Katy Manning ("Jo Grant")


On screen, Jo Grant and the Master were mortal enemies. But actress Katy Manning adored working with Roger Delgado. 

[Published in The Essential Doctor Who Issue 4 THE MASTER (Panini UK, March 2015), pp.36-7. Posted here by kind permission of DWM editor Tom Spilsbury.]

“He had the most extraordinary eyes I've ever seen – on a man,” laughs Katy Manning when asked what she most remembers about Roger Delgado. “He had to hypnotise me as the Master, and I swear more than once I felt myself going under! I think that's why he played so many devious, dark characters. Nine times out of ten, he was playing baddies. That's why he was perfect as the Master.”

Katy also puts Delgado's villainous success down to impeccable technique. “When you want to really threaten somebody, the most menacing thing you can do is keep very still. Roger played the Master as charming but with extraordinary stillness. That's what he nailed as an actor: that understanding of evil. I found it riveting – and I learnt from that.”

Yet in person, Delgado “was in complete opposition to everything he ever played.” She roars with laughter. “This man! When we did The Sea Devils (1972) and put him on a boat, within 30 seconds he was so sick it was unbelievable. When you watch it, look at the tone of his skin: it's grey-green! He didn't like the cold – though, hello, I was the one in the mini-skirt – or to do any stunt work. He was completely the opposite to Jon [Pertwee]. Jon wanted to do everything, and he would tease Roger mercilessly for not being the same. When Roger was seasick, Jon was so naughty with him. I was there soothing his brow and Jon's saying, 'Would you like a nice fatty pork chop?'”

Wasn't Roger upset? “Oh no, the teasing never bothered Roger in the slightest. We just go on so well – me, Jon and Roger. We used to go over to Roger's for dinner a lot. Kismet [Roger's wife] was one of these lovely women. You'd say, 'Oh, I love your sweater,' and she'd go 'Have it!' It was wonderful with Roger and Kismet. They had no children but the love between those two was an absolute joy to behold.”

Katy explains that this close bond developed between them very quickly, during rehearsals for Terror of the Autons. “It's interesting because Jon had come from light entertainment, Roger had years of straight acting behind him and I was completely inexperienced apart from one major job. But we actually worked really well together. I think maybe they shared something, a sort of continental glamour. Roger's parents were from Spain and Belgium, and Jon's surname, as he'd tell you, was really de Perthuis de Laillevault. But it was also just how it clicked when we got down to work.”

“You see, Jon didn't like improvisation. Doctor Who being his first straight role, and full of all that technical stuff, he needed to know exactly what was happening. And Roger was really precise. You always knew what you were going to get from him. Any changes were discussed. That was the only way Jon could work. Otherwise, he could get quite stressed out.”

“You can see on screen the respect Jon and Roger had for each other,” she continues. It's the way they wanted to play it: that's why they can never actually kill each other when the opportunity's there, there's this relationship between them. The Morecambe and Wise of Doctor Who.” She laughs. “And now the Master is the Mistress...”

What does Katy think of Michelle Gomez as a female incarnation of the Master? “They picked the perfect actress to play it. Roger would have been tickled pink. And they've taken that relationship to a different level – that respect Jon and Roger had. That love. It's absolutely spot on.”

Terrance Dicks said Delgado knew how to help with Pertwee's bad back (see page 10). “Oh yeah,” says Katy. “He was really terrific if there were any problems. And not just with Jon: making a show like Doctor Who there was always drama! It was my job to calm the waters, but Roger was very good at it too, because of his gentle nature. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He'd be lovely about young fans, bringing them to the studio and making sure they were all right. He was a generous, kind, sweet, funny man.”

In what ways was he funny? “He had a very dry sense of humour. He was also a terrific artist and cartoonist, which not many people seem to know about. But he also liked to play about. I mean, we worked very hard, obviously. On Doctor Who you had to. But Jon and I were always coming up with silly things to do in rehearsals. Roger was a huge part of that. One day I put a moustache and beard on, Roger painted eyeballs on his eyelids – which was really spooky – and we had [actor] John Scott Martin dressed as Queen Victoria in half a Dalek! Another time, we took all the props and everything in the rehearsal room and we made an aeroplane. We even found a British Airways flight bag and Roger was the stewardess. Jon was the pilot, wearing my big thick glasses. We thought it was shriekingly funny. But we'd forgotten it was the day of the producer's run [when the fully rehearsed story would be performed for the producer and other senior staff]. They all came in and found us!”

Katy thinks this playful, creative attitude can be seen in her favourite moment of Delgado's time as the Master, which is from The Sea Devils. “It's a real gem, when he's in prison but watching the Clangers. Watch his face, his delight. You can't help but adore him. That, right there, is Roger.”