B.n 2011, Mandip Gill was an aspiring actor who had dabbled in theater and was struggling to break into television. With bad luck, he took a notebook and drew a check for £5,000. A few weeks later, he was offered a role in Hollyoaks. She’s convinced she managed to manifest her breakout role on Channel 4’s teen soap opera. “In my head, the only way I got paid was by acting,” she confesses as we sit by the Thames in London’s Canary Wharf, gleaming skyscrapers everywhere. parts. She still has that notebook, now filled with other targets, each marked off.
One of those was playing a police officer, which he handled in 2018, though not in the way he might have hoped. Like Yasmin Khan, a probation officer from Sheffield and one of the faithful companions in doctor whoHe has fought giant spiders, Cybermen, and Daleks along with Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord. All of that will end later this year in an autumn special celebrating 100 years of the BBC. Gill will also leave when Whittaker finally retires. “It’s been the best experience,” she says. “I had the best time of my life.”
It’s a balmy spring afternoon, but Gill is dressed in a black hoodie, black flared pants, and a black and brown furry coat that looks like a cozy ladies’ table. She is makeup-free, a gold nose stud. The 34-year-old actor, born in Leeds to a Sikh family, has an infectious warmth that draws you in like a hug. He is funny and feisty, talks a mile a minute and runs to get his thoughts out of him.
We’re meeting a few days before the Doctor Who Easter special airs. In Legend of the sea devils, the Doctor finally tells a lovesick Yaz that she reciprocates his feelings, though things remain up in the air for Thasmin (as the couple have been dubbed by fans). It is the first time the Doctor has been involved in a same-sex romance. “I’m happy with where he’s going,” Gill says of his sincere flirtatiousness. “It got there naturally. It is beautiful and full of authenticity.”
As outgoing and troubled sidekick Phoebe McQueen on Hollyoaks, Gill has made a name for herself playing gritty, independent characters. Yaz has been a brave, determined and loyal partner, while fearless Phoebe overcame homelessness, lashed out at thugs and escaped human traffickers before being tragically killed by the notorious Gloved Hand Killer. The actress also showed her range as a young widow in ITV’s medical drama The Good Karma Hospital and as a pregnant refugee in the gritty British drama The Flood.
His latest role is the lead in a new production of 2:22 A ghost story. She plays Jenny, a sleep-deprived new mother, who is convinced that the house she has bought with her husband (Harry Potter’s Tom Felton in her West End debut) is haunted. It’s the fourth day of rehearsals for Danny Robins’ supernatural thriller. Director Matthew Dunster asked the cast to do circuit training in the morning, a rather novel way to prepare them for acting.
Gill will take over from the singer Iily Allen and I’m a Celebrity…winner and author Giovanna Fletcher, who played Jenny in previous editions of the show. “It’s scary because naturally you will be compared to them,” says Gill. While her predecessors are mothers in real life, she is not. “I don’t have kids, so I really have to dig in to find out what that would feel like.
“Jenny is very different from what I’ve been playing in Doctor Who. I feel like I needed to start casting characters that were closer to my actual age. I had been playing children or [women in their] 20 year olds for a long time. She felt really mature and complicated and interesting.”
Gill grew up on council estate, where his parents owned a newsstand. “It was tough. There were very few Asians. We all had to work in the store. You’re very exposed when you do something like that.” “I stand up for myself,” he says firmly.
Evidence of a love of acting came early. Her father filmed her and her siblings as children, dancing and singing Hindi songs. Gill laughs remembering a comedy show she did when she was three years old. “It was so annoying!” When she was six years old, she dressed up as Scary Spice and announced to her family, “I’m going to be on TV.”
When Gill auditioned for Doctor Who, he was initially not told which show it was for. All he knew was that a lot of science fiction jargon was required. “I was like, OK, either they’re doing a new show or it’s Doctor Who. I never thought I would do something like this. It almost felt like he was a step above me.”
In the years since Gill landed the part, Whittaker has become one of her best friends, if nothing more. “A long time ago, Jodie and I were holding hands, and that started a little rumor,” she says. “We are as sensitive as friends. As Jodie and I have met, our characters are at the same time.”
Since Whittaker took over as the first female Doctor in 2018, the series has faced accusations of being too “politically correct”. Gill was cast alongside Tosin Cole, who played Ryan Sinclair, meaning the Doctor had both Asian and black partners. The revamped program also featured stories about pink parks and the partition of indiaprompting outraged viewers to complain on Twitter using the hashtag #notmydoctor.
“I really don’t know how we can be politically correct,” Gill argues, “because it’s just correct. There are Asians and blacks living in Sheffield. We are not something [showrunner Chris Chibnall] created.”
Gill has seen how important it is for the program to be as inclusive as possible. Over the past few months, young fans have reached out to her to share how they have opened up to her parents after seeing Yaz struggle with her sexuality.
“I’ve sprouted so many times,” she says. “I’m like, a TV show helped you. It’s really important to see yourself represented. People need to learn about other communities, races, religions.” Gill watched the BBC’s British Asian sketch show my God give me the grace and comedy movies East is East when I was little. “We held on to them a lot because we were looking at ourselves and our families.”
Gill is proud of the record success of BridgertonThe second series of ‘s, which focuses on the love life of two indian sisters, played by Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran. The actors “are doing a lot to change the stereotypes of South Asians. There’s been an emphasis on them being dark-skinned girls, that’s a massive gear shift that needed to happen… I still have conversations where I’m like, ‘I never had a chance as a brown woman,'” she sighs.
Those doubts aside, Gill is excited to move on to the next stage of her career, having finished filming her final episodes of Doctor Who in October. Before leaving, she also shot Suspicion, an Apple TV+ thriller starring Uma Thurman that premiered earlier this year. “It was eye-opening because it was so easy for me in Doctor Who. I’m not saying [Suspicion] it wasn’t fun, but they had less time to create something. I was like, arggghh,” he screeches. “It was terrifying.”
It hasn’t been easy to navigate since leaving the BBC show, he says. “I’ve had a few months of no: it didn’t work or didn’t resonate with a project.” It’s an experience she’s all too familiar with after her time on Hollyoaks came to an end in 2015. It took her a year and a half before she landed the role in Doctor Who. “Learning that pretty early in my career was helpful for me, because now I’m like, that’s the way it is. No matter what you’ve been to, you still have to work really hard.”
After 2:22 – A Ghost Story finishes its run, she’ll return to audition, ready to embrace everything the universe has in store for her. Gill has many new goals that she is trying to manifest. “I would like to do a Marvel movie. I would like to challenge myself and put on all these amazing costumes and work on epic stages. But what I would really like to do is work on independent films made with determination and heart.” Time to start writing in that notebook.
2:22 – A ghost story is at the Criterion Theatre, London, since May 7th to September 4.