For my first interview of the year, I managed to snag myself a pretty good one, if I do say so myself. I was lucky enough to be able to ask Rufus Hound, known best in the Whoniverse for playing Sam Swift in The Girl Who Died alongside the Twelfth Doctor, and also as playing the Monk for Big Finish against the Second, Third, Fourth, and Eighth Doctors. Let’s see what he had to say, shall we?
In this part, we talk about working for Big Finish, playing a Time Lord, and lunch…
Did you have to audition for the part of the Monk?
I didn’t have to audition for the part of the Monk, I was incredibly grateful, and fortunate that that was just a straight offer.
What’s it like working for Big Finish?
Absolutely phenomenal, perfect, a joy. The guys that make those audio dramas are so brilliant at what they do, that they really been able to streamline the process in a way that allows you to just completely focus on your performance. You’re not being filmed, so you’ve not got to hit a mark, or wonder if the makeup’s right, or am I standing in somebody else’s light, or any of that. It’s just you with the microphone, and you can close your eyes and imagine the world, and really focus on your part in playing it. What’s rather lovely is, that they employ people they know can do it, so everybody’s able to work with a bit of pace. It never feels too laboured, it always has a kind of spritely element to it; everyone’s able to just really smash it out. Like I said, when you’ve got your eyes closed, it’s just you and the microphone, and you’re hearing the other voices, it takes on a real life; and that’s backed up by the other actors, but also by the production and by the recordists. It’s just a really good place to be, especially because you know you’re making something that’s going to end up being really very good indeed, and there’s very few things more joyful than that.
How much foreknowledge did you have of the Monk before you started playing him for Big Finish?
As I said (way back in Part 1), I’m not hugely studied in the Classic Who mythos, but weirdly, when I worked on show called One Man, Two Guvnor’s (which coincidentally, I saw Rufus in at a theatre in Salford, and my college derailed the show so much with the talk of Pontefract) in the West End, one of the stagehands there was part of the gang of people who had been trying to make the Doctor Who RPG. I was interested in roleplaying games, and got talking to him; he told me that they made this Doctor Who roleplaying game. Ostensibly, because they were all fans of Doctor Who and went to BBC and said “We’d love to do it”, and the BBC said “Well, I don’t think this will work, it’s very niche, but by all means, work something out and come back to us, and if it’s any good, maybe we’ll proceed.” So they worked out the Doctor Who RPG, went to BBC Worldwide, gave them what they made; and apparently there were enough people there at BBC Worldwide of a geeky persuasion, and so they played it out and were astounded at how detailed and how brilliant what they’d made was.
So they commissioned them to make a First Doctor book that contained the game, and so when I was talking to this guy he said “I’ll lend you my books, if you want to have a look through them?” and I did have a look through them, and I didn’t read them all cover to cover, but I did read all about the Monk. Mainly because he was one of the first characters that appeared in the book, so that was as far as I’d got; but also because seeing Peter Butterworth look back at you, you’re like “Oh, I know that guy from the Carry On movies, what did he do in Doctor Who?” So, in the weirdest way possible, in the 25 years or whatever of Classic Who, of all the characters I could have studied, ironically, I had a very detailed idea of the Monk, who he was, and what he’s about. What I didn’t have was a knowledge of other actors playing him, so it was about a perfect a preparation you can have for something like that. I knew I wanted to put my own spin on him.
I think the Master how truly dark desires for the world, whilst the Monk is incredibly self serving; and I think if you are just in it for yourself, and you’ve got a TARDIS, you’ve probably got to sound like you’re enjoying that, because who wouldn’t? So I just knew I wanted to make him sound kind of joyful, and up. I’m very pleased about whole thing.
Would you ever write a Monk story for yourself to perform?
The gods honest truth is that, even though I like writing, and I’ve had ideas for several Doctor Who stories, I don’t know that I would write for the Monk. Principally because every time I get a script from Big Finish, it’s so good and so much better than anything that I think I would write, that I feel a bit stupid. So no, I’m very happy with the genius minds of Big Finish continuing to provide the material.
Is there any way that Sam Swift was the Monk in disguise?
It would be lovely wouldn’t it, if that were the case? But, in terms of the backstory I’ve built for both of those characters in my head- it’s the kind of thing where I think if you saw that that had happened, that you’d think that it was more likely a production decision to reutilise an actor than it was a clever nuanced, and planned out story beat. So I’m quite happy for them to be separate people, because let’s be honest, it leads to double the likelihood of being reemployed in the Whoniverse.
What are the challenges of acting on audio compared to acting for screen?
I think it’s just where your focus is really, in fact, funnily enough, talking about Maisie (in Part 2), I was talking with her just yesterday, because there’s the new Nick Park animation (Early Man), and she’s one of the lead voices in that, and she said she realised that most of the acting that she did was in her face. So, when it came to concentrating on the audio performance, she was suddenly aware that she had to do so much more with her voice and I think it’s just that really. Whatever you’re trying to convey has just got to be done vocally; a meaningful pause doesn’t really work on audio, it just sounds like you’ve lost your words.
You’ve now met the Doctor in his second, third, fourth and eighth incarnations as the Monk, are there any other Doctor’s you’d love your Monk to meet?
Yeah, I think there probably are. I think because I loved Tennant and Capaldi, it would be amazing to be there with 10 and 13. Is it 13? I can’t remember how the War Doctor fits in. But either of them would be sensational. Actually, I suppose, in terms of roots, the First Doctor, but I think I’d have to go back to the roleplaying game bible to know what had already occurred between them.
I’m always incredibly happy that Big Finish are interested in utilising the Monk as they conjure up new worlds and new stories for the Doctor’s that have gone by, so I’m just happy to be continued to be employed by Big Finish if I’m perfectly honest, rather having a particular draw to any one Doctor; but if it meant I got the chance to work with Tennant or Capaldi, then so much the better. Or indeed Matt Smith, I’ve made it sound like I hate Matt Smith, I don’t, I thought he was brilliant as well!
Are the stories true about Big Finish lunches being exceptional?
Yes. Yes they are.
There are lots of recording studios in the centre of London that are in and amongst the best restaurants in the world, but the care and attention taken at Big Finish’s spiritual home, and the homemade element of them is- yeah. I’ve never eaten better on a job than I do when I’m on a Big Finish job.
What do you think it is about Whovians that makes them so loyal?
I think they’re people who love story, and have imagination. So the combination of the quality of the stories they’re been given, and the way their own imaginations take flight upon hearing them means that Doctor Who is like sci-fi heroin in a way. It’s sci-fi heroin that they were taking when they were kids. How tawdry is that analogy? But it means that there’s a long and established passion for this character and the stories this character is able to tell, which makes them unlike anything else that’s out there really. I think when you’ve had the good stuff, everything else seems pale in comparison. So yeah, they’re loyal because the thing itself is so great, and upon realising it’s as great as it is, why would you want anything else?
I would like to thank Rufus Hound from the bottom of my heart for agreeing to take part in this interview, as well as for giving me such rich and detailed answers to every question.
If you’d like to follow Rufus on Twitter, to see what he’s getting up to, you can do by clicking here!