Colum Sanson-Regan Interview
Hi Colum, when I was researching on the internet I found nothing other than brief photos of you as David Tennant’s double, was it a personal decision to keep your private life private?
Colum: Alright some personal info. My birthday is the 18 of January. I was born and raised in Blarney, County Cork, Ireland, one of five children. One of my brothers is a professional musician in Ireland, he plays the guitar. My first instrument was the drums, then piano, then guitar and singing. I moved to the Canary Islands aged 18 and that was the start of my life as a full time musician.
How did you get the role of body double for David Tennant and was it just for Doctor Who or have you doubled for him in other roles prior or since?
Colum: Well, I had done some extra work for a company called Phoenix, who do extras for a lot of the TV stuff recorded around the west and south west of the UK. I had already been a weevil in Torchwood (big masks, night shoots) and one day I got a call asking could I come to the Who set the next day. David Tennant had to travel up to Scotland for urgent family issues and they needed someone of a similar build and hair colour to double in a scene that they were in the middle of filming. The next morning I was saving Kylie Minogue from evil robot angels on board the Titanic flying through space. That was the start of it. The production team saw that it worked quite well and I got called in for various other scenes and episodes while he was the Doctor. I also doubled for him in a programme called The Minor Character which was written by Will Self. It was filmed from Tennant’s POV with a voice over narrative so the only shots which featured him were when he was looking in a mirror.
One of my favourite moments in the Stolen Earth 2 parter was the scene in the TARDIS with the full crew, what was it like on set that day with the full Who cast, can you recall any funny moments on set, and who was the funniest out of them all?
Colum: That was a fun scene to do, as the whole cast were having a blast all being together. John Barrowman was certainly the loudest and was funny, but the two who were most entertaining were Catherine Tate and David Tennant. They were constantly cracking each other up and had a great chemistry.
When did you get your big break in show business?
Colum: That’s an interesting question. I don’t really consider that I have had a big break. I have been doing music for quite a while now, and have enjoyed moderate success, being able to make a living from it. The double work for Doctor Who was a real treat, but it was an anomaly, something very random and totally unplanned, and something I have never attempted to replicate. The other extra work I did was as a way to fund my first solo album, and I haven’t done any since.
I had always thought you had only appeared in that one episode from Journey’s End as the half human half Time Lord role, but you’ve appeared in many others involving David as the Doctor, can you tell us which other episodes they were – although it may be hard for us to locate without a series of freeze frame shots!
Colum: Haha! Finding exact identifiable screen shots is difficult, I have tried. The episodes I was involved in as David’s double are Voyage of the Damned, The Sontaran Stratagem, The Planet of the Ood, Partners in Crime, and Journey’s End. In the last series I appeared as a Roman soldier in The Pandorica Opens. The ones I did most work in was The Voyage of the Damned and Journey’s End. I appeared in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith in the Sarah Jane Series, also as David’s Doctor double.
You were also in Torchwood; can you tell us what your role was in this show and what episodes you appeared in?
Colum: Yes, in Torchwood I was a Weevil in a couple of episodes, but I never kept track of which ones. There were a lot of different people used and the Weevils appeared in a lot of episodes, and with the masks on it were hard to tell us apart. I was also doing a lot of touring around then so I really didn’t keep track of it.
Will you be involved in the 12th Doctor Season at all?
Colum: I have no plans to be, but hasn’t stopped it from happening before!
You’re also a talented musician; can you tell us more about this? Are you a solo singer/songwriter, do you have a band, have you any published songs, can we hear them online anywhere?
Colum: I started playing music professionally when I was 18, and haven’t stopped since. In my 20’s I played with a duo New Druids and we travelled a lot gigging wherever we went, and getting involved in many varied musical projects along the way. Around the time of the double work, I released my first solo album “GO” and have since done another one “HOTEL”, which is available online to download from iTunes.
My website www.columregan.com has details. Songs from both albums, as well as instrumental tracks can be heard on my soundcloud page, www.soundcloud.com/colum-regan. I am currently fronting a world/folk group called The Dandos and music and live videos are at www.thedandosmusic.com.
Most of my time over the last year however has been taken up with the novel.
Where do you find your best inspiration to write your music/songs?
Colum: Songs are wonderful things to write. I have written a song while out walking, in the space of twenty minutes or less, just from a melody in my head and the rhythm of my feet, and I have also struggled for months trying to find the right combination of words and rhythms to unlock the melody I knew was hiding just under my psyche.
Songs and stories are very different for me and come from different places, although people are often surprised to hear this. Maybe other artists who do both don’t find it that way, but for me, a song can be both more oblique and more intimately personal at the same time. You have the magic of melody to carry the listener through. You can have a line in a song with only two words in it, but the melody and words combined can break your heart or mend your soul every time you listen to it. Writing stories is a more practical, less ethereal way of expressing yourself. In order for the two words to deliver that effect, you need to have structured everything leading up to that point exactly right, and it takes more care and precision.
Inspiration comes from everywhere, simply from an awareness of the internal processing of your external environment, but putting that into a coherent expression is tricky. I access songs best when I switch my mind off, but create stories by very consciously applying myself. Songs can take flight almost instantly, a melody will rise and you will rise to follow it, stories are a more mechanical, methodical means of flight. The goal is to make it seem effortless and spontaneous.
Who was your inspiration as you were growing up?
Colum: Inspiration came from anyone who I saw, read or heard that through art told me about myself and the strange paradoxical world I found myself in without actually explaining anything. Art can give insight without explanation, it can bypass the critical cognitive part of you and touch something deeper. That is what has always inspired me.
You’ve written a psychological novel called The Fly Guy that is out March 2015, can you tell us anything about the novel at all?
Colum: It’s a story about a writer who creates a detective character. The detective can’t solve a case, the case of The Fly Guy, and the more the writer writes the less secure his own reality becomes. It’s a creepy thriller which looks at how we create and whether we can control what we create, while following the interconnected stories of a drug dealer, a bodyguard, an investigator, and a writer. How much of ourselves do we create and how much can we never destroy? It grew out of a weird short story I wrote about a man meeting someone who knows more about him than he knows about himself.
The website is www.sansonreganbooks.com and there are a few things on there that are worth investigating. We have made it very interactive, but it does require some thought and investigation from the person browsing it.
The Fly Guy will be out early next year, but in the meantime I will be blogging on the site, and there will be short stories available to those who pre-order. There is a lot going on, it’s all very exciting right now.
So actor, singer/songwriter and author, what’s next on the horizon for Colum?
Colum: Well, The Fly Guy is taking up all the time right now, that and gigging around Cardiff, but I have plans for the next novel, and have been putting together parts of that. There is a cool album waiting to be recorded too, a real earthy rootsy world music record with the lyrical content taken from slave poems and letters from around the globe. When am I going to get a chance to do that, I’m not sure but when it happens it’ll be a lot of fun.
Thank you Colum for a wonderful interview.
Headshots courtesy of Colum Sanson-Regan and Alison Smith.
©BBC Doctor Who 1963
©BBC Torchwood 2006