Sylvester McCoy is a Scottish actor, best known for playing the seventh incarnation of the Doctor in the long-running science fiction television series Doctor Who from 1987 to 1989—the final Doctor of the original run—and briefly returning in a television film in 1996, as well as for his role as the wizard Radagast the Brown in Peter Jackson‘s film adaptations of The Hobbit.
He was born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith in Dunoon, on the Cowal peninsula, to an Irish mother and English father, killed in action in World War II a couple of months before his son was born. His maternal grandmother was from Portadown, Northern Ireland. He was raised religious but is now an atheist.
He was raised primarily in Dunoon where he attended St. Mun’s School. He then studied for the priesthood at Blair’s College, a seminary in Aberdeen between the ages of 12 and 16, but he gave this up and continued his education at Dunoon Grammar School. After he left school he moved to London where he worked in the insurance industry for 5 years. He worked in The Roundhouse box office for a time, where he was discovered by Ken Campbell.
Notable television appearances before he gained the role of the Doctor included roles in Vision On (where he played Pepe a character who lived in the mirror), an O-Man in Jigsaw, and Tiswas. He also appeared in Eureka, often suffering from the inventions of Wilf Lunn and as Wart, assistant to Star Strider in the CITV series of the same name. McCoy also portrayed, in one-man shows on the stage, two famous movie comedians: Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton. He also appeared as Henry “Birdie” Bowers in the 1985 television serial about Scott’s last Antarctic expedition, The Last Place on Earth.
McCoy also had a small role in the 1979 film Dracula opposite Laurence Olivier and Donald Pleasence and has sung with the Welsh National Opera.
McCoy became the Seventh Doctor after taking over the lead role in Doctor Who in 1987 from Colin Baker. He remained on the series until it ended in 1989, ending with Survival. As Baker declined the invitation to film the regeneration scene, McCoy briefly wore a wig and appeared, face-down, as the 6th Doctor. He played the Doctor in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time, and again in 1996, appearing at the beginning of the Doctor Who television movie starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor.
In his first series, McCoy, a comedy actor, portrayed the character with a degree of clown-like humor, but script editor Andrew Cartmel soon changed that when fans argued that the character (and plots) were becoming increasingly lightweight. The Seventh Doctor developed into a much darker figure than any of his earlier incarnations, manipulating people like chess pieces and always seeming to be playing a deeper game. A distinguishing feature of McCoy’s performances was his manner of speech. He used his natural slight Scottish accent and rolled his rs. At the start of his tenure, he used proverbs and sayings adapted to his own ends (e.g. “There’s many a slap twixt cup and lap” – Delta and the Bannermen), although this characteristic was phased out during the later, darker series of his tenure. In 1990, readers of Doctor Who Magazine voted McCoy’s Doctor “Best Doctor”, over perennial favorite Tom Baker
In November 2013 McCoy co-starred in the one-off 50th-anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
McCoy began filming for The Hobbit, A three-part adaptation of the book, in 2011. He portrayed the wizard Radagast, alongside fellow King Lear actor Ian McKellen who reprised his role as Gandalf.
Although the character of Radagast is only alluded to in The Hobbit, and only a minor character in The Lord of the Rings, the part has been expanded for the films.
McCoy has recently filmed a part for the Netflix science fiction series Sense8.