Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

On top of the world

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'I WHOOPED loudly, I wasn't very cool about it,' recalls Orla Brady of the moment she heard she'd landed a key part in this year's Christmas Doctor Who. 'I was sitting on my own in a dressing room in Belgium after a day filming the life of a woman who hadn't had a lot of luck in her life - so the news couldn't have been a better pick-me-up.'

More of that ill-served woman - the Wexford designer Eileen Gray - later. Firstly, duty demands Brady fend off requests for clues about the part her character, Tasha Lem, plays in the exit of one Doctor (Matt Smith) and the arrival of another (Peter Capaldi). It's a big moment in Doctor Who history. She ponders how much she can give away without breaching the Time Lord Secrets Act.

'How should I describe my character?' she asks. 'I'm a facilitator. Essentially, I'm an old friend of the Doctor and there's a reason he really needs to see her, even though they haven't spoken for a hundred years. I'm very much bound up in Matt's farewell, so I can't really make any comparison between him and Peter. But I know he's going to be great.'

The chattily charming Brady lives 'way up the coast' from Los Angeles these days, with her husband, English photographer Nick Brandt. 'Gosh no, I'm not at all LA, we're in the sticks,' says Brady. 'It's good for work to be here but I really miss home.'

Brady was educated at Loreto Convent in Wicklow and Ursuline Convent in Dublin; Doctor Who hadn't evaded her cultural compass, however. Far from it. Brady fondly recalls the lengths she and her childhood friends had to go to in order to catch it.

'It was very much part of my childhood,' says Brady. 'Of course we didn't have BBC in our house, so we had to go to whoever's house had a stolen signal and watch it with fuzzy pictures - which kind of made the Daleks even scarier. And even when you couldn't get to see it, you were aware of it - it was part of the culture.'

And her favourite Doctor Who? 'Tom Baker,' she says. 'He would always be my first thought but then there's Matt, too, of course. But your Doctor is always the one you grew up with, isn't it?'

Brady is 52, so Tom Baker fits, and she boasts a varied career that stretches across stage and screen. She's best known in Ireland for her theatre work in The Gate and her role as adulterous lawyer Siobhán in the BBC's Mistresses; in the US, she's had regular roles in hit series Shark and Fringe. But for all that experience, she admits she found Doctor Who a stiff challenge.

'You feel it when you walk on set, it's a different kind of energy, because you're balancing elements of different genres at the same time,' says Brady. 'You can be doing a scene that's pure slapstick, Matt boinging about the place, then a moment later there's a scene that's really intense and intimate. You really have to keep your wits about you.'

NOT that she needed reminding but Brady felt the power of the Doctor Who phenomenon when she caught the announcement of Capaldi as the new Doctor in its own special programme. We're back in Belgium.

'I'd been listening to French and I needed a break, so I span the channels and there it was, on BBC World,' she says. 'And I thought: "That's right, that's really clever. There's something particular you need to be Doctor Who and Peter has it."'

She was in Belgium to film The Price Of Desire, the story of the conflict between celebrated modernist French designer Le Corbusier (Vincent Perez) and his unjustly overlooked contemporary, our own Eileen Gray, played by Brady. It's a story that offers, by way of sideways titillation, Alanis Morrisette playing Gray's flamboyant lover, singer Marisa Damia.

'What the film tries to do is shift the balance,' says Brady. 'Eileen Gray built this wonderful house in France [the functionally named E-1027]. But it's often referred to as 'the Corbusier house' because he put some murals in it after she left. It's like he appropriated the whole site and the juggernaut of his fame has flattened her reputation.'

Gray and Damia were total opposites, the bisexual Gray happy within her intimate circle, the fame-hungry Damia in the habit of prowling the promenades of Paris with her pet panther in tow. 'Eileen was quite hard to find a way into,' says Brady.

'She was not someone who left much trace of herself, she was very much of her time. These days we have to know everything about everybody - Eileen would have abhorred that.

'The closest I came to her was when I went to the house she built, at Roquebrune near Nice. It was as if the house was saying: "This is me, this is what I've made, this is me." The house was talking to me.'

A talking house? Sounds like something straight out of a certain time-travelling adventure.

Doctor Who: The Time Of The Doctor is on BBC1 on Christmas Day at 7.30pm. The Price Of Desire is out next year; the exhibtion Eileen Gray: Architect Designer Painter runs at the Irish Museum Of Modern Art until Jan 19

"Gosh no, I'm not at all LA, we're in the sticks"

GRAPHIC: Time's up: Orla Brady plays Tasha Lem in Doctor Who; Eileen Gray (below), to be played by Brady in an upcoming biopic

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  • APA 6th ed.: Watson, Keith (2013-12-20). On top of the world. Metro Herald p. 25.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Watson, Keith. "On top of the world." Metro Herald [add city] 2013-12-20, 25. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Watson, Keith. "On top of the world." Metro Herald, edition, sec., 2013-12-20
  • Turabian: Watson, Keith. "On top of the world." Metro Herald, 2013-12-20, section, 25 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=On top of the world | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/On_top_of_the_world | work=Metro Herald | pages=25 | date=2013-12-20 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=On top of the world | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/On_top_of_the_world | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024}}</ref>