Billie Piper webchat – your questions answered on Madonna, fertility and Doctor Who

Last modified: 12: 56 PM GMT+0

Shouting ‘Pop’ on TV aged 12, why Chris Evans’ son should host Top Gear, Timothy Dalton in a hoodie, Lady Macbeth, Rose Tyler and the Roots – all covered by the popstar turned actor in her webchat

That’s all for today …

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Thanks for joining me on this rainy afternoon. I'm about to go and learn more lines. I've very much enjoyed your intense line of questioning - big up the Guardian!

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boobks 37m asks:

Who was your childhood hero? Who’s your hero now?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I loved Madonna, and Michael Jackson - I loved dancing, so... and Madonna was the beginning of all that chippy feminism wasn't it? It really was the beginning of that. Not of feminism itself, but that front-footed, sexually aware, ballsy, super smart, non-stop wonders.

Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour, 1990.
Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour, 1990. Photograph: Eugene Adebari/Rex/Shutterstock


Silke Plovier
asks:

Best moment in your life?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I think my children being born. Definitely the best moments of your life.

Tips for training actors: Don't make acting a bloodsport – find stories you feel affected by

Silke Plovier asks:

I think your one of the only actresses that can make me cry. Any tips for actors/actresses who are still learning?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Do dance classes - I know that sounds stupid, but one of the most important things is to be aware of your body. In a great way, not a 'I hate my body' way. Feeling the floor beneath you, dance helps with that. And it stops you being physically awkward, and helps you to take the piss out of yourself. Clowning is really important. And don't make acting a bloodsport because it will destroy you - find stories you feel affected by and don't make it remotely competitive.


Katheriness30
asks:

You inspire me. What is your life philosophy and work mantra?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Sleep with your script. Have life and work, because one feeds the other. Watch things and read things outside of what you're currently working on.

I'd tell my younger self: Stay at school for longer! Stop rushing

Rory00 asks:

If you could travel in time to the past what would you say to your younger self?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Stay at school for a bit longer! Stop rushing.

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BewilderedMark asks:

I loved Penny Dreadful, although the final season did seem to end rather abruptly. Were you gutted to have had no screen time with Timothy Dalton?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

As actors, it was pretty upsetting too. But I think in a way it sort of worked - everyone's story got tied up, and no-one was expecting it to be the end. So they sort of won in every way. It was just very sudden. I don't think I'd be able to keep it together if I shared a scene with Timothy - he makes me laugh so much. The twinkle in that man's eye is terrifying. He's one of the funniest people I've ever met. There's nothing better than seeing him stroll through Dublin in a hoodie - he dresses like a teenager, he really does, and it's the same outfit all the time. He's so handsome as well, my mum almost collapsed when she met him.

tinyconfusion06 asks:

Would you classify Lily Frankenstein [in Penny Dreadful] as a villain?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I think she's a romantic villain. I just think she's a romantic in many ways, and her bad behavior is in the name of revenge.

I love Doctor Who fans. I meet fans who were named Rose – it's terrifying!

krumstets asks:

How would you equate the fandomness that you experienced as a pop star and that of being in Doctor Who?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

They are two totally different experiences. Because for the fans of Doctor Who, they're in love with Rose, they love what she stands for and represents. And with music, it was more a personality-based thing. I love Doctor Who fans. But the worlds collide sometimes. I meet fans of Doctor Who now who were named Rose when they were born - it's terrifying! It was ten years ago. I've met a few Billies too...

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Sophie24601
asks:

How is Yerma different to the other theatre you’ve been involved in?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

The way we're making it is very different to what I'm used to. We started with three scenes on day one, and that's really terrifying. The director and writer is writing it as we go, and that can be unsettling at times, but he likes to see things happen for the first time all the time. Normally you're drilling your body into perfection with a performance on stage, and I think he's more interested in the imperfections. Which is great for him, and terrifying for us.



Emily Metcalfe
asks:

Considering you’re a mother, was it difficult getting into the mindset of your character for Yerma?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I'm still getting into it, so it's not totally established yet, but I feel like I can access it. I know a lot of people who are in this world at the moment, and I know what it means to have a child so the reverse of that would be awful. In that sense, I don't find being a mother is affecting getting in there and understanding it. We've also spent a lot of time talking to people other than friends who have a treacherous fertility past - five minutes with those guys you know what's going on. It's awful - but there are success stories. But not for our Yerma...

I would love to play Lady Macbeth in a modern adaptation: it's my favourite Shakespeare play

Allegra Giannini asks:

If you could play one role in your life, what would it be? (I would love to see you as Lady Macbeth!)

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Yes, I would love to play Lady Macbeth. I would like a modern adaptation - I'd be terrified about how I would bring something new to it, but it's my favourite Shakespeare play, so it would be a gift of a role. It's just a very, very tasty story. It's deep, isn't it? I don't know how to be articulate about it - it's just got everything you want in a tale.

My friend always texts before a press night: punk it out! That really helps

Allegra Giannini asks:

Do you have any tips for beating stage fright? Do you picture the audience naked to calm your nerves?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

My friend always texts me before a press night saying: punk it out! That always really helps me, it gives you the confidence to be whatever you want to be. I always get the sense they're trying to tell me to scare the audience, which somehow gives you power. But sometimes it's totally unavoidable, you have to accept you're going to be horribly exposed, and then you come off and everything looks like it's in a different colour - in a great way.

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tinyconfusion06 asks:

What’s your favourite hip-hop song?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Good question - I love hip-hop. Let me check my Roots albums... Act II (The Love of my Life) on Things Fall Apart. It's a beautiful piece of hip-hop, a sort of classical piece - it's not gangsta rap, it's beautifully crafted, like a movement.

In the Smash Hits TV ad, I blew a bubble and shouted 'Pop!' I was 12

Spluuuuurgh asks:

My first recollection of you was in an advert where you just sort of appeared shouting “Pop!” and that’s all I remember.
Can you tell us more about it and what it was for?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I do that to my children: POP! It was me, and it was for Smash Hits. It was the relaunch of the magazine, I had a similar hairstyle to the one I have today. I blew a bubble, and bounced a ball into a trumpet. I was 12. 100 Pure Pop!

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Dawnelle Drewek asks:

I think you always add such an air of elegance to all of your roles. But why are they always sort of bittersweet?! In Dr Who I almost cried when you had to leave the Dr and in Secret Diary I was shocked that you walked away from love and Penny Dreadful left u abruptly with nothing.

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Everything i've been in, I've never known the outcome of the character because they're written as we go along. I suppose they end in that way because it's time for me to leave - and that becomes suitably dramatic! I don't know. The end of any character is bittersweet isn't it? No, that's not true... Joy had a really good ending, for instance, after two hours where you thought it couldn't get any worse.

I decided to do Yerma at the Young Vic because I read the original and thought it was a beautiful piece of poetry

tinyconfusion06 asks:

Why did you decide to do Yerma?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I decided to do Yerma because I read the original and thought it was a beautiful piece of poetry - even though it's a play. I feel like it couldn't be a more relevant subject - I think a lot of people are talking about conception and fertility and IVF, maybe because I'm in my 30s and it's a topic amongst friends. I think women work a lot, and so it's not on the top of the list of priorities, understandably people want a great career. And suddenly you're faced with the reality of this biological clock. That you can't deny. There's not really anything you can do about that, it's not something you can control. It's either going to work or it's not. I think it all becomes pressure at some point, and it becomes really hard for women - really stressful.

and it's playing at the Young Vic which is one of my favourite theatres, and the opportunity to work with Simon Stone... he's annoyingly only 31, and a brilliant director. He's smart.

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tinyconfusion06 asks:

Did you ever think Rose Tyler would be as loved as she still is now?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

No. I'm so pleased about it. She was just some normal chick from an estate, and she had a real zest for life, and she's really curious and quite chippy.

Doctor Who … Rose, played by Billie.
Doctor Who … Rose, played by Billie. Photograph: BBC

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tinyconfusion06 asks:

You always seem to play strong female characters. Do you think it’s important and necessary? Why?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I think obviously it's important. But I think it's equally important for there to be a true representation of women - sometimes it's not easy just to be really successful and ambitious and accomplished. It's not as simple as that. I'd like to see a bit more of that on TV - it's great there are loads of strong role models, but it's also great to see the truth behind that which is that's not something that comes easy. There's always a struggle. That's the truth, and that's as important as being some sort of gutsy, front-footed, I don't take no shit from no-one attitude. But something to aspire to, I guess.

0hmyst4rs asks:

Is there a character you’ve played or an acting or singing job that you feel taught you a lot?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I sort of feel the beauty of my job is you learn a lot, all the time. Because inevitably, you have to do a lot of work on that sort of profession, or character - it's a constant education. I don't feel like any of them have fundamentally changed my view of the world, but I feel like I'm always being pushed to being more open-minded through learning about different walks of life.

PonyBoyUK asks:

Do celebrities have celebrity crushes? Or is it more like an office romance?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Yes, of course! Ryan Gosling's a given.

realitytake says:

Thought you made a great speech at the Remain rally in central London recently.
Given that it now turns out that 64% of the young voted do you think that they would be better heard if they set up a pro-European party?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I wasn't even there! I feel the same as anyone else though - well clearly not everyone - but nearly everyone I know and love. That it's totally terrifying. Actually, not everyone I know and love - I've been asked to leave the house over the differences.


tinyconfusion06 asks:

What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you always want to be an actress?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

When I was a child, I wanted to be a grown-up, that was all I knew. And I knew I wanted to be an actress at the age of nine - it was watching Samantha Morton in a weird scene as a young actress. I just remember thinking: I've never seen a more convincing actress in my life, and I was a young person - it was a powerful thing. I still think she's my favourite actress. She's totally present - it's all actually happening to her at that moment, suitably unhinged and really vulnerable. All the things you want to see in a performance.

Jennyfer Aguillar says:

I loved your acting in Doctor Who (we love all you in Brazil), but my question is about your general career: what was the most difficult job that you have done?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Every job has its challenges. Penny Dreadful was tricky because I was away a lot; Secret Diary was tricky for obvious reasons... I suppose you sort of compartmentalise, which everyone has to do at work to some extent, but that did take quite an enormous leap of detachment! But overwhelmingly, I love my job.

Piper as Belle in Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
Piper as Belle in Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Photograph: Tiger Aspect Productions

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Chris Evans' son would be a great replacement on Top Gear, his knowledge of cars is terrifying for a seven-year-old


waldegrave
asks:

How did you rate Chris Evan’s slot in Top Gear and who is your nomination to replace him in the next series?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I didn't see it. Mine's all on catchup. But I'm sure he did a stellar job. And I'm sad he's leaving. His son would be an amazing replacement - his knowledge of cars is terrifying for a seven year old. And he's one of the most articulate and gentle little guys - his name's Noah.

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Hubert O’Hearn
asks:

I truly think your best work was on Penny Dreadful as Lily became a fascinating proto-feminist. Was that always in the plan for the character, or did you have input into her development with the showrunner John Logan?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

I think that was very much John's story, but I like to think that he gave me text that he thought suited my own streak. It's not as feminist as Lily's - I'm not murderous! But I am strong-willed. I'm a feminist in as much as I go to work, I feel strongly that women are heard, and I raise my sons to have a great understanding of women - I'm a feminist in that sense. But I'm not a full-bodied bra-waver, you know?

Every minute of every day I am mistaken for Paloma Faith. And thank God, because she's a bloody classic

vammyp asks:

Have you ever been mistaken for Paloma Faith?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Every minute of every day. And thank God, because I think she's a bloody classic - I love her.

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Anastacia Good asks:

Do you want sometimes not to be famous for a few days?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

Frequently! I suppose I enjoy going to places where people don't know who I am - it gives me a sense of how much I enjoy being anonymous! The perks though... there are wonderful perks to it. Queue jumping is the best - sorry, but it is! The lack of ID. But I think I'd be happy to let them go.

Anastacia Good asks:

What/who inspires you?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

My mother. In every way - that's a bit vague, but true. Her patience and generosity.


typernotfighter
asks:

How do you manage to keep up the high standard you achieved in the Smash Hits ad where you danced around a plastic flower?

User avatar for BilliePiper1 Guardian contributor

14 hours a day dance classes at Sylvia Young, fountains of Diet Coke.

Updated

Billie Piper is with us now – answers to questions shortly

Post your questions for Billie Piper

With her infectiously peppy Because We Want To, Billie Piper launched phase one of her career back in 1998, becoming the youngest ever artist to debut at No 1 in the UK. But after two hit albums, she segued into an acting career that has eclipsed even her music success.

Adored by Doctor Who fans for playing Rose Tyler, companion to David Tennant’s Doctor, she’s also known for taking on the role of sex worker Belle de Jour in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and as Brona Croft in Penny Dreadful. She has enjoyed regular stints on the London stage – rejoining Call Girl writer Lucy Prebble for The Effect, and starring in Richard Bean’s phone-hacking drama Great Britain. Next up is the lead role in Yerma, a Lorca tragedy updated by the iconoclastic Simon Stone.

With Yerma opening at the Young Vic on 28 July, Piper is joining us to answer your questions about it and anything else in her career, from 1pm BST on Wednesday 13 July – post them in the comments below.

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