Eve Myles Interview: Torchwood, Doctor Who & All New People

In an exclusive interview, Eve Myles reveals how she was hand-picked by Scrubs star Zach Braff for his play, and the influence of two nude women on her career

The ever-lovely, ever-smiling Eve Myles was one of the stars of SFX Weekender 3 , and it still amazes us how someone so, well – how can we put this politely? – talkative as she is (she can fit about three times as many words into a panel as your average guest), still manages to find new things to talk about. But when SFX caught up with her at her hotel the night before for a fireside chat (we kid you not) and vases of wine (or “pints of wine” as Myles coined it), she really did have something new to talk about. As well as talking about Torchwood and Doctor Who , she was enthusing about the new play she’s appearing in, All New People , alongside Scrubs star Zach Braff, who also wrote the play. Learn more about dates and buying tickets here .

Can you tell about the play and your role in it?

“It’s Zach’s first play. He wrote it and it’s been performed just off Broadway with a different cast out there. Being his first play he didn’t want to perform in it then; he wanted to just be the writer and see how it panned out. Obviously he would have loved to have done it but he’s a very professional guy.

“Anyway, it went down so well in New York that the company wanted to bring it to London. Zach agreed to it and brought his wonderful director Peter DuBois with him, and decided that this time around he’d be playing the lead, Charlie.

“There are only four of us in it, but they obviously had to recast all of the other characters. It’s 90 minutes, four characters, very, very funny and very touching. Moving and dark also. He writes it so beautifully.

“It’s about these four strangers who meet in a beach house on Long Beach Island, an island just off New Jersey. So you’ve got three Americans and a young British girl. I’m playing Emma, who is absolutely nothing like Gwen Cooper for a start. Somebody who comes to see the show and thinks they’re going to see Gwen Cooper is going to be very disappointed. She’s a young woman who’s left a very dark past behind and she’s had to go somewhere where she can disappear, and this is the perfect place. The only thing that’s there is a fire station, a real estate office and a garage, so it takes a particular type of person to be on Long Beach Island in the winter months. She’s an eccentric English neurotic. She’s sweet and innocent and funny, moving and desperately searching for happiness and friendship.

“It’s four characters in one house. They’re all little broken animals and they all fix each other. There’s no huge stage changes; it’s about the four characters and the story. It’s really good.”

How did you get involved?

“It was one of the strangest auditions of my life. On the Friday my agent phoned me up very excited because I was desperate to get back to doing theatre, and I wanted to do some comedy because I’ve never done comedy. She phoned me up on the Friday and she said to me, ‘I’ve got this wonderful script, I’m going to send it to you and they’re going to have a look at some of your stuff over the weekend. And if they like what they see then on Monday you might get a phone call and you might have you to read for them.’

“And I said, ‘Okay, that’s fine. Who is it?’ And she said who it was and I’m like the biggest JD fan in the world! I love Scrubs and he’s a comedy genius, Zach Braff. And I’m so in awe of Peter DuBois; the work he’s done in New York is amazing.

“So I thought, ‘Right Okay. I’m a mum. I’ve got a two year old daughter. I don’t have time for a long theatre engagement anymore.’ Then the script was sent to me and by the second page I was reading it out loud because it was extraordinary and funny. I laughed my arse off for 40 minutes and I thought, ‘I have to have this meeting.’

“Lo and behold Monday came and they were very interested in me. They arranged for me – on the Wednesday – to audition on Skype, which I’d never done before. Anybody who knows me knows that I have difficulty with a mobile phone, never mind the internet! So I had a Skype audition with Peter DuBois, who was in New York, which lasted an hour and a half, then I had another 40 minute audition with Zach in Los Angeles. So the audition lasted nearly three hours with these two geniuses. In the meantime my babysitter had let me down so we put Alice In Wonderland on for Matilda. So I’m doing all these big scenes on Skype and my daughter is screaming, ‘Off with her head!’ in the background. But within 20 minutes they’d made an offer.

So how are you finding your first taste of comedy?

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. There’s a technique and a discipline to it. You cannot wing it. It is about sheer timing, hitting every word, every punctuation. Everything that’s in Zach’s script we’ve got to play because it’s there for a reason. It’s a bit like Shakespeare. You miss a word out of a sentence in Shakespeare and you feel like something’s gone wrong because the rhythm’s been knocked.

“I shouldn’t say I’ve never done comedy before – I’ve done dramas where my character has been humorous – but I’ve never done a straight comedy before. Not that it is a straight comedy. It’s not any more. There are so many levels to it now. It will make you cry. It will make you roar with laughter and then it’ll make you think, then it will surprise you.”

Do you think the Torchwood fans will outnumber the Scrubs fans in the audience?

“I really don’t know. What a thought! But it’s a good thing either way. People have lost touch with theatre. They think it’s too expensive or that it’s not for them; they’re not going to fit into that kind of place. And then when they follow someone on television and realise that they’re doing a show, they go along. It’s an electrifying experience. It’s a really great thing to be part of a live performance.”

Are you worried about Torchwood fans complaining, “It would have been better with Ianto in it”?

“That’s very funny! Ianto does actually appear in All New People … look out! He’s the plant!”

More of this interview on the next page

Do you think Torchwood is coming back?

“Every year I get asked that question! I don’t know.”

It’s all a bit up in limbo at the moment isn’t it?

“Well, it always had been. This is no different to me and John from the first series on. There’s always been a 15-16 month gap. In my heart I don’t think it’s the end. If I did think it had reached the end of its natural life, I’d be the first one to say, ‘I’m out of here.’ But it doesn’t feel like the end. I don’t ever want to over-egg the pudding, of course, and I never want to come back with something that people are expecting, either. We’ve always come back different, with something people have loved or hated, and that’s what we want to do again, otherwise we won’t keep making this program because people will get bored.”

“I don’t know, is the real answer. Nobody knows. But I hope so. I can’t let her go yet. I’m not ready to let her go yet. I’ve got another series in me. Or I’ve got another film in me.”

A film? Is that just wishful thinking or a possibility?

“I’d love to see it come back as a movie – a whopping big, kick ass movie, full of action, full of story… Jack, Gwen, Rhys, a huge problem and something extraordinary. But if it comes back it’s always going to be extraordinary, because it’s Russell. I’m just hoping that one day I get to put my leather jacket back on.”

I think there are a lot of people that quite like that leather look.

“There’s a lot of leather! And every year they tend to get tighter and tighter with the costumes. Look, I like a glass of wine; I like a good steak; I never turn down a plate of chips. I love making cake and eating it. I’m a fool for food – I love it. That’s the way I am!

“But I train really hard, not to lose weight so much as to be fit and healthy and to make sure I’ve got good stamina. I eat what I want, drink what I want, but I work out and I’m enjoying what I do. I’m a firm believer in that. There’s a lot of joy to be had in food.

“Then you go to Hollywood and you think, ‘Jesus Christ, these girls make me look like a heifer!’ But I’m never changing myself, I’m a happy person.

“One change with Gwen Cooper for Miracle Day is we gave her this bra, and I swear to god I’ve never seen anything so sci-fi in my life. This bra looked like it was… well I don’t know how it was constructed. They gave it to me and I went, ‘Are you serious? All this running and fighting and jumping about I do – I’ll poke someone’s eye out! Or I’m going to break a lens. I’ve got huge breasts, I cannot wear this scaffolding!’

“Gwen Cooper is not about tits and arse, she’s a real woman, that’s why I love playing her. So I just took this bra home. I didn’t wear it for the show because it was ridiculous. The costume designer did say to me, ‘I’m gonna pull you out of the nunnery and I’m gonna bring you straight into Hollywood.’ And I went ‘You can try!’”

“I wasn’t meant to do ‘The Unquiet Dead’. I don’t think anyone knows that. I was booked in for another job. I was meant to be doing theatre and my agent said, ‘They want to see you for a part for Doctor Who but it’s clashing with this job.’ And I said ‘Well, it’s Doctor Who !’ It’s like the biggest show in the world and they’re bringing it back and Chris [Eccleston] is one of my favourite actors of all time – he’s wonderful.

“So I did the audition, and it went okay, I think. My boyfriend picked me up and he said, ‘You have changed, haven’t you, since the audition? Do you know what you’re wearing?’ I looked down, and I’d auditioned for Gwyneth, this lovely, sweet girl who saves the world and speaks very lovely Welsh, wearing an, ‘I Support Nudist Colonies’ T-shirt, with two naked women making out. I just went, ‘Well, I’ve blown that.’

“Two days later I got the offer, and my agent said, ‘Right this is a conundrum – you’re also booked on this theatre job. What are we going to do?’ And I said, ‘Well I don’t want to let anybody down, I don’t want one job to be more important that the other.’ So she said, ‘Right, we’re gonna work for Doctor Who ,’ and I said, ‘Great, thank God!’ because that was what I really wanted.’ So my agent asked the play if they’d let me go, and they didn’t think twice. They said, ’This is a huge opportunity for you and you’ve got to do it.’

“But not once did I think to myself that Russell T Davies had got his eyes on me to play Gwen Cooper in his new series… Never. But it was the biggest audition of my life. I was just hoping to God I didn’t let him down.”

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.