Blogtor Who takes a look at one of this week’s Doctor Who guest stars, Ellie Wallwork, who plays Hanne in It Takes You Away.
Although she has acted professionally before, Doctor Who marks possibly the most significant role in Wallwork’s career to date. The eighteen-year-old’s first leading guest role comes after appearances in award-winning projects in both film and television.
In a series which has focused on increased inclusivity both in front of and behind the camera, Wallwork’s casting is also notable as she has been completely blind since birth. Although Doctor Who has featured blind characters on several occasions – most recently the Twelfth Doctor during last year’s tenth series – it has never done so with an actor who shares the condition.
Read on to find out more about Wallwork’s career so far!
Call The Midwife
Doctor Who is not Wallwork’s first time on a major BBC show, having previously appeared in an episode of the popular long-running series Call The Midwife. For those who, unlike Bradley Walsh’s Graham, are as yet uninitiated, the period drama follows a group of midwives and nuns working in 1950s East London, and is originally based on the moving memoirs of Jennifer Worth.
The fourth episode of the show’s second series, which aired in 2013, tells the story of a couple whose son is born with spina bifida. Mother Ruby (Leanne Rowe) is subsequently unable to come to terms with her baby’s condition, and so the couple are taken by midwife Jenny (Jessica Raine) to look at St Gideon’s – a home for children with physical disabilities – with one of its residents played by Wallwork.
Prior to Call The Midwife, Wallwork appeared in the Polish film Imagine as a patient at a leading Lisbon institute for the visually impaired. Edward Hogg (Indian Summers, Taboo) stars as Ian, a pioneering teacher who arrives at the institute to work on increasing the students’ independence using his methods of echolocation.
Imagine was nominated for awards at multiple film festivals, and was particularly successful at the 2012 Warsaw International Film Festival, picking up awards for Best Director and Best Feature Film.
As well as acting, Wallwork is a keen singer-songwriter. As well as a cover of Taylor Swift’s ‘Safe and Sound’, her YouTube channel also features a number of self-penned songs, including ‘Unstoppable‘, ‘Too Young‘, and more recently, ‘The One She Loved Before‘:
Wallwork has also taken part in documentary work surrounding her condition. In 2011 she featured in a video about her participation in a shadowing scheme for the prestigious CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards, celebrating outstanding achievement in the field of children’s fiction.
Wallwork was invited to speak at the Carnegie awards ceremony the following year off the strength of her video, which was played at the previous year’s ceremony. Also at the 2011 ceremony was award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick, who Doctor Who fans will know for his 50th anniversary Third Doctor short story The Spear of Destiny. Sedgwick went on to interview Wallwork as part of his research into his 2013 novel She Is Not Invisible, which features the blind teen protagonist Laureth Peak.
It Takes You Away
In this week’s Doctor Who the Doctor and her friends leave behind 17th century Lancashire for the fjords of present-day Norway. There they find Hanne – played by Wallwork – a young teen in need of their help; and with her father missing and something lurking in the woods surrounding Hanne’s home, the TARDIS team yet again have their work cut out for them…
Although we as yet know little about her character, Wallwork has in recent weeks been speaking about her time on Doctor Who. She commented on her casting whilst talking to the Royal National College for the Blind, where she is currently studying a one-year course in Performing Arts:
“Earlier in the year, a casting call came for a blind teenager to play a character in Doctor Who. I went along and I got the role. I can’t say too much or give any spoilers, but it’s been an amazing experience working with stars like Jodie Whittaker and Bradley Walsh. They were all really nice and the crew were all really helpful.”
Earlier this week, Wallwork expanded on her on-set experiences during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s In Touch, a show she first appeared on in 2012 to promote Imagine. Whilst this time around she couldn’t give away much about her character apart from that she’s ‘scared’ the first time we see her, she did reveal to host Peter White that she had a stunt double whilst filming, and also highlighted her positive working relationship with the rest of the cast:
“It was amazing. I always felt like I belonged and I always felt included. They made a lot of effort to make me feel at home, really. They always helped me in terms of like guiding me around the set, and we always blocked out scenes beforehand. And filming with the cast was fantastic. They’re all so funny and I got on with them so well and I really, really felt happy there.”
Wallwork has also credited her time as Hanne with further bolstering her desire to pursue acting in the future – and with a role in Doctor Who now under her belt she’s certainly well on the way to doing so!
The adventure continues…
Doctor Who continues this Sunday at 6.30pm GMT on BBC One and at 8pm EST on BBC America with It Takes You Away by Ed Hime. For further broadcast times in your region, check local listings. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien) and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair).
It Takes You Away guest stars Kevin Eldon (Ribbons) and Eleanor Wallwork (Hanne) and is directed by Jamie Childs.
On the edge of a Norwegian fjord, in the present day, The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz discover a boarded-up cottage and a girl named Hanne in need of their help. What has happened here? What monster lurks in the woods around the cottage – and beyond?