Sophie Aldred | THE SEARCH FOR SIMON

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SOPHIE ALDRED is a British actress best known for her role as DOCTOR WHO companion Ace during Sylvester McCoy’s tenure. She is currently the voice of Tom in CBEEBIES show, TREE FU TOM. We caught up with her to talk about her return to live-action features via the movie THE SEARCH FOR SIMON, which has just been released on DVD.

STARBURST: How did you get involved with The Search for Simon?
Sophie Aldred: I got involved through a friend who said, “I’ve got friend called Martin who’s making this really great comedy sci-fi film and I think there’s a part you’d really enjoy playing.” I was really up for it! I thought great, I’d love to be involved; I hadn’t done anything visual for a long time. So I rang Martin and he said, “Yeah, there’s this great part, I’ll send you the script and we’ll see if you want to play her.” It came through, and she was meant to be this sort of American head of a secret space agency and I got back to him and asked if she had to be American. He said no. We changed the name as well; I think she’s named after one of Martin’s exes. 
It was really delightful to meet this crew who are so dedicated to the project and working for very little money to get this project in shape. Martin was unbelievable; he was directing it, producing it and blooming starring in it as well! He was really good. I thought he was absolutely perfect for the part.  I really enjoyed the my scenes, and it was great to be playing such a different kind of character  to how people normally perceive me; especially saying the line about the severed penis;  I thought “That’ll be a good one for the Doctor Who fans
When I saw the finished project, I was amazed at how well Martin had done. It was launched at the BFI and he’s managed to get some big names behind it. It’s such a fun role and I’m glad to have had a small role in it.

The Search for Simon had a tiny budget. Would you do more micro-budget movies?
To be honest, I’ve never really had much of a plan. I will do anything that I consider to be fun and interesting. Roll on the projects. I’m always delighted to be involved in something a bit different and off-the-wall.

Would you do comedy again?
I’ve always wanted to do comedy. Secretly. I do a lot of pseudo at conventions with Sylvester McCoy and me. We kind have perfected a bit of a double act over the years and I’ve always loved making people laugh. So for me it was great to be doing something different, but that I have a great love of and really enjoy doing.

Would you consider a role in a low-budget comedy action movie like Sharknado?
I am such a dunce when it comes to that sort of thing. I hardly ever watch TV. I listen to a lot of radio 4 and I have no idea what people are on about when they say things like that. So I’m sure it’s brilliant, and basically yes, but I don’t know what that means.

How did The Search for Simon’s micro-budget movie making considerations compare with your time on Doctor Who?
Obviously I’m a master of working on a small budget! With the Doctor Who budget it was amazing what we managed to achieve. I think Martin Gooch is a master of that - an even smaller budget there! Let’s hope that the next thing I do is a massive budget, super, great big show. A let’s hope Martin gets a commission like that too. Just think what he could do if he had the money.

We are seeing you and Sylvester McCoy on the convention circuit a lot more these days. How are you finding it?
Absolutely fabulous! The convention scene was on a slight decline when the series was cancelled, and of course when the series came back again people were delighted to see it return. It’s given us a completely new lease of life. People who were watching me and Sylvester back in the day introduce us to their children and families. What we’re finding also is that younger people who never knew anything about the classic series are kind of discovering it for themselves, and you can see the glee on their faces when they come up and meet you at conventions. I say to them do you like the new series and they’re say, “Yeah, but we’ve discovered the classic series.” They’ve discovered that they’ve got this backlog of stuff to watch and they love the old ones. It’s really given a massive shot in the arm to the classic series.

What’s it like to see someone dressed up as you at a convention?
I love it! I love the fact that Ace is a still a role model for young women and a strong young female character. I really like that now they’ve been able to get fantastic costumes together because it’s all on the internet and they can buy the badges on eBay and so on. It’s great fun. I particularly like the men who dress up as Ace, complete with skirts and tights. It’s good fun when that happens, a real compliment I think.

What projects do you have coming up next?
Well, Tree Fu Tom is on-going, which is the cartoon that I do for CBEEBIES; I do lots of voiceovers for various cartoons and stuff like that. Nothing in vision yet, but that would be a nice thing to do. As my children are getting older I am starting to think, “Oh yes, I could get back into that.” Doing loads of conventions as well, my weekends are pretty full.
I’m just doing an audio book at the moment for Penguin, it’s a really good book called Daughter. Bits and bobs; they come and I just say yes. Sylvester and I just have this quality of not being able to say no.

What is your dream project?
I think I’d like to do some classical theatre. I’m looking forward to playing mad old bags in my later years. I want to play character parts in theatre, TV and film.

Has Hobbit Stardom changed Sylvester McCoy?
It hasn’t changed him at all. It’s changed his life; because he now can travel round the world which he loves doing. He spends a lot of time in America meeting people and going off around places. He’s enjoying that freedom to travel The Hobbit has given him. And there’s the double whammy with Doctor Who and The Hobbit. Sylvester McCoy is still the same old wonderful Sylvester that I met in 1987.

Would you do a swords and sorcery movie yourself?
My general policy is yes. My son is a massive Tolkien fan, he would be very happy if I did a job like that. 

If you were to meet the 16-year-old version of yourself, what one piece of advice would you give yourself?
I would say don’t worry about what other people think of you!

What advice would you say to aspiring actors and the like?
Do it, as much as you possibly can. Join theatre companies, do stuff at school. Work, work, work! Get as many skills under your belt as possible; dancing, singing, whatever your floats your boat and have fun with it.

What do you think of Peter Capaldi’s take on The Doctor so far?
I’ve seen a couple of episodes and I think he’s really great. I particularly like his relationship with Clara, and I like that the companion has a lot of the story. It’s a partnership again. For me, he doesn’t seem so old. Every Doctor brings something new to the role and he’s no exception.

Award winning sci-fi comedy movie The Search For Simon is out on DVD now. You can also read our interview with the director Martin Gooch and his next sci-fi project, here.

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