As we draw closer to the debut of Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, BlogtorWho was in attendance for the Q&A for the premiere held in Sheffield. Here is what the new Thirteenth Doctor had to say…
I first met Jodie Whittaker in 2013 at a BAFTA screening of the first episode of Broadchurch. I, along with most of the audience, was stunned and exhilarated by this new series by Chris Chibnall starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman. Jodie stood out as the grieving and guilt-stricken mother of the murdered boy.
In the Q&A that followed, she stood out again. But this time as herself. A funny quick-witted and clever woman who definitely held her own alongside David Tennant, James Strong and Chris Chibnall. Jodie Whittaker combined with Olivia Colman, delivering some rapid-fire quips that left the three men on the panel at their mercy. They didn’t stand a chance. But beyond her bonkers humour, she was gracious, generous and humble about her role in the breakout series.
Jump forward several years to the Doctor Who premiere in Sheffield and I had another chance to watch Jodie Whittaker in action. I must admit she has grown. A bit like the character she portrays, her core personality is unchanged, but she has blossomed with confidence and presence both in person and onscreen. She is the perfect fit for the demands of playing the part of a centuries-old time-travelling alien, meeting the requirements of being a role model to children and an ambassador for the series.
In short, she IS The Doctor.
We are the next season of Doctor Who
The Sheffield premiere was the first opportunity many of the cast and crew had to see the full length completed episode. It proved to be an emotional moment for all involved. Whittaker, as with Chibnall (see the post on Chris Chibnall), was caught up in the moment;
“Just sitting and watching it on a big screen, you’ve got to embrace the celebration of all this hard work going into this. Often, we are on set and we’re shooting out of sequence and we’re not necessarily looking at what is on screen.”
Whittaker also described the filming process;
“It’s extraordinary. We were really in at the deep end from the first day of the shoot. Then to hear it and to watch it with Chris, Bradley, Tosin, Mandip and everyone – yes it’s really emotional. There’s no getting away from it. We are the next season of Doctor Who.”
The new Doctor then went on to praise the all involved in creating the show;
“It’s brilliant. On the first day of shooting after your first take, that is when you go, ‘Okay this is it and I can do it.’ But then, when everybody else is hard working and all the efforts of the cast and crew is put together; there’s just so many bits you don’t know about. Then watching it is amazing.”
Finding Her Doctor
When an actor starts off with a role like The Doctor, it is a case of finding your own version of something that has been done in many ways before. The new Doctor must honour the past while still becoming something new. The closest thing to the Doctor would perhaps be James Bond but this a very unique experience for anyone picking up the keys to the TARDIS. So how did Jodie Whittaker deal with finding her own Doctor? And how did she work out her connection to the past Doctors?
“It’s really helpful being in Peter’s costume for 90% of Episode 1 and feeling that I was literally in someone else’s shoes. I was continually trying to discover things and I suppose settle in. I really love the euphoria of the scene where The Doctor finds what she wants to wear because it does feel for me in that moment that the electricity’s all connected,”
Whittaker talked about her first days of filming and how the regeneration helped her find her Doctor;
“But for me personally, I felt like be in my own skin. It becomes easier with time to shoot a character. The brilliant thing is you can be quite method because I am trying to discover the character. Episode 1 was a really helpful episode for me as an actor playing a brand new role.”
Whittaker continued to talk about how the writing from Chris Chibnall and the direction from Jamie Childs helped her with the character;
“It was just the fact there are no rules with it. You’re not limited to a time period. You’re not limited to a certain etiquette or anything. You can play it how you want. Episode 1 was fun and playful and Jamie (Childs), the Director, gave me loads of space.”
She elaborated about how enjoyable the role was for her and how she made it her own;
“I move a lot and wanted to continuously fizz around and I was given that time and that coverage and I didn’t feel like I needed to contain things for a certain shot. Which is amazing for an actor and not always the case.”
One of the Thirteen
(or Fourteen or Fifteen Depending on How You Count)
As it has been said frequently, Doctor Who creates a very special elite group. There have been only a select few number of actors that have been privileged to take on the role. Of course, Jodie spoke to several of the previous actors about her part in the series.
“They (the previous Doctors) found out on the weekend that the reveal was happening. The reveal was on Sunday and I think they found out on Saturday or the Friday. It was such a whirlwind and I had wonderful conversations with Peter, Matt and David. I can’t quite remember them because I was so hyper and anxious. I remember David saying you can’t really describe what it’s like and actually I would never try to give advice on this at all except “it’s going to go so quick and it’s a journey like no other, you’re going to love it.”
All of the Doctors encouraged Whittaker to try and be in present and enjoy it;
“It’s hard and it should be hard. It’s quite a schedule when you’re doing it, but to know that it’s worth it is great.”
What about Cosplay?
There are already a number of fans out there already with Thirteenth Doctor costumes already assembled. Whittaker’s costume seems to have already been universally accepted. There are adults, children, men, woman and other species wearing it to conventions and elsewhere. So, what does number 13 think about the costume she helped design with Ray Holman?
“Oh, it’s amazing. It’s amazing to have all ages, different genders wearing your costume and it looking cool on everyone. It’s really comfortable, so I’m not surprised they’re wearing it. Yeah, it’s amazing and I think when we went to San Diego for Comic-Con, it was really emotional because we had been embraced by the Whovian family. They hadn’t seen the episode, and still haven’t seen it. That kind of support, something before you’ve been able to share your work, it’s wonderful.”
Her Yorkshire Accent
This is one of the few parts that Whittaker has played with her Yorkshire accent. Typically for her roles, she has been required to change her native speaking voice to match various dialects. So how did The Doctor end up with a Yorkshire accent?
“Before any audition and most of the time in any script – obviously Broadchurch is a perfect example – the accent and other things like that are defined. But for Doctor Who, I had no idea. So, turned up and I said, “Chris, you said it was okay to use my own voice, did you really mean it?” So I did.”
She went on to describe how that accent became fixed;
“When we did the auditions and throughout that entire process, which was quite a long process, it never felt wrong. But it’s certainly not a Yorkshire character. It’s a body with a voice and that voice is mine.”
In this case, the Doctor having a Northern accent doesn’t have any hidden meaning;
“I think if I was RP (Received Pronunciation) or if I was from London and I’d chosen to have a Yorkshire accent it would have a meaning behind it in a way that it doesn’t, in this instance. Because it’s me. It’s lovely because a lot of the time I am working with dialect coaches or doing other things, but it’s hard as well, because I think you’re broader than me, but everyone says I’m broader than you.
She went on to praise David Tennant who didn’t act in his own brogue either;
“I love working on dialect, but with this kind of vocabulary and with this amount of lines every evening, I take my hat off to David (Tennant), who transformed his voice as well as doing a phenomenal Doctor. Because I think it required an extra thing that I was lucky I could just use what I’d been given.”
A bit more
We have one more piece from the Q&A featuring Jodie with her fellow cast members Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole that will be up just before Episode 1.