ "Doctor Who: The runners and the riders". BBC News. 3 January 2009. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  20. ^ Hilton, Matt (3 January 2009). "Odds on Who". The Doctor Who News Page (Outpost Gallifrey). Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  21. ^ Goldsmith, Belinda (4 January 2009). "Dr Who? BBC chooses newcomer". Reuters. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  22. ^ Moreton, Cole (4 January 2009). "Doctor Who? Unknown is latest incarnation of Time Lord". London: The Independent. Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  23. ^ "The new Doctor is Matt... Who?". The Sun. 4 January 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  24. ^ French, Dan (4 February 2010). "Matt Smith rejected for BBC's 'Sherlock'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  25. ^ Moss, Lyndsay (5 January 2009). "Doctor who? Newcomer divides programme's fans". The Scotsman. Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  26. ^ "National TV Awards winners". BBC News. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  27. ^ Doctor Who's Matt Smith performs with Orbital at Glastonbury |
  28. ^ "Doctor Who's day at the Proms". BBC News. 25 July 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  29. ^ "Matt Smith to return for new Doctor Who series". BBC News Online. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2011. 
  30. ^ Meza, Ed (9 February 2009). "Eva Green to star in "Womb"". Variety. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  31. ^ "Eva Green Set to Star in "Womb"". 9 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  32. ^ "Matt Smith to return for new Doctor Who series". BBC News. 8 July 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  33. ^ "The Doctor and Jo Grant join CBBC's The Sarah Jane Adventures in special episodes written by Russell T Davies". BBC Press Office. 2010-04-19. Retrieved 2010-04-19. 
  34. ^ "Doctor Who star Matt Smith to appear in Sarah Jane Adventures". The Daily Telegraph (London). 19 April 2010. 
  35. ^ Bamigboye, Baz (1 July 2011). "Doctor Who's Olympic past: Matt Smith to star as gold-winning rower from 1948". Daily Mail. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 

Further reading

  • Smith, Oli (2010). Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith. London: BBC Children's Books. ISBN 978-1-40590-687-6

External links

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