The hour with Billie Piper in the Marriott Atrium Ballroom on Sunday afternoon at 2:30PM was briefly hijacked by John Barrowman as he made a surprise appearance on stage to help load the room and keep us entertained while we awaited Piper’s arrival. He teed up a teaser trailer for the WHOlanta convention that included their guests for 2018 and then he took a few impromptu questions.
As soon as Piper arrived, she stepped on stage with her hands in a questioning gesture, as though to say “What the heck?” Barrowman greeted her with a hug and a big smile and then proceeded to commandeer the moderator post for a few minutes. He and Piper chatted about whether she has cosplayed before (she has not), what her first reaction to getting the part of Rose Tyler was (a deep, steadying breath), and whether she felt any pressure as Rose given the long history of Doctor Who (not really, especially since there was no social media at the time).
After Barrowman excused himself to do the next thing on his schedule, the actual moderator took over and the panel proceeded apace. While the panel included Piper’s roles as Rose and as Lily in Penny Dreadful, most of the questions focused on her time in Doctor Who.
One audience member asked if she could tell a story about working with the late John Hurt in the 50th anniversary episode. She said they were standing off to the side watching Matt Smith and David Tennant just go full bore at the role, and he wondered how he would ever be able to keep up with them in their speed and agility in the role. Piper said she thought it was wonderful to see this “incredible actor be so humble.” Then she added that she also enjoyed having a few glasses of red wine with Hurt off set.
Piper said that she has enjoyed working with all of the different Doctors over her time with Who but that she had the most fun with Tennant. She felt that everyone relaxed a bit more while they were filming the second series because the show was a success, while they all felt like they had something to prove during the first series. She also said that her favorite and most moving scene to do was the final scene with Rose and Ten on the beach when they say farewell to each other.
Though Piper is currently revisiting her role as Rose for the Big Finish audio stories, she did say that she would come back to Doctor Who if given the chance.
When asked what big moment or game changer she might have experienced, Piper talked about filming the episode with the Cybermen and how it was a series of cold night shoots. The Cybermen were having a hard time getting it together, and her jaw was locking trying to get the lines out. She just thought to herself, “It has broken me.” She said that it took about three and half weeks to film a single episode, and it was particularly arduous if it’s three and half weeks of night shoots. She went into the role thinking that she might do it for longer, but by the end of the second series she just wanted to go back to her life. “The thing is, it takes every bit of you. Even when you leave set, your life becomes Doctor Who. … Everyone gets to a point where they just need a rest.”
Piper took a couple of questions about the upcoming series with the 13th Doctor, played by Jodie Whitaker. She is delighted to have Whitaker in the role, saying that she hasn’t spoken to her about it but that they do know each other. It is a big thing that Whitaker is taking on. “If they’re going to keep going with Doctor Who with no hiatus, you have to put a woman in that role,” Piper said. “It’s a very progressive and smart move by the BBC, and I think it’s what people want. … What’s going to be really good is that girls are going to have a book-smart, savvy, historical role model who isn’t dancing around in [lingerie]. It would be nice to have a modern female role model who isn’t being overtly sexual to make a nice change.”
She went on to say that she thinks Rose and Thirteen would definitely get along. “Rose is in love with the Doctor [no matter how] the Doctor regenerates. That love is unchanged, regardless of the gender of the Doctor.”
One audience member who was apparently cosplaying as ketchup (she introduced herself as Ketchup, anyway) asked what Piper’s favorite condiment is. To our surprise, Piper revealed herself as a “condiment freak” whose favorite condiment is A-1 Sauce.
Toward the end of the panel, Piper noted that these were the best questions that she’d ever gotten at a con. We all hope that means she’ll come back so we can spend more time getting to know one of our favorite companions.