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Jodie Whittaker on Being Cast as the Thirteenth Doctor

Doctors come and Doctors go, but can the next Doctor save the show? Matt Smith and Jodie Whittaker talk about their feelings on number thirteen and what it took to get there.

One of the first questions people ask new Doctors or companions when they get cast for the role is whether any of the former Doctors or companions had given them any advice for their new epic adventures in time and space. Whittaker must have been asked this questions a hundred times by now but she says “There is no advice you can give because no person plays this part the same – and what a freeing thing that is”. She explains that “This is such an exciting journey […] and it is to be enjoyed”.

Matt Smith, formerly the eleventh incarnation of the Time Lord, feels the same way as he explains in an interview with The Observer, “She’s going to have the best time, that’s what I said to her”.

“It’s such a glorious part, creatively you’re satisfied and you’re happy, and that’s such a big thing. […] But the shift in your life is extraordinary, because it crosses generations. So when she goes to a wedding, she’s not going to the wedding any more as Jodie Whittaker, she’s going as the Doctor. When she goes to a funeral, she’s not going to a funeral as Jodie Whittaker, she’s going to a funeral as the Doctor. Something changes in the perception of everyone else around you.” – Matt Smith

Whittaker is a 35 year old Yorkshire-born actress graduating from London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2005 with a gold medal for acting. Having quite a few years of acting experience under her belt and having played roles in popular television dramas in the past, Whittaker suggests that being cast in Doctor Who as the legendary Time Lord “is the defining moment” for her.

“I feel old enough for it. And I feel like I understand how important it is, and I’m so excited that the role models for young children, boys or girls… or teenagers, or adults, come in different forms. There’s nothing unattainable about me. I don’t look like I’ve been carved out of rock. I don’t sound like I’ve had the extraordinary glamour. For me, knowing what I thought were my limitations as a person and an actor, because this industry is about ‘you sound like this, you look like this…’ But I’m normal. That’s what was exciting to David [Tennant] – it was a superhero he could play. And now it opens it a little bit wider, to women as well.” – Jodie Whittaker

Being the first female to take on the role of the Doctor in more than 50 years is certainly a milestone.  However, the change has been really dividing the community.  Some people accepting and praising the choice, others shouting “Not my Doctor” and suggesting a female in the role will destroy the show entirely. Regardless of anyone’s views on the change in the Doctor’s gender, it certainly came as a surprise, and Whittaker had this to say about that: “I’m not dissing the moment – it’s fucking brilliant – but hopefully when other people grow up, it’s not so much of a surprise.”

Former Doctor Matt Smith certainly has high hopes for the new series. The actor was recently told The Observer “How amazing now, especially in this current climate, to see a woman become involved and go, ‘All right aliens, let’s go!’ And I think Chris [Chibnall] will be really clever about all that gender stuff and it won’t be on the nose. It will be really intelligent and Jodie’s very funny. I can’t wait.”

The actress certainly has her work cut out for her with series 10 having the lowest ratings since the reboot in 2005, and as the first female playing the role, a lot of extra weight is going to be carried on her shoulders. A lot of people are left wondering, in this pivotal moment for Doctor Who, which way fate is going to sway. Will the new cast and crew save the show and bring it back to it’s past glory and popularity or will it plunge it into failure and possible cancellation?

In a BBC Radio 6 interview last year Whittaker said “as a child, all I ever wanted to be was be an actor, and I wanted to do it because I wanted to play pretend, and that is the ultimate. […] I’m about to play an alien, a Time Lord. […] That’s incredible.” But the actress also reminds viewers that the position wasn’t handed to her.

“There was this long process – as it should be. They needed to make sure I was right for the part. You have to put yourself in a position where you are going to fight for a role like this. The fans are owed that.” – Jodie Whittaker

She is going to need to hang on to that feeling of excitement and motivation if she is going to make it through the rigorous filming and lengthy line learning required for Doctor Who. Not to mention the Whovians who will be jumping out of the bushes to ask her all sorts of questions about her new role.  In 2011 the actress said “I feel, maybe naively or arrogantly, that I’ve got a best-case scenario that I work a lot and no one knows who the fuck I am. If you’re instantly recognisable you must be of interest to people all the time.” Looks like that best case scenario just went out the window. Once the Doctor, always the Doctor. You’ve just taken a big step away from being ‘normal’. Good luck, Doctor! We will all be waiting to see how it goes.

Doctor Who series 11 airs in Autumn of 2018.

Sources: [The Observer 24 Dec, Sunday Mail (UK) 24 Dec, Total Film]