Whithouse began from a point of necessity — he “needed a character who could lip read” — but his idea to make a hearing character good at lip reading was dropped after he remembered a talk that he’d attended at a writing festival. “The topic was diversity in terms of getting deaf and disabled actors and characters into drama,” Whithouse recalls. “There were disabled actors on the panel, and they were saying that it has to be done in a kind of two-pronged way. First, parts have to be written for disabled characters. And the other thing that has to happen is that disabled actors have to be cast in non-disabled parts.”
“The fact that she was heroic and she was clever and she was kick-ass, and she was sort of standing up to the Doctor.” The writer says that audiences were “thrilled” not only to see a deaf person associated with those traits, but by “the fact that the [hearing impairment] becomes incidental after a point. It was lovely,” he says. “I’ve been really really delighted by the response to this character. And it helps also that the actor is so good as well. Sophie Stone is just so fantastic and so wonderful. All credit to her if this changes anything.”
What happened was I was initially approached about a show about a group of college graduates who decide to buy a house together. It struck me that wasn’t the most thrilling or scintillating idea I’d ever heard, and I was on the verge of turning it down when completely unbidden, I had these ideas about three completely human characters that literally arrived fully formed.
Mitchell was a recovering sex addict; Annie was kind of a borderline agoraphobic; and George was this punctilious, house-proud, anal character who with anger liked to keep his life compartmentalized. I wrote pages and pages and pages of these bios, and the producers were very happy with these characters. We all liked the way they kind of sat together, but we couldn’t for the life of us come up with a story for the first episode, and this went on and on for months.
We decided that we were going to have one last meeting and then if nothing came of that, we were going to call it a day. In sort of a kamikaze move, I suddenly said, “Well of course what we could do is turn George into a werewolf,” because if nothing else, that would give a story for the first episode.
And once we decided on that, because frankly we had no show, nothing to lose… It seemed like a very natural progression. Mitchell, the recovering sex addict, is like a vampire, and Annie, the agoraphobic, is the ghost rooted to a house. So, the bedrock was character, and the supernatural archetypes were added later. That’s the kind of precise version of a process that took about eighteen months.
Even though it was very frustrating at the time, I’m very pleased that we put that kind of work into the characters first. I think had I been asked for a straightforward supernatural show, we would have ended up being nothing. We would have ended up with something being less textured. And so that was kind of how it happened. But as I say, that meant the show’s foundation was on character.
And by the way, that’s genuinely Peter Capaldi playing guitar at the end of the pre-titles scene. He’s ridiculously talented. An Oscar winning director, and extraordinary actor, an amazing artist and a musician…
Toby Whithouse on the multi-talented Mr Capaldi (Doctor Who Magazine)
We’re sitting in these lovely floral seats today with Doctor Who and Torchwood writer Toby Whithouse curating some posts for Doctor Who Tumblr. He’s writing for series 9 as well so we had a LOT of questions for him yesterday in BBC America’s twitter Q&A.
We’ll be tagging the posts Toby chooses with #TobyWhithouse so keep an eye out for them!
EW: Did you model him on a more traditional vampire?
Mark Gatiss: No, Toby gave me this fantastic description. He just sent me a text that said, “Would you come and play the King Vampire?” I said yes immediately. Then, he sent me the script for episode 7, which is where we arrive right at the end, and I have that wonderful line, “Well, who’s hungry?” It said in the description that I am dark as the night and older than dirt. I loved that. Also, brilliantly, Toby said, “Let’s call him Mr. Snow,” as if he’s so impossibly old he doesn’t really have a name anymore. He forgot it a thousand years ago.
Then Being Human will belong to them. Once the credits on episode 6 roll, the future of all those characters will exist in the imagination of the audience, to do with as they please. But in a way the show always did belong to the fans. Their tenacity, passion and loyalty are what kept the show going and provided inspiration to everyone working on it.
I’m reminded of the scene in series 3, episode 8, with Mitchell and Herrick sitting in the car looking at the sunset. Herrick asks if Mitchell finds it amazing that soon this world will be theirs. And Mitchell says “It always was.”
(Yeah, and then he stakes him, I know. Ignore that bit.)“
“Doctor Who” Fan Screening and Q&A with writer Toby Whithouse and Entertainment Weekly’s Clark Collis
Join BBC America for an exclusive “Doctor Who” Fan Screening and Q&A with writer Toby Whithouse and Entertainment Weekly’s Clark Collis.
The new episode, “Before the Flood,” written by Toby Whithouse and directed by Daniel O’Hara, will be shown to fans at NYCC ahead of its premiere on BBC America. In addition to creating hit original series “Being Human” and “The Game,” Toby Whithouse’s writing credits for “Doctor Who” include episodes: “School Reunion” (starring David Tennant, Billie Piper, Noel Clarke, Elisabeth Sladen), “The Vampires of Venice” (starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Helen McCrory), “The God Complex” (starring Smith, Gillan, Darvill, David Walliams), “A Town Called Mercy” (starring Smith, Gillan, Darvill) and this season’s “Under the Lake” (starring Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Sophie Stone).