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Billie Piper knew Christopher Eccleston was ‘struggling’ on Doctor Who

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Billie Piper knew Christopher Eccleston was ‘struggling’ on Doctor Who

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Billie Piper has discussed Christopher Eccleston’s ‘hard time’ on the set of Doctor Who (Picture: BBC)

Christopher Eccleston has made no secret of his disdain for his 2005 series of Doctor Who, previously branding it a ‘mess’.

The actor, 60, has also spoken candidly about his mental health struggles, having been hospitalised with severe clinical depression following a breakdown in 2016.

Now, Billie Piper, 41 – who starred as Rose Tyler in the BBC sci-fi series – has shared that she knew Christopher was ‘struggling’ while they worked together.

However, she was unaware of just how negative his opinion of the show was.

Her comments come after Christopher said at a fan convention last year: ‘The first series was a mess, and it wasn’t to do with me or Billie – it was to do with the people who were supposed to make it.’

He added at the time that he would only return if showrunner Russell T Davies was sacked.

Billie played Rose Tyler alongside Christopher’s Time Lord in 2005 (Picture: BBC)

Speaking in a new interview, actress Billie – who was 23 when she landed her Doctor Who role, which she later reprised during David Tennant’s reign – told The Independent: ‘I now know that he was having a hard time, but I’m not sure I understood at the time how troubled he was with it all.’

‘I was going through a lot of personal stuff – I think that’s where my focus was,’ she added.

‘I’m still really close with those guys, and the whole production team, really.’

Billie – whose latest role is in Scoop – admitted that she became overwhelmed with being shot to stardom, so didn’t pay much attention to any interpersonal squabbles within the crew.

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‘It was one of my first big acting jobs. So I was like, “Whey!” Grateful, grateful, grateful. Loving it, loving it. Can’t believe I’m finally doing the job I want to do, can’t believe I’m working with all these incredible people, can’t believe I’m working with Christopher Eccleston, can’t believe I’m rebooting a British classic.

Christopher has cited grievances with the crew as his reasons for leaving the show (Picture: BBC)

‘It [was] kind of sad to hear that, really. I knew he was struggling, but yeah, I thought it was just scheduling and things like that, which are often a tricky part of what we do.’

Billie was then asked if she’d return to the world of Doctor Who.

‘I wouldn’t go back as a full-time thing, but I’d love to make another appearance,’ she teased.

Reprising her role of companion Rose doesn’t seem to be on the cards just yet, though, given the success of Netflix’s Scoop since it landed earlier this month.

The I Hate Suzie actor plays Newsnight’s interview booker in the show about the events behind Prince Andrew’s infamous ‘car crash’ interview with broadcaster Emily Maitlis, who is played by Gillian Anderson.

Billie confessed that she was initially uncertain about taking the role, but realised there was a bigger story to tell.

‘Oh my God, there are these unsung women behind the story,’ she said.

‘I think she was the reason this happened. And it’s slightly depressing that no one really knew anything about her,’ Billie added of her character.

Meanwhile, in Doctor Who Land, the current Doctor is Ncuti Gatwa, whom Christopher previously praised in a rare reference to his days as the Time Lord.

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Christopher – who was the first to be cast when Russell rebooted the series – shared photos of his many roles throughout his career on Instagram in 2022.

Giving his blessing for Ncuti to fill the famous shoes, Christopher included a shot from Doctor Who and wrote: ‘The Doctor. I loved playing Him. Much love to NCUTI GATWA.’

He gave Ncuti Gatwa his blessing when he took over the job (Picture: James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

Christopher previously explained his reasons for leaving Doctor Who, citing grievances with Russell and producers Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson.

He claimed their bond ‘completely broke down during the shooting of the first series.’

‘I think it’s fair to say… that the first series nobody knows what they’re doing and the politics are raging. The shooting of the first series was a nightmare.’

He added to Radio Times in 2018: ‘They lost trust in me, and I lost faith and trust and belief in them.’

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