Ah, Billie Piper. Once a teen popstrel, then the ultimate Doctor Who girl and now a lady of letters. Yes, there’s a book inside everyone, and Billie’s is called Growing Pains (it’s in the shops from Thursday). It’s an autobiography that charts her rise from Swindon schoolgirl to all-conquering multimedia goddess and, naturally, there’s lashings of Doctor Who in there. As a taster, here’s an exclusive extract, especially for her close showbiz pals at SFX. Billie actually embarks on a book-signing tour next week, so for your chance to catch her in the cute-as-hell flesh, head to www.billiepipertour.co.uk.
"I was told that the Dr Who scripts were doing the rounds. Michael (my agent) called me and said that it was being revived, with a brilliant writer called Russell T. Davies, and I should consider looking at the role of Rose, the Doctor’s sidekick. They had just announced Chris Eccleston was going to be the new Doctor, and I thought that combination sounded good to me. I knew it was going to be big budget, and I knew there would be special effects, so from the off I was fairly sure there weren’t going to be any shaky sets and makeshift Daleks. Michael sent me the script, and right off the page I fell instantly in love with the character of Rose. She’s an insignificant, ordinary nineteen-year-old who lives on a council estate, eats loads of chips and has a boyfriend she’s been with since she was eight. She lives with her mother – her dad died in a car accident when she was very young. She leaped off the page at me – partly because she spoke to me, but mostly because Russell writes women so damn well. Suddenly I just had to play this part, and the more I read the more I wanted it.
"I was actually quite ill with a fluey cold on the day of the audition. I was wearing a green Fruit of the Loom sweatshirt and baggy jeans – I needed comfort clothes and I needed to feel young and as uninspired as the person I understood Rose to be at the beginning of the series.
"I was met by Andy Prior, the casting director, and Phil Collinson, the producer, who showed me into a nice light room. Some audition rooms can be really oppressive with lots of downlighting and you know you look like shit. The feeling I got when I walked into this one was that it was going to be OK. It was a warm open space and I was surrounded by talented, beautiful souls who were welcoming and down to earth and all spoke in wonderful round Welsh accents – there were seemingly no egomaniacs in there. I liked them all instantly.
"On the way to the lift Andy Price said, ‘That was really lovely – you should be very pleased.’ I thought what a sweet guy he was to say that, but I was none the wiser – I assumed he said that to everyone. I asked my agent to call them and find out how it had gone, and to my delight Michael said they were apparently very pleased and excited. They had other people to see, of course, but they’d get back to me. I did another reading after that, and then just before going on holiday with my Chris I got a call to come back and do a third reading, this time with Chris Eccleston. I was down to the last three. I knew that was good news, but I was terrified and thought I wouldn’t be able to do it.
I know the reason why Rose spoke to me is that Russell has this rare ability to make women three-dimensional, he gives them complexity. He makes them sensual and sexy, and at the same time raw and silly. It’s a gift. He celebrates every female quality and trait, our madness and over-analytical minds, our insecurities and torrid emotions. The character was full of untapped potential. That was something I detected straightaway, and what I really wanted to do with the part of Rose, and what was already on the paper, was to make her as real as the script suggested. Obviously the world of the Doctor is surreal, and fantastical when you’re meeting aliens and flying through wormholes with a nine hundred-year-old guy in a blue box, but even so Russell was making the scripts a lot more domestic than they had been before. I wanted to make her real as Russell had. I prayed and wished and hoped and waited for The Call.
Finally it came. They wanted me.
Copyright (c) 2006 by Billie Piper
Extracted from Billie Piper’s autobiography GROWING PAINS published on Thursday 19 October by Hodder & Stoughton £18.99.