Wednesday, 25 April 2012

"I've been a naughty girl" - Doctor Who companion Katy Manning interviewed

From  Radio Times by Patrick Mulkern

The woman who played Jo Grant gossips to RT – and Doctor Who's present stars and writers gauge her timeless appeal

I’m sitting in the Wolseley, a smart café in Piccadilly, when there’s a ripple in the fabric of space and time. A small blonde lady in a black shaggy coat, an explosion of Biba fashion, designer bags and brolly, materialises in reception, looking somewhat bewildered. She's unmistakeably Katy Manning.

“I couldn’t remember who I was meeting, darling!” she chuckles, as I lead her to our table. She clings to my arm as though she’s back traversing a perilous quarry in Doctor Who. Katy is a very hands-on gal, instinctively touchy-feely, partly because she loves to connect physically, but also because she’s been myopic since birth and has no peripheral vision.

“Most people don’t quite get it with me. I live in my own little world where everybody is beautiful. I’ll say, ‘Stop the car! What are those white flowers?’ And my friend says, ‘That’s a plastic bag, Katy.’ I’m watering a palm tree in the street and someone will say, ‘I don’t think that telegraph pole will get any bigger.’ Once I tried to take the wrong children home from school!”

She suffered numerous stumbles and torn ligaments playing Jo Grant alongside Jon Pertwee’s Doctor in the 1970s – and “I lose things all the time. I once left my mother’s ashes at a bus stop!” Today, it’s just a glove and make-up bag she momentarily mislays. She has to read menus, letters, scripts inches from her nose.

Computers are a no-no. “I have to get so close to the screen. How can I put this delicately? Have you ever tried typing under your boobs?” Katy is, however, is a dab-hand on her iPhone (kept in a chic Biba sleeve) and is a fiend for Twitter (@ManningOfficial) – it keeps her in nose-level contact with chums and fans.

We hit it off immediately. We’re both wearing black and shades of purple. “That’s a little frightening.” She mimes a telephone: “It’s like, hello, what are you wearing today?” We’re also dog lovers and our pooches have the same name. “I’ll show you my Archie if you show me yours,” she says as we ferret for our mobiles.

No disrespect to Elisabeth Sladen or Billie Piper, but for me Katy - or rather Jo Grant - has always been the ultimate Doctor Who companion. She had it all: innocence and gumption, courage but a terrific scream, an irresistible bubbly mixture of tomboy and sexpot. “Jo was very endearing,” says Katy, putting her finger right on it. “Gutsy, fiercely loyal. I liked the fact she offered her life constantly for the Doctor’s because she realised his work was so important.”

Katy/Jo instantly won viewers’ hearts. “The little kiddies really got me. Older men found it quite pleasant to look at me. The mothers and girls didn’t feel threatened and loved Jo’s trendy clothes and rings.” She became the series’ first long-running female star with three years (77 episodes) under her belt.

Many former Doctor Who stars have published autobiographies. Katy never has and never will. “I am asked all the time. Daily! I’m exaggerating, but I’m a very private person. I’ve been secretive since childhood. It would be so goddamn boring tracking back over my life, which ain’t over yet. There are too many people involved I don’t really need to talk about. And I’ve been a naughty girl. Naughty girls don’t write books!” A throaty cackle. How naughty, Katy? “I think I’ve been about as naughty as you can get.” She gives one of those faraway but saucy, you-name-it/I’ve-done-it grins.

She fills a café Americano with sugar. It’s one of her few remaining vices. She doesn’t touch alcohol. “I spent many years finding out that I can’t drink very well. I get very creative and I’m too old to be that creative now. People often think I’m pissed and I’m not. They say, ‘You were so off your t*ts last night.’ But my daughter says, ‘That means Mummy’s had four coffees.’”

She’s given up smoking (“I’ve been on and off all my life”) and insists it’s had nothing to do with her distinctive husky voice: she’s always had one and her son does too. It’s genetic. Today she fishes fake cigarettes from her handbag. One has a glowing red tip, the other blue. At one point she has both going, just for a laugh. “No-nicotine, coffee- or toffee-flavoured. Heaven on a stick! I like the action of holding a cigarette. I’m a Bette Davis.” She gesticulates in velveteen gloves with a couple of gigantic rings on top.

She orders eggs Benedict. “I’m a cheap date, darling,” she laughs. “I eat little and often. I graze.” When the plate arrives, she moves the ham to one side. She may be a vegetarian but she’s not averse to having a lump of meat thrust under her nose. “I don’t like masticating! I’m not a veggie for hippy reasons – there are just so many things I could be doing with my life than chewing right now.”

And what a life! But don’t get her started on internet biogs. “I’ve never been in half the things they say. Everything’s wrong,” she splutters. “No, my name is not Katy Louisa Manning. No, that is not the date of my birth. It’s not even the right goddamn day!” Her birth year is commonly reported as 1946, and I’m too gentlemanly to press for her actual or preferred one. “And no, I’ve never been married to Rayner Bourton [the original Rocky in The Rocky Horror Picture Show]. I’ve never been married.”

Her full name is Catherine Katy Ann Manning. Actor Dean Harris is the father of her twins Georgie and JJ (Johnathan), born 33 years ago almost two months prematurely. “One weighed one pound four, the other one pound eight. They were taken from me and kept in incubators at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, tubes shoved up their noses. I didn’t know what I’d got in there. I could have given birth to hamsters. There was no bonding then, I can tell you. I’m a very honest woman. I got post-natal depression when they were two years old.”

Read the full interview here...

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