Matt Smith (actor)

Matthew Robert Smith (born 28 October 1982) is an English actor. He is best known for his roles as the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor in the BBC series Doctor Who and Prince Philip in the Netflix series The Crown, earning a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for the latter.[1]

Matt Smith
Smith at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con
Matthew Robert Smith

(1982-10-28) 28 October 1982
Northampton, England
Years active2003–present

Smith initially aspired to be a professional footballer, but spondylolysis forced him out of the sport. After joining the National Youth Theatre and studying drama and creative writing at the University of East Anglia, he became an actor in 2003, performing in plays like Murder in the Cathedral, Fresh Kills, The History Boys, and On the Shore of the Wide World in London theatres. Extending his repertoire into West End theatre, he has since performed in the stage adaptation of Swimming with Sharks with Christian Slater,[2] followed a year later by a critically acclaimed performance as Henry in That Face.[3]

Smith's first television role came in 2006 as Jim Taylor in the BBC adaptations of Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, while his first major role in television came as Danny in the 2007 BBC series Party Animals. Smith, who was announced as the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor in January 2009, is the youngest person ever to play the character.[4] He left the series at the end of the 2013 Christmas Day special, ‘The Time of the Doctor’.[5] In film, he starred in Womb (2010) and portrayed the physical embodiment of Skynet in Terminator Genisys (2015).[6][7]

Early life

Matthew Robert Smith was born in Northampton on 28 October 1982,[8] the son of Lynne and David Smith.[9] He has a sister named Laura Jayne, who was one of the dancers featured in the well-known music video for Eric Prydz's 2004 song ‘Call on Me’.[10] Smith attended Northampton School for Boys. His grandfather had played football for Notts County and Smith had also planned to play football, having played for the youth teams of Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest, and Leicester City,[11] becoming captain of the latter's youth team.[12] A serious back injury resulted in spondylosis, and he was unable to continue with a footballing career.[12][13]

Smith's drama teacher introduced him to acting by signing him up for theatrical productions without his consent. After failing to participate on the first two occasions,[12] his teacher arranged that he play the tenth juror in an adaptation of Twelve Angry Men. Although he took part in this play, he refused to attend a drama festival for which his teacher had also signed him up, as he saw himself as a football player and believed acting would damage his social life.[3] His drama teacher persisted, and eventually persuaded him to join the National Youth Theatre in London.

After leaving school, Smith studied Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, graduating in 2005.[3][14] His first theatre roles as part of the National Youth Theatre were Thomas Becket in Murder in the Cathedral and Bassoon in The Master and Margarita. His role in the latter earned him an agent and his first professional jobs, Fresh Kills and On the Shore of the Wide World. His new professional roles led him to seek an agreement with his university so that he could graduate without attending lectures in his final year.[15] Smith now likes acting and sports.



Smith's first television role was as Jim Taylor in the BBC adaptations of the Sally Lockhart quartet books The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North.[16] His first major television role came in the television series Party Animals, a BBC television drama series about fictional parliamentary advisors and researchers in Westminster. In Party Animals, Smith portrays Danny Foster, a parliamentary researcher to Jo Porter (Raquel Cassidy), a Labour politician and junior Home Office minister. At 26 years old, Danny is described as an intelligent but timid "politics geek" who should have moved on from researching at his age. His brother, Scott, a public affairs consultant, is played by Andrew Buchan.Within the series' narrative, he attempts to balance his affections for Kirsty MacKenzie (Andrea Riseborough), his intern, while trying to prevent Porter's imminent decline.[17]

In an interview in 2007, Smith discussed his character's motivations. He summarised Danny as having a romantic outlook of the political world while being cynical elsewhere. The character was drawn into politics by his father and his own political drive. He defended his character's age by characterising him as being loyal to Porter, instead of being incompetent. He talked about his character's emotional and intellectual maturity: emotionally, he lacks confidence around women—most notably seen with his unrequited love towards Kirsty—but Smith portrays Danny as a caring and sensitive but "wry, sarcastic, [and] witty" romantic; and intellectually, Danny is portrayed as attentive and possessing a strong work ethic.[18]

Smith auditioned for the role of Will McKenzie in the comedy series The Inbetweeners, with the part eventually being given to actor Simon Bird. This was revealed in an interview in 2009 by the show's writer Iain Morris, who said, "We auditioned literally 1,000 people... he was brilliant—down to the last two for Will, I think. I think he was a bit too dashing!"

Doctor Who

"The Doctor is a very special part, and it takes a very special actor to play him. You need to be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe. As soon as Matt walked through the door, and blew us away with a bold and brand new take on the Time Lord, we knew we had our man."

Executive producer Steven Moffat on Smith's casting.[19]

Smith was revealed as the Eleventh Doctor in the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who in January 2009[20] to replace David Tennant, who announced his departure in October 2008.[21] Smith was a relatively unknown actor compared to the actors then speculated about possibly taking on the role, who included Paterson Joseph, David Morrissey, Sean Pertwee, James Nesbitt, Russell Tovey, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Robert Carlyle, and Billie Piper.[22] Smith was first named as a possible successor less than a day before he was announced as the Eleventh Doctor, on edition of 3 January 2009 of BBC Breakfast, among the names speculated about.[23] His obscurity prompted the news headline "Doctor Who?", a riff on the show's title.[24][25]

Smith was one of the earliest actors to audition for the role, performing on the first day. The production team, consisting of the incoming producer, Steven Moffat, and BBC Wales Head of Drama and executive producer, Piers Wenger, immediately singled him out based on his performance.[20] Smith additionally auditioned for the role of John Watson in the Moffat-created Sherlock, undergoing auditions at the same time; he was unsuccessful, as Steven Moffat believed his eccentric acting style was closer to Holmes, whose role had already been given to Benedict Cumberbatch.[26] At 26 years old, Smith was three years younger than Peter Davison was at the time of his casting as the Doctor in 1981, and younger than any other actor suggested for the role.[20] After three weeks of auditions, Moffat and Wenger agreed that it had "always been Matt" and approached him to accept the role.[20][27][28][29]

The BBC were cautious about casting him because they felt that a 26-year-old could not play the Doctor adequately; Wenger shared the same sentiment but thought Smith had proven his acting quality in Party Animals, which Wenger thought highlighted Smith's "mercurial qualities".[19][20] Some fans of the show believed that Smith was inexperienced and too young for the role, while others supported him by citing his demonstrated acting ability with getting rewards of course.[30] For his performance in his first series, he was nominated in the Outstanding Drama Performance Category of the National Television Awards.[31] Smith is the first Doctor to be nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actor.

Smith has said of his character: "The Doctor is excited and fascinated by the tiniest of things. By everything. By every single thing. That's what's wonderful about him as a character. It's why children like him, I think. Because he doesn't dismiss anything. He's not cynical. He's open to every single facet of the universe."[32] In June 2010, Smith appeared on stage with Orbital, and performed with them a version of the Doctor Who theme, at the Glastonbury Festival.[33] Smith hosted the Doctor Who Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on 24–25 July 2010.[34] On the morning of 26 May 2012, Smith carried the Olympic torch in Cardiff, an activity which was noted by Doctor Who fans for its resemblance to a 2006 episode of the show in which the Doctor carried the torch.[35] On 1 June 2013, the BBC announced that Smith would be leaving Doctor Who at the end of the 2013 Christmas special.[36] Upon reflecting on his decision to leave in a 2016 interview, Smith expressed regret for not staying longer, owing to wanting to work longer with co-star Jenna Coleman.[37] In 2018, while appearing on Desert Island Discs, Smith revealed that he nearly turned down the role of the Doctor.[12] He was succeeded in 2013 by Peter Capaldi.

The Crown

In June 2015, Smith was cast to portray Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in the Netflix royal drama The Crown.[38] Smith played the role for the series' first two seasons, as the role would be recast every two seasons.[39]


Smith was cast in Martin McDonagh's black comedy crime In Bruges (2008), as the younger version of Ralph Fiennes's character, however his scenes did not appear in the final cut of the film.[40] He starred in the 2009 short film Together and the 2010 film Womb.[41] In February 2013, it was reported that Smith had signed up to appear in Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River.[42] Smith's directorial debut, the short film Cargese, was aired on Sky Arts in May 2013.[43][44] Smith had a supporting role, as the embodiment of Skynet, in Terminator Genisys (2015);[45] he was set to have more screen time in the sixth and seventh films in the series.[46] On 20 November 2014, it was announced that Smith would star in the action-thriller film Patient Zero.[47] In January 2019, Smith joined Jared Leto in Sony's Spider-Man spin-off Morbius.[48] In February 2019, it was announced that he had joined Edgar Wright's Last Night in Soho alongside Thomasin McKenzie[49] and Anya Taylor-Joy.[50]


During Smith's tenure in On the Shore of the Wide World, the play transferred to the Royal National Theatre in London. After finishing the play, he took on the role of Lockwood, a pupil in the Alan Bennett play The History Boys. After The History Boys, he acted in the teen play Burn/Chatroom/Citizenship and with Christian Slater in Swimming with Sharks, the latter being his West End début.[3][15]

In 2007, Smith appeared as Henry in the Polly Stenham play That Face at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in Chelsea. The play transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End in 2008 and became Smith's second role there. That Face focuses primarily upon alcohol and drug addiction in an upper-middle-class family after the paternal figure in the family leaves. As Henry, Smith portrayed an aspiring artist who left school to take care of his mother. To prepare for the role, the cast interviewed alcoholics and their families. Smith discussed his character's relationship with his mother in a May 2008 interview with the Evening Standard.[3]

The entire cast of the play was nominated for the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre,[51] and Smith won the Evening Standard's award for "best newcomer" for his role.[52] Upon its transfer to the West End, Smith's performance as Henry was highlighted as one of the positive aspects of the play by critics for the Evening Standard, Daily Express, The Guardian, and The Times.[53]

On 7 October 2013, it was announced Smith would portray Patrick Bateman in the musical adaption of American Psycho at London's Almeida Theatre. The show began its run in December 2013.[54]

Smith will reunite with his The Crown co-star Claire Foy in a production of the Duncan Macmillan play Lungs at The Old Vic beginning in October 2019.[55]

Personal life

Smith is an atheist.[56] He is an avid supporter of Blackburn Rovers FC.[57][58] He has cited his favourite band, Radiohead, as an inspiration,[59] and has referred to Oasis as "the greatest rock-and-roll band in the world".[12] In 2015, Smith was named one of GQ's 50 Best-Dressed British Men.[60]



Year Title Role Notes
2010 Womb Thomas
2011 Christopher and His Kind Christopher Isherwood
2012 Bert and Dickie Bert Bushnell
2014 Lost River Bully
2015 Terminator Genisys Alex / Skynet / The T-5000[61] Credited as Matthew Smith
2016 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Parson Collins
2018 Mapplethorpe Robert Mapplethorpe
Patient Zero Morgan
Charlie Says Charles Manson
2019 Official Secrets Martin Bright
2020 Morbius Loxias Crown Post-production
Last Night in Soho Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
2006 The Ruby in the Smoke Jim Taylor Television film
2007 The Shadow in the North Television film
2007 Party Animals Danny Foster 8 episodes
2007 Secret Diary of a Call Girl Tim 1 episode
2007 The Street Ian Hanley 2 episodes
2009 Moses Jones DS Dan Twentyman 3 episodes
2010–2014 Doctor Who Eleventh Doctor Series 5, 6, 7, 2013 specials, 8 (cameo)
2010 The Sarah Jane Adventures 2-part serial: Death of the Doctor
2013 An Adventure in Space and Time Himself Uncredited[62]
2013 The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Himself Television film
2016–2017 The Crown Prince Philip 20 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
2003 Murder in the Cathedral Thomas Becket National Youth Theatre
2004 The Master and Margarita Basoon Lyric Hammersmith
2004 Fresh Kills Arnold Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
2005 On the Shore of the Wide World Paul Danzinger Royal Exchange
Royal National Theatre
2005–2006 The History Boys Lockwood Royal National Theatre
2006 Burn/Chatroom/Citizenship Tom/William/Gary Royal National Theatre
2007 That Face Henry Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
2007–2008 Swimming with Sharks Guy Vaudeville Theatre
2008 That Face Henry Duke of York's Theatre
2013–2014 American Psycho Patrick Bateman Almeida Theatre
2016 Unreachable Maxim[63] Royal Court Theatre
2019 Lungs M The Old Vic
2020 Brooklyn Academy of Music

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2010 Doctor Who: The Adventure Games Eleventh Doctor
2010 Doctor Who: Return to Earth Eleventh Doctor
2010 Doctor Who: Evacuation Earth Eleventh Doctor
2012 Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock Eleventh Doctor
2015 Lego Dimensions Eleventh Doctor Archive audio

Short film

Year Title Role Notes
2009 Together Rob
2013 Cargese Director

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
2010 TV Quick Awards Best Actor Doctor Who Nominated
2011 SFX Awards Best Actor Won
National Television Awards Outstanding Drama Performance: Male Nominated
BAFTA TV Awards Best Actor Nominated
TV Quick Awards Best Actor Nominated
2012 TV Quick Awards Best Actor Nominated
SFX Awards Best Actor Won
National Television Awards Outstanding Drama Performance: Male Won
2013 National Television Awards Nominated
2014 National Television Awards Won
2016 BloodGuts UK Horror Awards Best Supporting Actor Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Nominated
2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series The Crown Nominated
Broadcasting Press Guild Awards[64][65] Best Actor Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
2018 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated


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Further reading

  • Smith, Oli (2010). Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith. London: BBC Children's Books. ISBN 978-1-4059-0687-6.

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