On my radar: Mandip Gill’s cultural highlights

The Doctor Who actor on her R&B obsession, the magic of Matt Haig and the Wagamama dish she has three times a week

Mandip Gill, 33, was born in Leeds to a Sikh family and grew up on the estate where her parents owned a newsagents. She studied acting at the University of Central Lancashire and worked in theatre before landing her debut TV role as homeless teenager Phoebe McQueen in Hollyoaks. After leaving the Channel 4 soap three years later, she appeared in Cuckoo, Casualty, The Good Karma Hospital and Love, Lies and Records. Since 2018, she has starred in Doctor Who as the Doctor’s companion Yasmin Khan.

1. Film

House of Gucci

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci.
Lady Gaga in House of Gucci. Photograph: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy

I was spoiled when it came to films. We had a video rental section in our newsagents growing up, so I watched far too many age-inappropriate films. But I was desperate to see this because Lady Gaga blew me away in A Star Is Born. On screen, she’s just got it. As an actor myself, I overanalyse and it’s difficult for me to get fully swept up but Gaga totally absorbs herself in each role and just becomes the character. I wasn’t familiar with the fascinating story behind the brand and Gucci family. It’s testament to the film that even though it’s two-and-a-half hours long, I didn’t check my phone once and was surprised it was pitch black outside when I left the cinema.

2. Music

Jhené Aiko

Jhené Aiko.
‘I’ve been listening to her constantly since 2014’: Jhené Aiko. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Jhené makes slow R&B and I’ve been listening to her constantly since 2014. I played her debut album, Souled Out, non-stop. Now I keep coming back to it. That album’s going to follow me around for the rest of my life. She’s got a beautiful voice and her lyrics resonate with me: Jhené lost her brother to cancer and my cousin had just passed away too when I discovered her. My musical tastes range from Sam Smith to Dave the rapper. But Jodie [Whittaker] tends to choose the music on the Doctor Who set because she’s so knowledgable. She’s always introducing me to new artists.

Fearne Cotton

3. Podcast

Happy Place by Fearne Cotton

I have the worst diet, so [Doctor Who co-star] John Bishop recommended Mindful Chef boxes to me. I first put this podcast on when I started making the meals in lockdown and really took to it. Now I associate Fearne so closely with cooking, I can’t dice a pepper without listening to her. The episodes with Suranne Jones, Jesy Nelson and Holly Willoughby are highlights. It’s great to hear people I’ve grown up watching or listening to talking openly about anxiety, impostor syndrome and other mental health issues. Fearne’s a great listener who creates a safe space.

4. TV

This Is Us, Amazon Prime

‘The characters feel real to me’: This Is Us.
‘The characters feel real to me’: This Is Us. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

I’m not normally a drama binge-watcher – I tend to watch heavy documentaries about murderers – but I’m on series four of This Is Us and have become so emotionally invested. It’s so well written and performed, the characters feel real to me. They’re wholesome but so human, fully fleshed-out, with flaws like any of us. I’ve heard people call it cheesy but the acting keeps it grounded and true. Mandy Moore and Sterling K Brown are so brilliant, I get choked up watching them. It’s also rare to see such a diverse, multi-generational cast in a mainstream drama.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

5. Book

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Our Doctor Who costume lady Jen gave me this as a gift and I loved it. It’s quite Who-ish in a way. No spoilers but it’s a fantasy novel about a woman called Nora who goes through something, then wakes up in a library full of books which ponder the infinite possibilities of her own life. Each book she picks off the shelf is a version of what her life could have been. It gets her to question her regrets and choices. I love the idea of life’s endless crossroads – how tiny decisions or chance encounters can have massive consequences.

6. Restaurant


firecracker prawn
Firecracker prawn. Photograph: Wagamama

I mainly eat beige food – chips, pasta, sandwiches – but I love Wagamama and always order the same thing: prawn firecracker with extra sauce. I order it at home, on set, in the Cardiff Bay branch. I must eat it three times a week. They know my regular order now and say: “Extra sauce?” It’s so spicy, it must be uncomfortable watching me eat it. I’m always gasping for a glass of water or milk. I gave up fish for six months after watching [Netflix documentary] Seaspiracy but got lured back by Wagamama. I’ll sometimes order edamame beans with salt on the side, just to mix things up.

  • The Doctor Who New’s Year’s Day special is on BBC One, Saturday 1 January, 7pm


Michael Hogan

The GuardianTramp

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