‘I’d be ly­ing if I said that the nerves didn’t get to me at first’

The time has come for The Doc­tor to be played by a woman ... and no one is hap­pier than star Jodie Whit­taker, writes Ge­or­gia Humphreys

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - WEEKEND TV -

When Jodie Whit­taker watched TV shows as she was grow­ing up, the peo­ple sav­ing the day didn’t look like her. They were “white guys, run­ning around, do­ing re­ally cool stuff”, while the women on screen were of­ten on the side­lines, help­ing the heroic mo­ment hap­pen.

But now, aged 36, the York­shire-born star is tak­ing cen­tre stage as the first woman to play The Doc­tor in BBC One’s famed Doc­tor Who.

“It’s 2018 and women are not a genre — we are just the other half of the pop­u­la­tion — so to see us do­ing things shouldn’t be such a sur­prise,” says Whit­taker when we meet at the stu­dios in Cardiff while she’s on a break from film­ing.

“But I know it is, be­cause I watch TV and film and we are of­ten less ac­tive in things, or we’re the emo­tional point of view of a sto­ry­line, rather than the ac­tive one.

“There’s lots of dif­fer­ent ac­tors in this show rather than dif­fer­ent sexes. We’re all just ac­tors, and that’s what we feel like this show rep­re­sents.

“It’s a mo­ment and I’m a part of it and I’m proud of it, but I can’t wait for it not to be a mo­ment as well, so that some­one go­ing to drama school at 18 doesn’t need to think, ‘There aren’t any jobs for me’.”

The gen­der of the per­son con­trol­ling the Tardis isn’t the only thing dif­fer­ent about this series of Doc­tor Who, which re­turned to our screens in 2005 with Christo­pher Ec­cle­ston in the lead role (it had last aired in 1989 be­fore that).

There’s an all-new sup­port­ing cast with Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole play­ing The Doc­tor’s com­pan­ions.

It’s mov­ing from Satur­day nights to a new slot on Sun­day evenings, while new showrun­ner Chris Chib­nall, of Broad­church fame (which Whit­taker also mem­o­rably starred in), prom­ises it’s big­ger and bolder than ever be­fore.

So, how were Whit­taker’s nerves when she first ar­rived on set?

“It’s al­ways ter­ri­fy­ing to do your first ever take,” ad­mits the bub­bly, en­er­getic star, whose pre­vi­ous TV roles in­clude the lead in BBC hit Trust Me, cos­tume drama Tess Of The D’Ur­bervilles and an episode of Net­flix’s Black Mir­ror.

“My first ever take on Broad­church was a track­ing wide that ended up in track­ing close-ups of be­ing told, in our sit­ting room, that Danny La­timer had been killed.

“That is an amaz­ing learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for any ac­tor to be put through, to be thrown into.

“When it’s some­thing as har­row­ing as that, you can’t pre-empt it, so it hap­pens and has to take you by sur­prise, as much as it can do as an ac­tor, be­cause it isn’t real.”

With Doc­tor Who, the sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity Whit­taker feels to be hon­est and truth­ful was “weighted with 55 years of his­tory”.

“There’s the nat­u­ral nerves you have of do­ing any job you’re pas­sion­ate about. Cut to the re­spon­si­bil­ity of those shoes to fill and I’d be ab­so­lutely ly­ing if I said I didn’t feel it,” she says

The star, who is mar­ried to Amer­i­can ac­tor Chris­tian Con­tr­eras, is chat­ting away while still in cos­tume — a blue striped top over long white sleeves, turquoise trousers and brown braces.

It’s a look, she says,n which she had a lot of say in — in fact, be­tween au­di­tions, she was al­ready send­ing Chib­nall pho­tos of in­spi­ra­tion.

“At that point, it was more try­ing to woo Chris into giv­ing me the part,” she says.

How­ever, once she bagged the role of the 13th in­car­na­tion of The Doc­tor, she was care­ful not to make too many de­ci­sions about how she would play it.

“No point [of ] me think­ing, ‘I’m go­ing to be this kind of Doc­tor’ too much be­fore I started shoot­ing, be­cause I had no idea what it was like to work with th­ese guys, no idea what it was like to have any of the en­ergy of the guest stars,” she says.

“It was best to be open, and I think that plays into The Doc­tor I wanted to play, that open-heart­ed­ness and chaos.”

Spe­cific de­tails about what we can ex­pect from this series have been kept very hush­hush. What we do know is, the first episode fol­lows a mys­te­ri­ous woman, un­able to re­mem­ber her own name, fall­ing from the night sky and land­ing in a south York­shire city, where strange events are tak­ing place.

But while Whit­taker is de­ter­mined not to give any spoil­ers away, she does let on what themes she thinks are im­por­tant in this series. “Friend­ship and loy­alty and sur­vival,” she says. “All things that are very hu­man, in­ter­laced with things that are very far from hu­man and fa­mil­iar. When I watch TV and film, I want to feel en­grossed and ex­cited.” Doc­tor Who, BBC One, Sun­day, 6.45pm

Jodie Whit­taker as The Doc­tor in the new series

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.