Freema Agyeman

Dalek-table ... The Doctor's New Assistant Freema
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Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO newcomer Freema Agyeman has revealed she perfected the role as the Time Lord’s latest assistant thanks to The Sun.

In her first interview since scooping the job as Billie Piper’s replacement, Freema, 27, says: “I didn’t grow up with Doctor Who so I thought I should do a bit of homework.

“Then I saw the offer on the front page of The Sun for the DVDs of classic episodes if you cut out tokens, so I got collecting!

“They were very handy, I must say!”

The part playing David Tennant’s companion Martha Jones in the new series starting this month is a dream come true for Freema — and came in the nick of time.

The young actress was scraping a living doing shifts at a Blockbuster video rental store, to give herself enough free time to audition.

And following disappointment after disappointment, she was almost ready to abandon her acting ambitions.

She says: “Sometimes I did think ‘What am I doing?’

“But I’m so glad I didn’t give up or I wouldn’t be in the place I am now.”

Fate finally took a hand when Freema was called to audition for the 2005 Christmas episode of Dr Who — David Tennant’s first outing as the Time Lord.

But she never dreamed she was taking the first step towards the role as his sidekick.

That first time she was up for the tiny part of one of the Prime Minister’s aides.

Freema says: “It was one of the best auditions I ever had, I really enjoyed it. Subsequently, I didn’t get it and my skin got that much thicker.”

But she obviously made an impression as the casting director called her back to audition for another small part.

She ended up playing the ill-fated Adeola, who was killed by a Cyberman in Army Of Ghosts, one of the final episodes of the last series.

Freema had no idea that while she was filming this part, Billie Piper had already quit — and bosses were earmarking her for the sidekick role.

After finishing the episode, producers lured her into two auditions, telling her it was for a role on BBC3 spin-off show Torchwood, starring John Barrowman.

Then came the phone call that changed her life.

Freema says: “My agent called and said, ‘Now sit down — they’re looking to cast a new companion and you’re in the running.’

“The good thing was that I had already found my rhythm, I knew the producers were liking what I was doing.”

The next day she travelled to Cardiff, where the series is filmed, for a screen test with Tennant.

Freema reveals that the star put her nerves at rest the night before the final audition by dropping off a good-luck note at her hotel.

She explains: “He wrote ‘Sorry for all the cloak and dagger stuff, it’s going to be fine, relax and have a good time.’ After that any nerves were gone.”

Two days after that audition in February, 2006 Freema was told she had won the part. She says she will never forget that moment, explaining: “I was too over the moon to cry — I was absolutely elated. Look up elated in the dictionary and you will see my face.

“I hadn’t allowed myself to entertain the thought that I would get it. But all of a sudden it was all bombarding me, a million miles an hour.”

The Sun was first with the scoop that Billie was leaving and that Freema was taking the role.

Freema says: “My mum and dad were just so shocked. They know Doctor Who for what it was in the old days, iconic — huge.”

Her mum, Azar, divorced her dad, Osei, A Ghanaian and retired railway worker, when Freema was young. The star now says her tough background helped her survive during the long years of waiting for her break.

She was born on the dilapidated Woodberry Down housing estate in Finsbury Park, North London.

Freema shared a flat with her mum an Iranian, younger brother Domenic and older sister Leila. But the actress says despite the split, she was always close to both her parents. She says: “They both made such an effort that I wasn’t aware that either of them weren’t there.

“They were massive features in my life growing up and are still massive features in my life now.

“My dad’s always lived around the corner. He looked after us financially. Divorce doesn’t have to be a gruesome tale.

“My family is fiercely demonstrative, lots of hugs, lots of ‘I love you.’ I’ve always felt really secure. Nothing else matters.”

Freeman started acting only after doing GCSE drama at Our Lady's Convent High School in Stamford Hill, North London. She then did a drama degree at Middlesex University and, in 2002, got her first big break on the revamped ITV1 soap Crossroads playing chambermaid Lola Wise.

But the show was axed just five months later and after that she was unable to find any acting work at all for nearly a year — and then only bit parts.

That was when she started doing any work she could. Freema says: “I worked in Blockbuster — I was renting out Doctor Who just a few months before I got the part!”

Everything came together at the same time for Freema — just before she won the Doctor Who role she met her boyfriend. She confesses: “I’ve never felt like this about anyone — I’m in love.”

When I probe further, all Freema will tell me is that her boyfriend works in property.

She says: “It’s different from me, I chose showbusiness, but he didn’t.”

The only thing marring her new happiness is worrying about living up to Billie’s high standards when the show returns later this month.

Freema says: “Billie passed a message on to me through David, saying ‘Do it your way’.

“Billie did a good job, so fair play to her. That character was extremely popular in people’s hearts and quite rightly so.

“But the writer, Russell T Davies, has kind of made it easy as the characters are so different. And you can’t really compare apples and pears.”

She adds: “There were times when I lost sight of my dreams and my family were there to remind me of them.

“When I got Doctor Who it was a goal achieved.

“But I don’t for any minute take any of this for granted, I’m fully aware of how lucky I am.”

The new series of Doctor Who starts on BBC1 on March 31 at 7pm.

Source: The Sun 16th March 2007