Billie Piper, who played Rose Tyler on Doctor Who from 2005 until 2006, has explained why she left the show during an appearance on the latest episode of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. For those asking, Desert Island Discs is a long-running half-hour BBC radio show where guests are invited to talk about their lives and careers in between playing the songs they would take with them on a desert island.
Piper played Rose Tyler from 2005 to 2006, starring alongside Christopher Eccleston as the 9th Doctor and then David Tennant's debut as the 10th Doctor. Rose is arguably the most popular of the new companions in the revived 21st-century iteration of the series. Piper said she chose to leave Doctor Who after two series, saying that she "didn't like the responsibility of being a role model".
She told Desert Island Discs host Lauren Laverne when Doctor Who was rebooted in 2005, she "didn't know that it would be successful", but playing Rose was "great in many ways". "It made me really famous again in that sort of mainstream fame way that I find really uncomfortable." Piper had a meteoric rise as a pop star during the 1990s when she was plucked from drama school at the age of 15 to become a regular fixture on the charts and the British pop culture landscape. The pressures of celebrity and a pop career resulted in an eating disorder and addiction problems that she struggled to overcome.
She went through a short marriage with the much older BBC radio DJ and TV host Chris Evans before she resurfaced to star in the revival of Doctor Who, many pundits in the media thought it was a stunt, unaware that she had actually been to drama school before and acting was her first love and original ambition. The success of the show and Rose Tyler's popularity proved her critics wrong. Piper was as much a reason for the show's success as Eccleston as the Doctor. The runaway success of the show brought new pressures on Piper that felt all too familiar. When asked if that was why she left the show in 2006, Piper said: "I think that played into it but also I was just at the beginning of my acting career."
"As much as I love that show, I love Rose Tyler, Russell T Davies and all the people that I continue to have a relationship with, I wanted to do different stuff. I didn't like the responsibility of being a sort of role model."
"I was doing what I felt I was born to do on some level. It was a very exciting and satisfying time because it was hard to get an acting job with my history as first, a pop star, and then this sort of burnt-out child star which is how I think I was painted – certainly through the years I was with Chris.
"And actually, I've had to do that until quite recently, to sort of shift people's perception which is really annoying and completely unhelpful but anyway, we're almost there now, 20 years later."
After she left Doctor Who, Piper played Sally Lockhart, a Victorian orphan-turned-sleuth from Her Dark Materials author Philip Pullman's YA detective novels in TV movie adaptations of The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, which featured future 11th Doctor Matt Smith in his first TV role. Piper went on to star in 4 series of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which was shown on Showtime in the US, then Penny Dreadful, and more recently, Sky Atlantic's I Hate Suzie, which she co-created with playwright Lucy Prebble. Piper also married actor Laurence Fox in 2007 and the pair divorced in 2016. Fox recently tried to run for Mayor of London on an "anti-Woke Culture War" ticket and suffered a humiliating defeat, losing his £10,000 election deposit in the process. I Hate Suzie has been renewed for a second series.