It may be all about cops and lawyers, but ITV1's new Law And Order: UK has plenty of sci-fi credentials. Last week we spoke to BSG's Jamie Bamber, who's come down to Earth to play a policeman. Today it's the turn of Doctor Who's very own Martha Jones, Freema Agyeman, who plays barrister Alesha Phillips in the British spin-off of the long-running US show.
Playing a barrister in Law And Order’s quite different to your roles inDoctor Who and Survivors…
Yes, a really well-needed one I think. At this stage of my career I need to get as much experience and as much variety and take advantage of all the different opportunities that were coming along. This is like the oldest most mature character I’ve ever played, it’s very grown up, so it’s been great for me to rein the excitability in a little bit. It’s been a big learning curve.
Is it easier to prepare for than galloping across the galaxy?
Yes! I thought, “How do you research landing on the Moon?” when I first read that! There’s such a wealth of information with this that it could be slightly daunting because you think, “How much into the law do I go?” because you pick up a book, and in isolation you don’t really understand what’s going on, so you have to read another book to explain that, and another book to explain that, so you might as well go and do a degree to explain it all. What’s been invaluable is the producers had selected reading material that you could as a layman understand in terms of the law, and we’ve been to the Old Bailey for a tour, we’ve sat in on trials, we’ve been to the CPS and my sister did a law degree, so I’m constantly tapping sources and it’s invaluable because obviously it’s directly informing what we’re doing.
And you’ve been a doctor and a lawyer…
Isn’t that great? When I was young I remember saying I want to be a doctor at some point and my sister said she wanted to be a lawyer, and I said to my mum the other day I can be anything I want now!
Are there any other careers you really want to try out?
I’ve always wanted to learn to dance more, so I’d like to play the role of a dancer, just to get loads of free training. It’s absolutely brilliant to get these opportunities and put on different heads. That’s one of the main reasons I got into this business because I knew I didn’t want to do a 9-5 and do the same thing all the time. I’ve been really lucky to come out of an amazing job like Doctor Who and come into one that’s equally ticking all the boxes.
How do you feel about the Who experience now? Do you feel it opened doors, or do you feel worried you might get pigeon-holed as Doctor Who’s Freema Agyeman?
The reality is it’s opened doors. There’s no doubt I’m getting opportunities that I don’t think I’d have got otherwise at this stage of my career. My career was chugging along at a nice enough pace, but it kind of went full steam ahead as soon as I got Who and now seems sustained at that momentum which is fantastic. But I’m always going to be associated, especially for the younger audience, with Doctor Who. I don’t see that as a disadvantage or anything negative in any respect. I still consider myself as part of the Doctor Who family, so it’s fine if people want to make the association. Clearly I haven’t been typecast because I’m doing something so different now and I think that hopefully that will continue. I don’t see any negatives.
Are you going back for this year’s Who specials?
Nothing’s been confirmed. I read some things [saying I was], so I don’t know where that came from, but I love the fact that I am always associated it with it. I maybe will go back one day, but nothing’s been confirmed.
With Owen’s death in Torchwood there was a vacancy for a doctor in the team. Was you becoming a permanent member of the cast ever an option?
There was discussion of it, and again I feel the door has been left ajar in that whole world of Doctor Who and Torchwood. I love he character of Martha Jones, and I would love resurrect her. There was talk of exploring her in that set up of Torchwood, but then there was discussion of that and Law And Order, and I made based on trying to do new things and get different experiences.
Were you surprised by the casting of Matt Smith as the new Doctor?
I was surprised in the sense that he wasn’t well known. I guess he’s not as mainstream as some of the people that were going for it. I haven’t seen him in the role yet, but just from his interviews I think he looks fantastic. I think he’s got a really great youth to him, just in the way he speaks and his energy and the quirkiness of him, so just by look I think he’s a fantastic choice, and everyone’s really excited about what he’s going to do. I’ll definitely be watching him.
You appeared in the Survivors remake, and then surprised everybody by dying in the first episode. Hopefully they told you about that in advance…
That wouldn’t have been very nice if they hadn’t! I absolutely knew. It was really good fun. Andy Prior cast that, who casts Doctor Who, and we were still in touch, and he told me that Jenny was one of the original survivors, so it’ll be a real shock that she’s not surviving in this one. And it’ll be more of a shock if it’s you, because people won’t expect you to be in it and not survive.
I loved being part of it. I had to do the press with everybody else, we all did equal stuff, even Shaun Dingwall, and he didn’t survive either. I think it’s really exciting for the audience from time to time to just not know everything.
The second episode of Law And Order UK is on ITV1 tonight at 9pm.