We’ve been able to speak to a lot of awesome cosplayers about their art and how they use cosplay to express their love of a particular character. When the opportunity arose, I was pretty excited to be able to interview a friend of mine who influenced how I view cosplay and fandom. I met Matt Holden while fangirling over David Tennant in London and we became fast friends. Little did I know he was an amazing cosplayer and inspirational human being. He cosplays primarily as the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who but also occasionally as other characters played by David Tennant. Check out my conversation with Matt below.
Geek & Sundry: How did you get into cosplay and what was your first costume/character?
Matt Holden: It all started, as with most good stories, with a girl in a pub. It was a Saturday night back in April 2007 and I was in London visiting some of my friends. Towards the end of the evening while sat in the pub chatting I was surprised to have a random, slightly drunk girl stumble over to me and proclaim “Did you know you look like David Tennant?!?” I think my reply was “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me”. After that, I didn’t give it another thought as she’d had a few. Skip forward a few months to August and it happened again. Ok, I thought to myself, perhaps there is something to this.
Around March 2008, I got myself a (very cheap) Tenth Doctor suit and coat, by this point I’d also got a new housemate who, as it happened, worked for BBC Radio Suffolk. As part of the 2008 Suffolk Show they were going to broadcast live from the show, have a Doctor Who display in the tent and suggested that I should go along as it would be good fun. The reaction was crazy! I’ve never been photographed so much in my entire life!
Following on from that, I attended my first convention in November 2009, at this point I had no clue that there was such a thing as cosplay, so I went along in jeans with a shirt and suit jacket. People kept commenting on how I looked and I had my first exposure to convention costuming, so for the second day of the event I took the Ten outfit. The rest, as they say, is history.
Photo Credit: Monster Photography
G&S: What’s your favorite part of cosplaying?
MH: My favorite part is interacting with people. I’ve never been one for photo shoots, but I do enjoy chatting to people about what they enjoy. I’ve done numerous charity events as the Doctor and some of the reactions, especially from children have been unforgettable.
G&S: What is your favorite cosplay you’ve done and why?
MH: I love each of the outfits and characters that I’ve done, each for different reasons. If I had to pick a favorite, well, it’d have to be Ten. It’s interesting, I now rarely wear the Doctor outfit and I’ve come to refer to him as an old friend (and refer to an outfit as a person apparently…), but without ‘him’ I may never have got into conventions and may never have met a lot of the friends I have now. It’s interesting a lot of people I know have said that the suit makes me totally change, I walk differently, have a different air about me and even my accent and speech pattern tends to alter, it’s really like becoming a totally different character!
G&S: I’ve never cosplayed. What would you say to me to convince me to do it? What are benefits someone might get from participating?
MH: To me there is only one reason to cosplay and that’s to have fun. If you’re doing it for any other reason then, to me at least, there’s something wrong. It’s like choosing a character, pick a character you like. Simple as that. Do it to show your love and enjoyment of that character, it doesn’t matter if you look like them or anything like that, you should do it because you want to. As for benefits, there are loads. It all depends on the person, you can learn new skills for example sewing, prop making, painting etcetera. You can also gain, to put my office worker hat on for a moment, ‘soft skills’ such as self-confidence, public speaking and the like. This is exactly what I found. I’m naturally shy, but by doing events and chatting to people I was able to gain confidence and improve myself, so much so that nowadays I can stand in front of an audience and casually chat to half a dozen Daleks for three-quarters of an hour armed only with a microphone and a quick wit. I’ve also done stage talks at events, something else that a few years ago I would never have dreamed I’d be doing.
Photo Credit: Monster Photography
G&S: Do you make your own costumes? How do you put together the perfect costume?
MH: Although I can sew (thanks to my gran) I don’t make my own costumes, mainly because the characters I’ve done to date wear ‘normal’–no normal is the wrong word–they wear readily available clothing. My Doctor suits are from Magnoli Clothiers, my Sao Til (a character created for Doctor Who by my good friend Tim, as part of John Barrowman’s Tonight’s the Night search for an Alien Superstar, which Tim won) outfit was sourced via eBay and my own wardrobe, it was also my first try a prop building as I needed to make my own version of his arm. My Arkham Inmate Scarecrow was put together by Tim’s wife Laura (she’s very talented!) and my 3 versions of Benedick (from the 2012 production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing featuring David Tennant and Catherine Tate) was a hunt of eBay, with the dress uniform made by the very skilled Tors of Oddtogs. As for putting together the perfect costume, I think as long as I’m happy with it and it looks the part then all is good, most of my outfits gain new bits and upgrades over time so they’re always a work in progress.
G&S: What’s been your favorite experience as a cosplayer?
MH: I think for me it’s interacting with people and the memories it creates. In July 2013, on the Sunday [of the event] we had a horror character, covered in blood with severed fingers and all sorts. One small girl saw this and freaked completely, lots of tears. Her mum spotted me next to the Tardis and said “look the Doctors over there; he won’t let anything happen to you”. With that I knelt down and extended my arms out and the little girl walked over, buried her head in my shoulder and gave me a big hug, once she’d stopped sobbing I looked at her and asked her to give me a smile at which point she gave me a big grin. She was still looking slightly nervous that she’d run into the scary monster again so I gave her my void vision glasses and said if she sees anything scary to put them on and everything will be ok. With that she grinned and went off happy, glasses in hand and had a great rest of the day
Photo Credit: Matt Holden
I’ve also had some great experiences thanks to attending events, such as Nicola Bryant who played my all-time favorite companion Peri and family singing me Happy Birthday for my 30th at pre-event dinner. One of my favorite, well technically two of my favorite, memories were from meeting David Tennant, each time dressed as Benedick from Much Ado, the first time (at his first convention) I was covered in white paint (the play is available on digital download, watch it!) and the slightly stunned and taken aback reaction was “of all the outfits I expected to see today that wasn’t one of them” and the second a couple of years later this time in drag (really, watch the play it’ll all make sense!), keeping a straight face to have a picture taken took quite a bit of time! My other favorite moment was thanks to John Levene (Sgt Benton, in the Pertwee era of Doctor Who) we’d met a number of times at events and he’d commented on how well I did on stage and in front of an audience. It turns out he was so impressed that he got me a replica Oscar, engraved with my name on which he then presented to me at a charity event, which left me totally speechless and feeling very humbled.
Photo Credit: Heather Mason
G&S: What is your dream cosplay? What costumes are you planning for the future?
MH: My dream cosplay? I’m not really sure I have one. One day I’d love to do Superman, although I’d have to hit the gym a bit first for me to be confident to do so! I also love the idea of doing Adam West’s Batman, complete with Bermuda shorts, surfboard and Bat-Shark Repellent!
Featured Image: Doctor Who Day / Facebook