As part of the promotion for his return to our screens in ITV’s Safe House, Christopher Eccleston has been talking about his time on Doctor Who in a rare interview on BBC Radio 4.
As a guest on Saturday evening discussion programme Loose Ends, Eccleston told host Emma Freud, that he put himself forward for the role: “I approached Russell T Davies and said I know you are going to do this and I think you should think about me…. I wanted to do something for children, I wanted to learn a lighter way of being.”
Asking him as to whether he thought he was successful in bringing a lighter touch to the role, he said, “I think I over pitched the comedy. If I had my time again I would do the comedy very differently. But I think, where I possibly succeeded was in the tortured stuff.”
It’s a harsh judgment of his own performance – after all the show was still experimenting with its tone and he can’t be blamed for over-selling some of the broader jokes.
Pressing him as to why he left the show, Eccleston was understandably reticent to discuss it: “What’s interesting in this country is that wherever a story like this emerges they concentrate on the negative. I don’t think it’s important why I left, I think it’s important that I did it in the first place.”
Undeterred Freud pushed the point saying it was a big shock to fans when he left, and he had been so successful in a role he could still be playing now: “Well I’m still there in spirit……. Myself and three individuals at the very top of the pyramid clashed, so off I went. But they are not here to say their side of it, so I’m not going to go into details.”
Elaborating further, Eccleston told the Daily Record that once the rift occurred, he had no choice but to leave: “I’d had enough. I wanted to do it my way, they wanted something else. We were never going to compromise so it was best to be straight about it and just go.
“It’s very easy to stay in one job and make that your comfort zone, and I want to resist that temptation.”
Speaking about Safe House, Eccleston explained his motivation for tackling the role of Robert, a troubled former detective trying to cope with past trauma; a role that required him to try his hand at wild swimming in the icy waters of the Lake District in Safe House, Eccleston said that it’ll at least make a good story to tell the grandkids.
“I was in a wetsuit. Everybody who swims in there swims in a wetsuit unless it’s the height of summer. I was probably in the water for maybe half an hour to 45 minutes for each sequence. The swimming scenes were not the greatest thing to contemplate the night before. But to actually do them was wonderful. Exhilarating. So when they put me in the box I can say, ‘Well, I did that’.”
Isolating himself and pushing himself to such physical extremes was a mind that Eccleston could relate to: ““I think if I was as severely traumatised as this character I would definitely use nature and physical exercise…
“So I would do what Robert does if I had suffered that kind of trauma. I would relocate and work through it with physical exercise of some sort. I had a real connection with him and his compulsion to swim.”
Safe House continues on ITV 1 for the next three weeks, and you can catch part one on the ITV Player.