“You may not know the name, but Sean Carlsen has been a regular across the Whoniverse for most of the past decade, appearing in such gems as Torchwood series 2 episode Sleeper (by James Moran) and the Gallifrey series for Big Finish, not to mention a handful of other audio titles.”
An extract of an interview from Vortex Magazine:
Hi Sean and welcome back to both Gallifrey and playing Narvin. How is he this series?
Thanks. Well, he still has that edge, you know? Narvin has undergone quite a change, not so much in personality, more in terms of what we learn about him. Very early on, I thought ‘Okay, I’m playing the bad guy here.’ As things unfold, I realised there’s far more depth to Narvin. He’s not the bad guy at all. He’s completely devoted to Gallifrey and to his President. He may not always agree with her but he’s trying to do the right thing by her.
Did you think Series 4 would ever happen?
I knew Gary Russell had every intention of doing either a fourth series or a one-off special which would resolve everything but there was this opportunity at BBC Wales and suddenly Gary was gone! It looked like that really was the end of Gallifrey. Anyway, I was at the Regenerations Doctor Who Convention just over a year ago and Gary said ‘Keep this quiet but I’ve got some work for you next year…we’re going to do a fourth series of Gallifrey.’ Well, I can’t tell you how happy that made me. I mean, I love the character, I love the storylines; we’re getting great scripts from fantastic writers – David Wise, Stewart Sheargold, Alan Barnes of course. We’ve had some great writers on it. The other great thing about it is, those actors in it, those regulars like Lalla Ward, Louise Jameson, John Leeson, Mary Tamm, all these guys, they’re actors I grew up watching and loving. For me, the classic era of Doctor Who, the golden era was the Tom Baker era. So to find myself working with these guys and getting to know them, that’s one of the joys of the job. Right from the start, I’ve always wanted The Doctor to turn up and sure enough we’ve got Colin Baker in the next series which is just brilliant because I’ve heard a lot of people say what an outstanding audio Doctor he is and what a lovely actor he is – and he truly is. He was fantastic to work with, such a lovely guy and a really good actor. That was great for me personally, to work with another Doctor.
Finally, how would you encourage someone to try Gallifrey?
Well, if you love classic seventies Doctor Who, great sci-fi and The West Wing, you’re going to love Gallifrey.
Extract from interview with Sean Carlsen from The Finished Product Doctor Who fanzine:
Regarding Sean’s contribution to Doctor Who and The Natural History of Fear
Sean Carlsen, later to play Coordinator Narvin in the Gallifrey series, was delighted to become involved, coming from a background in fandom. He said: “I first got involved with Big Finish way back in 2003. Obviously as a Who fan and reader of DWM, I was very excited when I first read that they had got the licence to produce new Who. I think the first story I ever heard was The Mutant Phase which I really enjoyed. I remember being very impressed with that. An ex-girlfriend of mine was in that one and I was dead jealous that she had Doctor Who on her CV! Around this time (2001) we were doing a UK tour of the D.H. Lawrence classic Sons and Lovers together and Jason Haigh-Ellery came to see the show. We had a beer afterwards, he gave me a copy of Storm Warning and said ‘Send your voicereel to Gary Russell’ so I did that and never heard another word back!
Fast forward to 2003 and I was filming in Cardiff (coincidently, with Lisa Bowerman) and I get a phonecall out of the blue from Gary. He said he’d finally got round to listening to the CD I sent back in 2001 and would I like to do an Eighth Doctor story. Well I played it cool and said, ‘Uh, I think I’m available…okay, thanks.’ Actually I was absolutely made up! I love Paul McGann’s Doctor. I know the TV Movie has its faults script-wise but his Doctor was brilliant, so I was dead chuffed. The story in question was The Natural History of Fear.
“As for my memories of the recording, I remember it vividly because it was my first one. Paul was still recording his stories in Bristol at the time and I do remember thinking the studio looked rather makeshift and unglamorous. It was raining heavily that first morning and Paul arrived in the Green Room soaked to the skin. I just remember thinking, ‘God, I wish I had your looks!’ He really does have an amazing face which was accentuated by his longish hair soaking wet. It sounds like I have a crush on McGann doesn’t it? I can assure you I haven’t! Anyway, the regulars were lovely and charming. Conrad was great, he was quite new to it himself I think and that story may have been the first or second he recorded. We’ve since become good friends and it was great to work with him again on Gallifrey 4 last year.
“India Fisher was so lovely, what a voice! She said to Gary at one point, ‘You should use Sean again,’ which of course he did, bless him, so I shall always be grateful to her for that and of course I’m eternally grateful to Gary.
“McGann was quiet and a little reserved but once we got talking about the First World War we hit it off. I also remember being a bit scared of Gary. These days the only person I’m scared of is Lalla Ward but back then I do remember being a bit scared of him. I think I was very keen to do a good job in the hope that he’d invite me back. Mind you, even now Gary gives me that look and you think ‘What have I done?’
“I wasn’t that familiar with the Eighth Doctor stories but as I say, I had heard Storm Warning and Sword of Orion so I knew what to expect. Having said that, Natural History of Fear is quite unlike any other BF story. Obviously, it’s quite Orwellian, reminding me a bit of 1984, but it was not what you expect from a Doctor Who story. Again, the flexibility of Doctor Who means you can do almost anything with it. The other odd thing was that there was no cast list saying who plays what, just a list of actors so we were like an ensemble. Gary told me which roles I had to prepare. I played a few parts in that one, the only one I can remember off the top of my head is The Censor, nice part. In fact my characterisation of Narvin in the Gallifrey series was somewhat influenced by The Censor. One other memory of the recording was a scene where I play someone who goes completely mad, a total brain meltdown…and it wasn’t scripted, just a stage direction! So Gary said, ‘can you just improvise this one?’ I think I got away with it.
I’ll always have fond memories of Natural History of Fear. It was the first time I met Gary, who of course has since become a dear friend and of course it lead to me doing many more Doctor Who audios. Here I am nine years later about to do Gallifrey 5, so it’s lovely to still be involved with Big Finish. I’ve made a lot of good friends through it and had a lot of fun.”
Interviewed by Kenny Smith.
An extract from an interview with Sean from The Finished Product fanzine:
Regarding Sean’s work on I, Davros
“I think we did I, Davros in 2006 and by that point I’d done quite a bit of work with Big Finish and was lucky enough to be a bit of a regular. So from time to time Gary Russell would invite me to be in other stories such as Fifth and Eighth Doctor stories, and of course I, Davros. “As for my actual involvement in Big Finish, Jason Haigh-Ellery saw me on stage in a production of Sons and Lovers. That kind of led me to doing my first BF story which was The Natural History of Fear. But I really owe India Fisher big time because after recording Natural History she said to Gary, ‘You should use Sean again,’ and of course he did, for which I am eternally grateful because I love doing them.”Sean is perhaps best known in the world of Doctor Who for his role as CIA Co-ordinator Narvin in the Gallifrey series.He said: “I suppose Valron and Narvin are very much the political types. It’s the same approach as with almost any role really, part of it is instinct and you look for the humanity of the character of course. “I watched Genesis of the Daleks again just to remind myself of Davros and I listened to Davros, the Big Finish Sixth Doctor story. I love Michael Wisher’s Davros but equally Terry is brilliant in the role and made it his own. In fact if there was one role in new series Who I would love to play it’s Davros! But that other chap got there first (and did it very well I must add). “It’s always enormous fun doing a Big Finish recording and I, Davros was no exception. As for memories of it, well I remember I enjoyed working with Katarina Olsson. She’s a terrific actress and very beautiful I might add; I really enjoyed our scenes together. I saw her on stage at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury in a wonderful Irish play (I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls by my friend Ade Morris) and she really is fantastic. “Working with Terry was a joy! He’s such a lovely bloke and in all honesty it was a bit of a buzz being in the studio with Davros himself. I think it was also the first time I met the writer Gary Hopkins; we come from the same part of South Wales.”He wrote one of the other episodes but he was in the studio for the recording of my episode. More recently he wrote one of the new episodes of Gallifrey and we’ve since become friends. He’s a brilliant writer! And of course, it was great working with Gary again. He’s become a dear friend over the years and someone I always love working with.”
Interviewed by Kenny Smith
Article on Sean Carlsen and Gallifrey taken from The Big Finish Companion Volume II:
ONE of the joys of Gallifrey was the emergence of the supporting characters in addition to Romana and Leela, through the likes of original creations Braxiatel, played by Miles Richardson, and Co-ordinator Narvin played by Sean Carlsen.
For Louise Jameson, working with an ensemble cast was a tremendous experience.
She said: “Miles Richardson is terrific. I worked with his dad in the early 70s for a couple of years and it was uncanny when I heard him speak whilst recording Gallifrey – he sounds so similar to Ian.
“Sean Carlsen’s technique is fantastic, he’s got such an amazing range, and a marvellous emotional investment in what he’s doing. Sean always thinks he can do it better and wants to do another take – he’s never quite satisfied.”
Sean Carlsen proved to be the surprise hit of the season as CIA Co-ordinator Narvin.
Sean, who first worked for Big Finish on The Natural History of Fear, said: “A few months later I got an email from Gary Russell asking if I would like to do Gallifrey, and I thought, ‘Fantastic.’ I thought it was just going to be one story in the new series, so when I learned it was for the whole series, I was amazed and delighted.
“I can’t remember whether I was told very much about Narvin beforehand, as I don’t think there was any character synopsis. I just read, and as an actor, you make of it what you can. You interpret the characters as you see it, and hopefully I got it right. I saw him, at that time, as an intergalactic Peter Mandelson, a spin-doctor – dark, devious and perhaps a bit weasley, not to be trusted and not to be messed with. But there’s also a great humour there, a real sense of sarcasm, and a great relationship with Romana. I just used my own instincts.
“He’s very unpredictable. They say you keep your friends close and your enemies even closer – Narvin is one of those people, one you’d rather have on your side than not. But if he’s on your side, can you really trust him?
“We learn more about him as the series goes on, but in the first series I interpreted it that he’s the bad guy, but of course it becomes clear that he’s completely devoted to Gallifrey and he’s trying to do the right thing.
“It was always very well written, and when you’re in a studio with someone like Lynda Bellingham, your job becomes so much easier, as you’re having great dialogue with very fine actors. I was very lucky to have worked with the likes of Lou Jameson, Lalla Ward, Lynda Bellingham, John Leeson and of course Miles.
“Growing up, I was a bit of fan, and my era was with Tom Baker, so working with John Leeson, Louise Jameson and Lalla Ward is just brilliant. That was one of the things that really appealed to me about the part.
“Working for Big Finish you get the opportunity to work alongside some great actors. Gary always went out of his way to find the best people for the parts, and I’ve always found I’ve been lucky with good casts.”
Justin Richards said: “I like Narvin. I think the audience – and maybe us writers – were in danger of over-complicating him. And actually, his character is fairly straightforward. It takes a while to see it, for it to emerge, but he is entirely loyal to his beliefs. In many ways, he is the most honest character in the series – very similar to Leela, though neither would thank me for pointing that out! He is unswerving and unstinting in his loyalty to his own vision of what Gallifrey stands for and should be.”
And Stewart Sheargold said: “Initially I found Narvin a character very much on the sideline, but I soon realised that he is the heart of Gallifrey – he is reason and logic and truth and probably my favourite character in the series.
“The one thing you have to always remember about Narvin is that he is, for better or for worse, always on Romana’s side. He is utterly loyal, despite sometimes disagreeing with how she operates. The means that he will sometimes do what he thinks is best for Romana, even when it seems as though he may be going against her. He is the heart of Gallifrey – he wants peace and harmony and he believes stolidly in the workings of the establishment.”
Gary Russell added: “Narvin is just my favourite original character. Of all the characters I’ve had a hand in shaping or writing, he’s my ideal human being, or Time Lord in this case!
“He’s entirely shades of gray – there’s no black and white about him, as he acts like a real person would. He started off as being out for himself but now he’s just practical in every situation, and thinks, ‘If you do this, you will get killed, but if you do that, you won’t.’
“While Leela is all instinct and passion, and Romana can be quite cold and unemotional, Narvin is in the middle and says all he wants to do is survive.”
On hearing Gary’s thoughts on Narvin, Sean said: “I was, honestly, absolutely bowled over when I heard that – I’d never seen it that way!
“To me, Gallifrey has a strong ensemble cast, but it’s very wonderful that he sees it that way – I just hope he doesn’t go and kill Narvin off or regenerate him. I’ve come close, though, having been shot and blown up!
“When I went for the part that I got in The Christmas Invasion, the casting director Andy Pryor knew all about Gallifrey and commented that he was very familiar with our work at Doctor Who audios. Something I’d loved to have been is one of the Time Lords in the TV series, just standing there in the robes so Narvin could have been seen in the TV series. I can but dream!”
Miles added: “As a cast, we all get on really well and my best chum in it, I would say, is Sean Carlsen. I just adored the interaction between Narvin and Braxiatel, and if anyone’s ever designed to rub each other up the wrong way, then it’s them. We like to work out the timing of our scenes and get it right and we’ll always ask to do it again if we can, to make it even better. “John Leeson is a master of so many things, he never fails to keep us amused. Louise is still one of the sexiest women in the galaxy and Lalla, not surprisingly, keeps us all in check. We have also been blessed with a splendid array of non-regulars who have kept us from getting too bored of each other.