Author’s Note: This interview was originally posted to my tumblr page on July 15th, 2014.
Not too long ago, an Eleventh Doctor cosplay ran across my dash. I tracked down this cosplayer and interviewed her. She has an energy that rivals Matt Smith’s. Without any further ado, I present my interview with Lisa Roberts.
Jacky the Nerd: What is your name?
Lisa: Lisa Roberts.
JtN: How long have you been cosplaying?
Lisa: Since November 2013 – but I started my costume in September. It took that long for me to figure out materials that I wasn’t allergic to.
JtN: Why do you cosplay?
Lisa: I am from Salem, Massachusetts, which for those of you that don’t know is sort of famous for our Halloween activities. Costumes have always been something I have loved and been fascinated by. I love Halloween. I never knew what the word “cosplay” meant until very recently. I got into cosplay purely by accident. My good friends were going to a con and I wanted to support them ( one was going to meet a celeb he had admired for years). This character was the only one I felt I could easily mimic without too much effort, as Im not an actor, “ cosplay” or performer in any way shape or form. Now, however, I’m addicted! I have met some of the best people and i do it now because I love it. I love them. I love my fandom. ( all of them!)
JtN: Your cosplay of “Mr. Clever” from Doctor Who is well known. Why did you cosplay as that version of the Doctor?
Lisa: That question actually made me laugh. I find it’s quite the opposite. I will still have people, even other Whovians, who have no idea who I’m supposed to be. And even when I say “Mr. Clever”, a lot of them give me the “no clue” face, so I have to tell the episode. I think it’s because for the longest time, at least here in the US, Netflix and Hulu didn’t have all of Season 7, so many people weren’t able to see “Nightmare in Silver.” But to answer your question. As I mentioned, I had been really trying to find a costume that I was comfortable in for years, with no luck. I thought for sure it would be a Harry Potter costume. But I got into Doctor Who and just lost my mind for 11. Knew that would be the character I’d try because our personalities were similar and I already had the wardrobe. So I tried going out in the tweed version. Hated it. Was very uncomfortable. Got the long green military coat thinking maybe I just needed something to cover up in. Nope. Hated it. Got a different tweed, different hat, Stetson, fez, etc etc. Then got the purple coat. Nope. Still wanted no part of being out and about in it. Felt weird. Then I remember sitting in bed and [“Nightmare in Silver”] came on, and I flipped out cause it was the perfect episode for me – it was written by Neil Gaiman, whom I ADORE, it had an amusement park, Warwick Davis, Cybermen, Cybermites, chess, and then Mr. Clever came on the screen and I was like, “That! That will be my cosplay!” Just such an amazing performance by Matt, such a fun, snarky, over the top, twirling, jumping, insane character. Perfect! And I figured since it was so obscure, I could hide behind the Cyber Planner and no one notice me. I could be in costume, but in the shadows. Yeah. Not even close to how that worked out! And it’s been a blast! Another reason I picked Mr. Clever is that I a such a huge fan of Matt’s, obviously, but I was getting really sick of seeing people wearing 11 costumes because it was “easy” and actually had people say that they didn’t really care for 11 even though they were in that costume but, “He’s a simple character so he’s easy to cosplay. His Doctor wasn’t really complex. He’s too goofy,” etc etc. Pfft. I’m like, “Whatever, haters. I’ll do Mr. Clever.”
JtN: What was the biggest challenge while building Mr. Clever?
Lisa: The hand pulsar, the Cyber Planner itself and getting my hair to look like Matt’s. I’m a natural blonde, and refused to wear a wig because it looked horrible (couldn’t really afford a good wig), so I put a temp brown color in at first but liked it, so I dye it permanently now. I have medium length thick layered hair, so it takes almost 40-50 min to get my hair to look right every time I get dressed. I had such a hard time making the hand pulse because there aren’t a lot of things out there on [“Nightmare in Silver”] to begin with. I had two pictures to work from, other than screen shots, and it’s on screen for only a few seconds each time. But it’s super fun to have. It does light up and does buzz. The Cyber Planner was, good lord, seriously one of the hardest things I’ve ever constructed due to my extensive allergies. I’m allergic to all kinds of things so it is made out of my own concoction and it is paper thing and VERY fragile. It breaks almost every time I wear it. I am in the process of having a friend make me a “stunt” one for my more, um, silly, crazy, hands-on events so I don’t keep breaking this one. This is my third one. Not counting the ones that I didn’t like so they [ended] up in the trash.
JtN: You said you were allergic to certain materials. Do you have any advice to cosplayers who may be allergic to certain make-ups, metals, or other stuff?
Lisa: Try small pieces of things on your skin first. Wear it all day around the house if you have to before you invest in the time to make the entire costume. Look into things you can put between your skin and the product to maybe help alleviate some issues. Maybe look into some sort of coating to put over things as well. It’s so hard with allergies – especially if you don’t know ahead of time.
JtN: Do you assume the “Mr. Clever” persona in cosplay?
I’m not really sure. Yes and No? Yes, in the sense that I do everything I can do have every aspect of my costume as SA as possible, down to having a more male stance and expression. Yes in the sense that I will pose with people “in character” if they ask – dare I admit that yes, I actually let myself get tied to a chair. THAT was an experience! Waaaaaay too many Clara cosplayers have really good right hooks. Ouch. I’ve been asked to reenact scenes with 11 cosplayers, etc Yes in the sense that the best part of this character is the fact that it still IS the Doctor in there somewhere, so I can still be my usual bouncy, goofy 11 self with a quick placement of the gold foil I carry with me. Or be snarky and sarcastic.
No, in the sense that I could never in a million years attempt to even mimic the jaw dropping performance Matt gave in that episode. My cosplay is a humble homage to that. Heck, it’s a selfie of a reflection in the mirror of the homage. Like I mentioned, I ADORE Neil Gaiman, and always think of this as one of his creations first, a Doctor Who character second. So I always have this sense of wanting to be a good ambassador for Gaiman cosplayers, so I’d never do anything that would embarrass his name (or Doctor Who). Although, truth be told, being tied to the chair might come close…
JtN: Are you working on any other costumes at the moment?
Lisa: I would like to finish my Gaige costume from Borderlands 2, but other than that, no.
JtN: What are your plans for the future, cosplay and non-cosplay related?
Lisa: I’m taking the summer off because I really detest the heat. So NYCC is my next con, followed by LI Who and Gallifrey One. And I’m sure many in-between, like Arisia and others. I’m very excited! I would really love to meet Neil Gaiman someday. That’s a goal. Matt Smith too, (but not in costume, cause that kinda weirds me out) and just continue to have fun, meet new friends, and do the best cosplay I can.
Photos were provided by the courtesy of Lisa Roberts. To follow more of Lisa’s work, check out her Facebook page.