Russell T Davies reveals Neil Patrick Harris 'had never heard of' Doctor Who before joining the show

The showrunner shared that Harris' aptitude for magic led him to cast the actor as The Toymaker

Doctor Who (BBC)
Neil Patrick Harris portrays The Toymaker in the final Doctor Who 60th anniversary special, but he'd 'never heard of' the series before being sent the script. (BBC)

Neil Patrick Harris had "never heard of" Doctor Who before he was cast in the role of The Toymaker for the 60th anniversary special episode The Giggle, Russell T Davies has revealed.

BBC's iconic sci-fi series has been celebrating its 60th anniversary with three specials, with David Tennant and Catherine Tate returning to the roles of The Doctor and Donna Noble respectively. The Giggle sees the Doctor face one of his most formidable enemies, who has humanity in the palm of his hands and it is up to the Time Lord to save them from his machinations.

Read more: Doctor Who special The Giggle: Air time, cast and plot for final 60th anniversary episode

The Toymaker is a classic villain from the Doctor Who rolodex of baddies, first appearing in 1966 opposite William Hartnell and played by Michael Gough. Despite his character's long history on the show, the How I Met Your Mother actor was starting "from scratch" when it came to the production.

"He had never heard of [Doctor Who], never heard of it," Davies said of Harris at a press event for the specials. "In fact, he read the script and then he phoned me up and said 'the Doctor's an alien?' he really, really was [starting] from scratch.

Ruth Madeley will return to Doctor Who in the next special (BBC).
Russell T Davies revealed he approached Neil Patrick Harris for the role after learning of his aptitude for magic tricks. (BBC).

"I was lucky enough to know him because I worked with him on It's a Sin, he was in the first episode [and] was so glorious in that, so we knew him.

"But actually I'd written the Toymaker and it was Phil [Collinson, the show's producer], who said, 'Oh my God, Neil would be perfect for this because he loves magic. He loves magic tricks, The Toymaker does play with cards, and does magic tricks and sleight of hand, and Neil he does all this'.

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"If you look at his Instagram he's always about the magic tricks and stuff, so it's like, 'oh, my God, that's a good idea'."

Davies approached Harris directly for the role, something he jokingly says is considered cheating: "Normally you have to approach terrifying American agents, I love when people say, why isn't [someone like] Sigourney Weaver in Doctor Who? Because of their agent, that's why. They just 'go away little show'.

Doctor Who (BBC)
Neil Patrick Harris is said to have wanted to join the series namely so he could act opposite David Tennant, who has returned as The Doctor for the specials. (BBC)

"And so we slightly cheated and I said 'can I send you a script?', his agent knows us and was lovely and so he read it and he loved it. He wasn't planning to be working for that summer, but he read it and just went, 'oh, I'm in'.

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"Obviously another thing is he wanted to work with David [Tennant] as well, I think that was a great draw. He's phenomenal, honestly, that's a great villain actually, that's someone who will scare you. He's got so much range and he has so much fun with it. It's a great piece of work."

Doctor Who's final 60th anniversary special The Giggle premieres on Saturday 9 December on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 6.30pm.

Watch the trailer for the final Doctor Who special: