Sylvester McCoy was born in Dunoon, Scotland. He spent much of his childhood in Dublin, Ireland. Before becoming an actor, as Percy Smith he trained as a priest, sold insurance and acted as a bodyguard for the Rolling Stones. He started his acting career as a part of the Ken Campbell Roadshow, at first using the name Kent Smith before changing it first to Sylveste McCoy and then to the more familiar Sylvester.
McCoy, along with Bob Hoskins, Jane Wood, and Dave Hill would start performing a range of plays with the umbrella theme of “modern myths.”
He was starring at the National Theatre in The Pied Piper, a play written especially for him, that McCoy learned that the BBC was looking for a new lead actor to replace Colin Baker in Doctor Who (1963). He later won the role as the seventh Doctor. Sylvester McCoy’s costume for Doctor Who was changed from a fawn jacket and paisley scarf, to a dark brown jacket and an altogether more muted and subdued image in his final season on the show.
After Doctor Who, McCoy worked extensively in theater and on television. In theater he appeared in The Government Inspector twice in tours during 1993 and 1994, and in between these he starred as the Narrator, Thomas Marvel, in the stage version of H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man. In 1995 he starred in Zorro: The Musical. On television his credits include Frank Stubbs Promotes (1993) and Rab C. Nesbitt (1990). He also created the character of Crud in the cult television series Ghoul-Lashed for Sky TV. In 1996 he was contracted to reprise movie, handing over to an eighth incarnation of the Time Lord in the earthly form of his friend Paul McGann. Also in 1996, McCoy devised and presented Reeltime Pictures’ I Was a Doctor Who Monster (1996), a special video tribute to the men and women who had played the monsters of Doctor Who.
McCoy can be seen playing Radagast in the Hobbit films.