Following the announcement that Jodie Whittaker is to play the next Doctor in Doctor Who, the actress has opened up about how it feels to take on such an iconic role. After many months of speculation – including whether the BBC would ever actually cast a woman in the role – the successor to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor was announced after the Men’s Wimbledon Final on BBC 1, followed swiftly by simultaneous announcements across all of the BBC’s social media platforms.
Whittaker is best known for her performances in the movie Attack the Block, and the TV shows Cranford, and Broadchurch, where she starred as grieving parent, Beth Latimer, alongside former Doctor, David Tennant. She worked on Broadchurch under the leadership of Chris Chibnall, who now takes over from Steven Moffat as Doctor Who showrunner. Chibnall revealed that Latimer had always been his first choice for the thirteenth Doctor, and the announcement has certainly been met with a largely positive response on social media so far. For Whittaker, though she admits the idea of taking on such an iconic role is ‘a bit nerve-wracking,’ she also recognizes that the role offers incredible potential:
“To be asked to play the ultimate character, to get to play pretend in the truest form: this is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. To be able to play someone who is literally reinvented on screen, with all the freedoms that brings: what an unbelievable opportunity. And added to that, to be the first woman in that role.
“It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible.”
As with most castings that have to remain so secretive, Whittaker wasn’t allowed to tell a soul other than her husband – something she now says will come back to bite her as she’s had to tell many lies. She adds that she needed no persuading from Chibnall, who asked her to audition, adding that the competition was tough:
“There was no persuasion needed. If you need to be persuaded to do this part, you’re not right for this part, and the part isn’t right for you. I also think, for anyone taking this on, you have to want to fight for it, which I certainly had to do. I know there will have been some phenomenal actors who threw their hats in the ring.”
While it’s undeniably exciting for any regeneration on Doctor Who, this one is going to be particularly special, because the casting of a female offers so much potential for change on the show. For some, a female in the role will be a hard pill to swallow, but Whittaker embraces the change, just like a lot of fans will do, and she has a message for all those doubting whether a woman can be the Doctor:
“I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”
That, perhaps, is the single, most important aspect of Whittaker’s casting. Following on from Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts, who became the first openly LGBT companion, young girls across the globe are finally seeing females strongly represented on a prime-time family show. They are growing up to learn that women can be every bit as open, honest, strong and powerful as any man, and that is a great message for Doctor Who to give to its fans.
Doctor Who will return at Christmas 2017
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