LIFE AFTER MARS; HE'S THE MASTER OF TIME TRAVEL BUT JOHN SIMM IS HAPPY WITH LIFE RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW... New Role as Edwards Sexby in English Civil War Drama the Devil's Whore Is the Latest Triumph for the Busy Actor
Byline: By Tim Oglethorpe
JOHN SIMM has been here, there and everywhere over the last couple of years and he is on the move again for his latest TV project, the hard-hitting historical drama The Devil's Whore.
After a spell as The Master in Dr Who, back to the 70s to play comatosed cop Sam Tyler in Life On Mars and to the 1880s to play Vincent Van Gogh in Channel 4's The Yellow House, his latest journey is a little more complicated.
He is going back in time again - to England in the 17th Century - but is also switching continents, filming Channel 4's The Devil's Whore in the verdant countryside of South Africa.
"It is a little weird, I grant you," grins John, who plays swordsman-for-hire Edward Sexby in the four-part drama.
"This is a story set against the background of The English Civil War, located in Hyde Park and Oxfordshire and yet - for reasons of logistics and finance - is being filmed on the other side of the world. But maybe nothing should surprise me, after the last couple of years I've had."
Since 2006 John has been transformed from an actor with a fine reputation to a household name, courtesy of those key roles in Life On Mars and Dr Who.
And while having no regrets about involving himself in either project, it's clear that the label 'star' sits heavily on his shoulders.
"It's not what I came into this business to be, it's never what I aspired to be," says John, relaxing between scenes on the set of The Devil's Whore near Cape Town.
"I'm okay with most aspects of recognition. I accept that kids are going to want my autograph when they see me in the street and clock me from Dr Who and I'm more than happy to oblige. But there are some parts of 'stardom' which I find strange. For example, when I'd finished Life On Mars and Dr Who I felt the need to disappear for a while, to step away from the spotlight.
"So I did a play, Elling, in London, and every night I came out of the theatre there'd be this same guy there, asking for my autograph.
"I can understand somebody wanting me to sign my name for them once, but 19 times? Very strange.
"And I never realised what impact playing The Master was going to have on my seven-yearold son, Ryan. I'd take him to school in the morning and I'd feel like the Pied Piper with this huge gaggle of kids around me in playground.
"Ryan is proud of the fact that his dad's been in Dr Who - one of the reasons I wanted to be in the programme, in the first place, is because he's such a fan of the show - but he was a bit freaked out by all the attention and I'm sorry it happened that way.
"Though I'm not, by the way," adds John, hastily, "ruling out a return to Dr Who in the future.
"It's too exciting a show to be a part offor me to do that."
According to bookmakers William Hill, John is joint fifth favourite at 8-1, with Glasgow's very own Robert Carlyle, to be the new Dr Who, now that David Tennant, has announced he is quitting the role.
Those might be considered remarkably short odds for a man who has already appeared in the sci-fi drama as a different character but they could be slashed even further when John is seen in The Devil's Whore.
His character, Edward Sexby, does bear some remarkable similarities to the good doctor.
They are both brave, loyal, intelligent, fast-talking loners but with a weakness for a particular woman. In Dr Who's case it was Billie Piper's character Rose Tyler and in Sexby's case it is Angelica Fanshawe, the Devil's Whore of the title.
Sexby even has an 18th Century version of a sonic screwdriver, a flashing blade which gets him out of trouble when the going gets tough. …