Freema Agyeman reflects on Doctor Who and admits fandom can affect careers
In 2006 at the age of 27, Freema Agyeman’s world changed when she joined the cast of Doctor Who alongside David Tennant.
One of the most popular and most talked about shows in the world for five decades, the show also has one of the largest fandoms online and Freema starred as Martha Jones, a companion to Tennant’s 10th Doctor, appearing in the third and fourth season of the rebooted BBC sci-fi drama.
Previously known for her work in British soap Crossroads, Doctor Who changed the trajectory of Freema’s career forever, and it’s one that she admits is only now righting course in her own head, 11 years later, as she finally escapes the idea that she needs to consider her fans before her own career opportunities.
‘Now I am only just getting back to the point where I am looking just from the inside out – do I like this character? Can I see potential for this character? Can I make it work for me?’ she says when asked if she was cautious of her roles after Doctor Who because of the fanbase.
‘Fundamentally, if I can, then it has the ability to resonate out, rather than looking from the outside in and predicting what people are going to want to see or want from you.
‘And that is easier. It takes pressure off and you can say “I am here to learn and grow” and if it resonates great, and and if it doesn’t maybe the next one will.
‘But Doctor Who, at the time, you are standing right in the eye of the storm of it and you’re not aware of the magnitude and I am glad I wasn’t, and then when it explodes it’s how you deal with that afterward.’
Freema now stars as Doctor Helen Sharpe in the NBC/Amazon Prime drama New Amsterdam, which is based on the true story of Eric Manheimer’s time at Bellevue Hospital.
Ryan Eggold and Janet Montgomery also star as Doctor Max Goodwin and Doctor Lauren Bloom, and both also have experience of the internet and online fandom, appearing in 90210 and This Is Us, respectively.
‘I feel like we have agents and managers and all these people who have a say in why you should take a job or not but for me it’s always about the material,’ adds Janet of the need now for actors to possibly consider the fans when taking roles.
‘When people prefer doing film or TV, well it doesn’t matter for me. If I like the character and story then that’s what I will be drawn to do. I don’t think too much about who is going to want to watch this.’
Freema agrees that it’s for the best though: ‘You can get so caught up thinking of the macro first, then you look inwards, into the work.’
‘First you think how will it be received, what kind of exposure will it get, and the marketing aspects…. and then it can also affect your decision in the roles you pick – how will my fanbase receive this?
‘But really we are just artists and you feel like you want the opportunity to experiment and to find new things. But yes you’re aware you are very public and your choices are public.’
New Amsterdam season one is available on Amazon Prime now.
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