DOCTOR WHO’s Millie Gibson on Ruby Sunday’s Personality, a Dark Future, and Filming Fun

Spoiler Alert

There’s always something exciting about a new companion coming to Doctor Who. Whether we love or hate their predecessor, the next TARDIS traveler ushers in new energy, hope, and perspectives. This is certainly the case with Ruby Sunday, who meets the Doctor in this year’s Christmas special “The Church on Ruby Road.” She inadvertently ends up on a goblin ship with the Fifteenth Doctor and her life will never, ever be the same again. We caught up with actress Millie Gibson to talk about Ruby Sunday’s effervescent personality, her favorite filming moments, what to expect next season, and so much more. 

Nerdist: Ruby Sunday is absolutely delightful in “The Church on Ruby Road.” I can’t wait to see where she goes next! When it came to crafting her persona, how much input did you have?

Millie Gibson: When I first auditioned, I guessed [about her personality] because with an audition, they really barely give you anything. I think the words used to sum her up were “charismatic, bubbly, and craving adventure.” But I was like, “Isn’t that like every companion?”

I think as the process went along, [showrunner] Russell [T Davies] helped me by giving me a few pointers. She’s very positive and that there’s always an underlying mystery about her, however, it doesn’t get her down. She’s just onto the next thing. I remember him telling me, “She’s a person that never rolls her eyes to something and there can’t be any hint of sarcasm about her.” That’s really hard for me because I think when I act, I’m just dying to put a sarcastic twist on it and obviously that’s not Ruby. It was a really cool contrast because the last character I played, Kelly Neelan on Coronation Street, was just an absolute wreck, bless her, and she wasn’t a very nice person. She was a lot more negative than Ruby. So this has been such a breath of fresh air to take on and portray.

Fifteenth Doctor and Ruby Sunday stand side by side and look at each otgher
BBC Studios/Bad Wolf

That’s lovely. You mentioned a bit about the mystery surrounding Ruby. We get her background story in the holiday special and now know that there’s something going on with her mom. It’s quite interesting. I know you can’t spoil anything, but can fans expect to learn more about Ruby’s life as the show progresses?

Gibson: Yes, and I think Ruby learns more about her life as the show progresses. That’s what’s great about being the companion because you are the audience, you’re the eyes of what’s going on in the Doctor’s world. Things will begin to unfold. I’m excited to see fans’ theories of what it might be.

The Doctor Who fandom loves a good theory.

Gibson: I know, I know!

You know, the Doctor always helps a lot of people but only a few are chosen to be a companion. What do you think that the Doctor saw in Ruby Sunday that made him say, “I want her to be my new friend and my traveling companion.”?

Gibson: They connected when he realized she was abandoned too and were both foundlings in a way. They were both lost souls. I think as soon as he put Ruby to the test to see how she’d survive in a goblin ship, and I think she passed the test, and he must’ve just thought, “Actually, this girl’s quite fun.” 

But I think it’s her courage as well. They meet properly when she’s in the sky on a ladder, so I think he just thought, “She’s a bit of me.” …their personalities bounce so well off each other. 

DOCTOR WHO's Millie Gibson on Ruby Sunday's Personality, a Dark Future, and Filming Fun_1
BBC Studios/Bad Wolf

Absolutely. The ladder scene is one of my favorites, by the way! Was that super challenging to film? 

Gibson: Yeah! I’d never worked on wires before. Russell purposely wrote a line in just so I could put the jacket on so we could hide the wires under the costume. I think it’s when I’m like, “Oh, I’ll go to the shops,” …and then I just kept my jacket on… I’d never done anything like that before, it’s a good thing I’m not scared of heights! I loved it, I will say. I felt like a superwoman hero. But yeah, it was a super fun scene to film. 

That sounds like a blast. My second favorite scene is, of course, when you and the Doctor start singing. What was it like filming that scene and how did you get ready for it?

Gibson: You know what? [Ncuti Gatwa and I] didn’t get ourselves ready! Genuinely, we both were under the impression we’d be filming it in post-production in a studio with a nice cup of tea. And they just went, “Okay, action.” And it was like, “Oh, right, we’re doing live? We’re singing live?” …We didn’t expect to sing it in the flesh but it worked… it all turned out great in the end with a bit of auto-tuning.

It was delightful! Now, how did it feel to step onto the TARDIS set for the first time?

Gibson: The whole scene outside, when I’m walking around the TARDIS being like, “How is it bigger on the inside?” That was actually my favorite scene to film. I remember it was a bit of a rush. We were losing daylight and we did it in one or two takes, I think. It was such an easy thing to film for me because as an actor, it was so surreal doing that reveal scene because it’s so iconic, the moment the companion realizes the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside for the first time. I loved walking around it and just playing with my reactions. And then having Mrs. Flood say, “Good luck, Ruby!” was just such a heartwarming moment. It gives me goosebumps every time.

Seeing the TARDIS in the flesh was insane. I’m used to seeing David Tennant or Matt Smith’s type of brown rustic, really home living TARDIS. So when I saw this one, it was more like, “Oh my God.” It really fits our season. I think it really speaks for our show.

Doctor Who TARDIS interior (1)
BBC/Bad Wolf Studios/Disney+

In what way does it fit the season?

Gibson: Like the jukebox, that’s so Ruby and the Doctor. Just boogying and deciding where else we want to go and things like that… I love our TARDIS even though it’s very clean.

Sounds like fun! If you could describe the adventures of this upcoming season in three words, which ones would you use?

Gibson: Dark. It does go quite dark. Musical and snow.

Interesting. Musical will be a delight. So many shows are going that route and I love it.

Gibson: Going with the times!

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