My breakout year
It has been an absolute whirlwind. I would go to work, then they would fly us off to San Diego for Comic-Con or to film in South Africa. Now I can reflect and appreciate the journey I have been on. You are part of Doctor Who forever. And to be an Asian character that is part of a sci-fi show and is not a stereotype of an Asian character – for me, that was a big deal.
How did it happen?
There are a million people you can get on well with. But me and Jodie [Whittaker], from the first audition, absolutely hit it off. [Showrunner] Chris Chibnall told us, “It is not about finding a new best friend”, but Jodie was like, “It is, it is.” We are fortunate we all get on so well. We spend a lot of time and intense hours together.
There were two episodes I knew I was going to love. When we first spoke about Rosa Parks and Demons of the Punjab I knew they would hit home with me. But I was still so taken aback with how beautiful they were. So many people learned something new from those episodes. There are also so many people saying, “That is my history.” It is amazing to see that on mainstream television.
Reaction to Doctor Who?
When I was younger, there were Asian people on television – the whole cast of Goodness Gracious Me, which is what me and my family watched together – so there were Asian people on screen, but there was no one my age or who felt like a representation of myself. For a lot of Asian Whovians, they see Yas as a real representation of them. It is really important. Television is there to entertain, but it is also there to teach people things. And it is easier to do that when you can relate to a character.
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The Doctor Who New Year special is really explosive and ties up a lot of the loose ends from the series. It touches on themes we have already explored, friendship and family and love, but it is even bigger than the other episodes.
Cultural highlights of 2018?
I love a good drama and the BBC has been absolutely amazing this year. Bodyguard and Informer – and now Dynasties as well, which is like a drama. But if I had to pick one, it would be The Cry. The twists! My film of the year is A Star is Born. I was absolutely blown away by Lady Gaga.
Doctor Who returns on New Year’s Day on BBC One