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Neil Patrick Harris Had Never Heard of Doctor Who Before Russell T. Davies Asked Him to Play The Toymaker

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Neil Patrick Harris Had Never Heard of Doctor Who Before Russell T. Davies Asked Him to Play The Toymaker

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Published on December 7, 2023

The third and final special featuring the return of DoctorDonna (a.k.a. David Tennant and Catherine Tate) is set to stream on Disney+ in mere days. And while it very likely will be the last time we see the DoctorDonna together (sob!), it will also be the first time we’ve seen Neil Patrick Harris enter the Whoverse.

It turns out that Harris knew next to nothing about Doctor Who before the series’ current showrunner, Russell T. Davies, reached out to him.

“He’d never heard of [Doctor Who] in his life, bless him,” Davies told Entertainment Weekly in a recent interview. “I was lucky enough to work with the great man [Harris] on a show called It’s a Sin, about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, and working with him was such a joy. The Toymaker, he’s kind of the god of games, so he shuffles cards, he does magic tricks, and all of that fits Neil Patrick Harris. If you go through agents, they often tell you to go away. I was able to send just a text saying, ‘Do you fancy reading this?’ He read it and literally phoned me up going, ‘Let me get this right, so the Doctor’s an alien, right?’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, you really have never heard of Doctor Who!’ But he couldn’t resist it, and he came to Cardiff, and we had the most spectacular time.”

Harris, who is a magician in his own right, seems like a great fit for The Toymaker, a villain we’ve seen before in Doctor Who, but not for many a decade.

“Oh, he’s good,” Tennant told EW about Harris’ performance. “I don’t quite know if he knew what to expect, but he dived in with such gusto and brio. This part requires a lot of skill sets and Neil turns up with them all. I don’t want to give away too much about what might be required of the Toymaker, but you need a sort of an all-round entertainer to play that part and a very good actor, so there aren’t a lot of people who could have ticked all the boxes required.”

We’ll get to see Harris’ performance, say goodbye to Tennant and Tate, and say hello to the new Doctor, played by Ncuti Gatwa when “The Giggle” becomes available on Disney+ starting at 1:30 p.m. EST on December 9, 2023.

About the Author

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Vanessa Armstrong

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Vanessa Armstrong is a writer with bylines at The LA Times, SYFY WIRE, StarTrek.com and other publications. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog Penny and her husband Jon, and she loves books more than most things. You can find more of her work on her website or follow her on Twitter @vfarmstrong.
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