Russell T Davies on the brilliance of Yasmin Finney in Doctor Who: ‘It’s a journey and a joy’

Russell T Davies (L) and Yasmin Finney in Doctor Who (R).

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has shared his “brilliant” experience working with trans icon Yasmin Finney.

Since returning as Doctor Who showrunner last year, Davies has rewarded fans with some epic LGBTQ+ casting.

In the upcoming 60th anniversary special, starring David Tennant as the Doctor and Catherine Tate as companion Donna, gay icon Neil Patrick Harris will play a nefarious villain, while Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney stars as Donna’s daughter, Rose Temple-Noble.

Musical theatre icon Jonathan Groff, Drag Race legend Jinkx Monsoon and trans actor Pete MacHale will then join 15th Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa, in the Tardis for season 14.

LGBTQ+ fans everywhere are overjoyed by the prospect of thriving trans representation in Britain’s biggest sci-fi series, and we’ve already had our first glimpses of Finney in the role in two 60th anniversary trailers.

And in the latest edition of Doctor Who Magazine, Russell T Davies reflected on his “brilliant” time working with Finney in the new series.

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“Through contact with her, I’ve witnessed her ideals, her politics, her family, her fights, her triumphs, her life in this world,” Davies shared. “A life I might never have known. It’s a journey and a joy. I love it, and I hope I can do more, more, more.”

Davies, who is renowned for his groundbreaking LGBTQ+ shows Queer as Folk and It’s A Sin, also reflected on his casting process and how it has changed over the years, delving head first into the controversial debate around whether cis straight actors should play queer roles.

“We’re looking for good actors,” he said. “That’s the most fundamental line. Good acting, gay, straight, in between, whatever, the actor we choose has to be good. That’s the only thing that matters.

“I find myself at the heart of a web – of my own making, okay! – discussing the rights and wrongs of casting, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ roles. And it’s an evolving thing. My stance changes over the years as I learn more and more. My opinions change like they’re meant to.

“When I express a preference for casting gay actors in gay roles, some critic will hold up Queer as Folk from 1999 and say, but you cast straight men in that!

First proper glimpse of Yasmin Finney as Rose in Doctor Who. (Alistair Heap_BBC Studios)
First proper glimpse of Yasmin Finney as Rose in Doctor Who. (Alistair Heap/BBC Studios)

“Yes, I say, and I owe them everything; their bravery allowed me to move forwards. But more significantly, that was 24 years ago? And then they stick their dummies back in their mouths and I think, oh, you do. The joy of casting like this, is making my own experience richer and I hope viewers’ too.”

And Finney herself has addressed the importance of her character’s existence in a statement, saying: “If anyone would have told eight-year-old Yasmin that one day she’d be part of this iconic show, I would have never in a million years believed them.

“This show has a place in so many people’s hearts, so to be seen as a trans actress by the legend himself Russell, has not only made my year, it’s made my life.”

And if Davies’ recounting of Finney’s audition is anything to go by, viewers are in for a treat.

“When you get into the casting room, there’s only one question: can you act?” he told Vogue. “And that’s where she stole the show. She was immediately right. My greatest worry was whether 57 other shows would snap her up instead.”

Despite transphobic and homophobic backlash from some toxic corners of the fandom, there is an overwhelming wave of support for the show’s explicit LGBTQ+ characters – not least from Ncuti Gatwa himself who was praised by fans for defending a fan from vile homophobic abuse last week.

Doctor Who returns in November for the three-episode 60th anniversary special. Gatwa then takes over at Christmas, with a full series regenerating at the beginning of next year.