Interview: “We’re part of something really cool” – Sophie Hopkins (BBC’s Class/Dr. Who)

Class, the latest spin-off from the legendary British sci-fi series, Doctor Who, promises to bring the other-worldy adventures of our favourite time traveller to a much more familiar setting in the shape of Coal Hill School. Pegged to be Britain’s answer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Class is a darker, more mature addition to the Doctor Who universe.

We were lucky enough to catch up with star Sophie Hopkins to talk about her recent Comic Con adventures, as well as dancing demons and becoming part of a national institution…

So how does it feel to be joining the Whoniverse?

Well, I’ve Just recovered from Comic Con! It was mind-blowing! The trailer was first released there and we did a panel alongside Doctor Who and also Dirk Gently. The teaser was played before we came out and people were screaming and whooping and then we came out onto the stage and the trailer was shown… There weren’t many dry eyes among us! We went on the floor to meet people and to be at Comic Con as a punter… There were so many people dressed as the Doctor, and we were getting pictures with them. But it’s funny to think that maybe next year people will be cosplaying as us! I just have to keep pinching myself! I’ve been a fan of the show since the reboot in 2005. Doctor Who is a national treasure, so to be part of that family is a huge pressure, because so many people hold it in their hearts and it’s a household name and a show that, globally, people know and truly love, so trying to do it justice…. It’s just so cool! The day it first really kicked in was the day we had the first special effects and prosthetics and stuff, and we were like “Okay, we’re part of something really cool now!” Sneaking into the Doctor Who props cupboard is also very cool!

The show has been really kept under wraps, so for those who don’t know, what is Class?

Class is first and foremost a Doctor Who spin-off for a young adult audience. However, in itself, it really is a standalone show. It’s set in Coal Hill School, which was featured in the first ever Doctor Who episode back in 1963, and since then this school has played quite a big part, and the Doctor has revisited it on many occasions. So, because of all the time travelling energy, cracks have started to appear. We saw the first crack in Amy Pond’s bedroom in Doctor Who, and now there’s a real tear appearing, which is causing some trouble. The tear appears in the middle of Coal Hill, so unbeknown to these unsuspecting students, their world is turned completely upside-down because suddenly they’re entrusted by the Doctor to save the rest of the world.

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Everyone in the show has their own special powers or abilities in the show. April’s is her sharing her heart with an alien warlord. How does this affect her character?

So, it’s clear from the get go that April’s got a big heart anyway, and that she puts others first. What she goes through, sharing her heart with Corakinus, it’s really testing, and she grows so much. There’s this power running through her which changes everything completely, and her character arc is wonderful because she really toys with that and struggles to keep the nice April, because she’s sharing her heart with someone that’s pure evil! So that was really fun! She truly discovers who she is through this horrible happening, which is funny, because it takes having an alien nemesis being part of her to truly discover who she is! Later on in the series it gets really juicy.

Speaking of the “evil” in the show, Class is a lot darker than Doctor Who. How do you think fans of the original show will react?

Doctor Who is the life for a lot of the fans. They live and breathe it. I think there’s always going to be fans who had expectations of Class, or who will write it off straight away, but more than anything, we want Doctor Who fans to get on board with it. We’re not pretending to be Doctor Who; we’re part of the same family, and this is about what happens when the Doctor goes and we don’t have his help or knowledge. So things are messier because we’re unsuspecting civilians who don’t know the name of this alien or we don’t have this thing to defeat it. So it is darker, and at no point have we said that this is a family show. Unlike Doctor Who, I certainly wouldn’t watch it with my young niece. It’s a teenage audience upwards, and it’s not fluffy; it’s real drama. I think people will be pleasantly surprised at how different it is, and I’m looking forward to fans embracing that. It’s violent, but it’s never gratuitous. Everything in Class proves a point.

Obviously this is not the first spin-off we’ve had; we’ve had Torchwood, Sarah-Jane and countless others. What separates Class from the other Whoniverse shows?

We’re incredibly lucky to have Patrick Ness writing for us. That in itself is one thing that really sets us apart. It is in keeping with some themes from Doctor Who, but it is a stand-alone show and we’re not relying on the Doctors powers. We’re just completely unsuspecting of what’s to come. And Patrick’s writing is so truthful and honest and witty. He has this certain style, and if you’re a fan of his books, this show will make perfect sense!

What’s the craziest episode you’ve done so far?

Each character has their own focal episode, and it was in mine, where I do some “travelling”… that’s all I’ll give away… but we were working on night shoots, and it was in this incredible but completely bizarre location at four in the morning and I’m surrounded by men in prosthetic suits. It’s freezing cold and it’s raining, and I turned around and suddenly all the supporting actors are doing the can-can in these terrifying suits! That was one of the most surreal moments! It’s all the behind the scenes stuff!

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In the show, the main group become really close friends. Did you get on well with the rest of the team?

Absolutely! We met just before the first read-through, which I’m really thankful for because it was terrifying! There’s the five of us; Fady, Vivian, Greg, Jordan and I, and we met a couple of times and got to know each other and the script. Ever since that point, people have asked us if we did a compatibility test or something! But we didn’t’; they cast us as friends in the show, but we became really tight friends in real life. When we were living in Cardiff, Vivian and I lived in the same building and we’d eat together every night, even though we were working together all day. I don’t think we went twenty four hours without being attached to each other!

Finally, I have to ask; who is your favourite Doctor?

I find it really difficult to choose between Tennant and Smith. I absolutely love Tennant’s charisma, and when I think of Doctor Who and me watching it as a teenager, I think of him. But I love what Matt Smith brought to the role. He wasn’t trying to copy anything that Tennant did; he brought something completely new to it, a real playfulness and an almost childlike way of discovering things. Like when he’s discovering his own body… I love the episode when he’s trying all the food in Amy Pond’s fridge… So it’s difficult to choose!

CLASS premieres Saturday 22nd on BBC Three

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