Landing one of TV world’s most iconic roles is a feat that most actors can only dream of – but that didn’t make Jodie Whittaker any less anxious as she changed history as the first female Doctor Who.
Whittaker has revealed that she only watched “the odd episode” and “Googled loads” before stepping into the Time Lord’s shoes on BBC One in 2017: and that was a deliberate choice by producers to keep her interpretation as the 13th incarnation of the Doctor fresh.
Speaking on Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on 6 Music yesterday, the actor revealed that she panicked just a few weeks into her new gig when she re-watched the episode in which the previous Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, morphs into her.
“We were midway through shooting and that was the first time in a long time that I’d been watching it – I hadn’t watched it to try and give myself that freedom to step on set,” Whittaker said.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve done it wrong. I’ve done it wrong’ and we were only like six weeks in and I had seven months left. I came in to work I was like, ‘You should have told me, I’ve been doing it wrong!’”
But Doctor Who producers were quick to reassure the Broadchurch star:
“They said, ‘No, this is the point,’ like, ‘You know, you aren’t supposed to be doing what someone else did’. But all the energy of the Doctor and all the references and the Whovian kind of pearls are in there. And you then take it and run with it. And actually it’s much more freeing.”
Whittaker also revealed during the 6 Music chat that her performance as Doctor Who, which returned for a 12th season on New Year’s Day this year, came about almost as a matter of fluke.
She had been having a coffee with Chris Chibnall, the creator of Broadchurch who also happens to be a showrunner for Doctor Who, when he sounded her out about the idea of taking on the legendary protagonist.
She is clear, though, that she had to audition: “It wasn’t like, ‘you will walk in and nail this part.’”
It’s a move that has clearly paid off, with a recent poll of 50,000 viewers revealing Whittaker as one of the most popular incarnations of the sci-fi hero.
“I feel like I’ve been accepted as the Doctor,” the actor told the Guardian, as she returned to the series at the start of 2020. “There was a pressure. If I’d have been a guy in this role I’d have only been representing my own casting as an individual. But it felt like I could hold people back if nobody liked what I brought to the Doctor.
“The gender question is now going away. Hopefully it won’t make the news next time,” she added.
Nerves are a natural part of any job; let alone when you’re taking on, in Whittaker’s own words, “something very epic”.
So all kudos to her for fighting through the pressure and self-doubt, to create a Doctor that everyone loves.
Images: BBC One