Class In Session: Interview with the cast of Class
Launched in late 2016, the Doctor Who team headed back to the classroom with the new spinoff, Class. In an eight episode series, give students are thrust into a world of alien threats and the horrors of time travel, whilst trying to deal with the stresses of their everyday teenage lives.
The success of other spinoffs including Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures saw a push for an expanding universe, or Whoniverse, as we like to call it. In this case, this growing universe introduced a much darker style of acting and writing, neglecting the sonic screwdriver and TARDIS, replacing them with the true grit that comes with adolescence.
Overall it received generous reviews, but the future of Class is unsteady without your help. In May earlier in the year, we caught up with three members of the cast, Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, and Sophie Hopkins, at the MCM film and comic convention in London.
Greg, now in his mid twenties, plays the role of Charlie Smith, an alien posing as a 17-year-old human student from Sheffield. Fady, playing the role of Ram Singh is a tough, antisocial student, who is also a gifted football player. Sophie, as April MacLean, takes on the persona of an ordinary, unremarkable student whose life is changed forever when she encounters one of the series main antagonists. The three cast members offered their time to talk about the show, educating me, who accidentally admitted to never watching the show.
Can you describe the show in your best words?
Sophie Hopkins: “It’s action packed, it’s emotional, I think first and foremost it’s real life drama. There are a lot of issues that are directed at the young adult audience that they may perhaps be going through, so it’s that plus a load of science fiction”.
Fady Elsayed: “I think it’s a really dramatic Sci-Fi story, with really relatable topics that real life human beings can relate to”.
SH: “Real life human beings?”
FE: “Yeah not those fake ones. The reason I say that is because the topics that are shown in Sci-Fi tend to not be that relatable on a personal level. I feel like all the topics in Class, from the relationships, the trauma, the loss, identity, sexuality, everything is something that people can relate to”.
Greg Austin: “All of that plus aliens”.
You play an alien in the show don’t you Greg?
GA: “I do. (Offering up his best Little Britain impression) I’m the only gay alien in the village. I’m a Gaylien”.
That was the main thing that stood out when I was researching the show. You’re all in your mid twenties, how did it feel going back to class?
FE: “It was good, even just walking through the corridors, being in a classroom, writing notes in our books, having crushes on our teachers”.
GA: “The nostalgia just kept me impressed, because it feels like forever since I’ve been at school”.
SH: “It was good getting a redo. I think when you’re a teenager; you are so consumed by all of these trivial matters, which later down the line you don’t even think about, but at the time it is the most important thing in the world. So going back and having some clarity on that was really cool. That, and being able to see it through someone else’s eyes, especially one I could relate to”.
FE: “It was a lot of fun we got to be cheeky again, which is rather sad in a way”.
GA: “I found having all the extras to walk down the corridor to set the vibe was also really cool”.
Was it the whole feeling of stepping foot in the school and thinking, ‘I made it’?
FE: “Exactly, that’s exactly how it felt”.
Were you fans of Who prior to the show?
SH: “I’ve been watching it on and off since 2005, with [Christopher] Eccleston, so I’ve kind of dipped in and out over the years. I saw a lot of episodes from all the different series, but I was never a devout Whovian, that came later”.
GA: “I think I speak for both Fady and myself, for us we hadn’t really watched any Doctor Who. I’m a geek, so its weird that I hadn’t gotten into the show before, but I never really had any friends who watched it, I never grew up with it. Now being in the show, I have gotten into it for sure. My mate, who is a huge Whovian, keeps fangirling over me. Now that we are in the Whoniverse, of course we are Whovians”.
What was it like filming alongside Peter Capaldi?
SH: “It was amazing; we all fan girled over him”.
GA: “Me especially”.
SH: “I was so used to him from The Thick of It, playing Malcolm who just swore the entire time, so I almost expected that to come out of his mouth, but now he is more a family entertainment Doctor”.
GA: “Actually, you know what I saw him in the other day… just for laughs I put on the Mr. Bean movie, and he was in it at the very beginning of the film. He was quite younger in it… sorry that was really random”.
SH: “It was lovely meeting him”.
FE: “A lot of his work is improvised. On the set of the last scene in episode one where he is saying his goodbyes and telling us that he wont necessarily be there for us, there were just basketballs lying around that he would bounce around. There’s an ‘in memoriam’ board in the school that has Clara Oswalds name on it, and since she and the Doctor had a close relationship, Capaldi created this amazing scene that was improvised”.
Now that he will be leaving the show, what are your thoughts on the new Doctor? (It is important to note this interview was conducted prior to the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor)
GA: “I’ll go ahead and say it. I would love there to be a female Doctor, but I don’t want it do be a female Doctor just for the sake of it being a woman. If there is going to be a female Doctor, she has to be the Doctor, not just because she is a female. It can’t just be a tick in the box”.
FE: “It can’t feel forced. I read recently that they had an actor in mind for the Doctor, purely because he was ginger, as if there would be a whole new level of connectedness in the Doctor Who world if he were a ginger. I don’t want it to be a case of finding someone who can just fit in, rather than someone who fits the role. Like Greg said, essentially whoever it is, they just have to be the Doctor”.
Do you have any actors in mind?
FE: “For me, Katherine Kelly”.
SH: “I would say Gael Garcia Bernal, after seeing him in Mozart in the Jungle I want that kind of energy in the show. If not him, maybe Olivia Coleman”.
FE: “Who’s in the mix do you know?”
Kris Marshall has been on a few lists over time, but I think they are trying to follow a certain pattern of the Doctors. Capaldi resembles William Hartnell, now I think they want someone a little younger, someone who may resemble Patrick Troughton.
Do you know the future of the show?
SH: “We don’t. If we did you would know because we wouldn’t be able to keep it in. We are hoping it continues, there are a lot of issues that need resolving. The last episode finished on several different cliffhangers that we would like to know the result to, because if we don’t find out, how will I sleep at night?”
FE: “Some guy came up to us yesterday, I feel personally he came up to our table just because of Sophie, but he walked up and asked what the show was. We didn’t want to spoil it for him, but he insisted on us telling him anyway because he wasn’t going to watch it. Once we told him who the monster was, he told us they are overused and then simply walked away. It was funny how blunt he was”.
Finishing up with a fun one, dealing with Science Fiction and time travel… if you had the opportunity to travel to the past, the present or the future, where would you go and what would you do?
GA: “Future. Purely just to see where the human race ends up. Exactly 10 000 years into the future I think. Think about it, I would be the only white person to exist at that time because we will all have interbred that much”.
FE: “The past, I want to see where the human race started. I have all of these questions, like how did the world start”.
SH: “I’m a bit of a history buff. Before I was an actress I wanted to be an Egyptologist, so id like to see Egypt in its prime. I was looking into the Egyptian Book of the Dead and how society worked, I found it really interesting. Obviously I would rather be at the wealthy side of the spectrum, but even so”.
The recent news reveals that another season of the show is highly unlikely, but for any Doctor Who fans that want to make a difference, head to @classbbc_ on Instagram and sign the petition.