San Diego Comic Con’s ‘Women Who Kick Ass’ panel has become a bit of an institution over the past decade. A celebration of female empowerment in genre entertainment, Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Melissa Benoist (Supergirl), Tatania Maslany (Orphan Black), and Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones, Star Wars) are just a few of those who’ve graced the panel down the years. Doctor Who’s been represented before too, with Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) and Maisie Williams (Ashildr/Me) taking part in previous years.
But this weekend, the Doctor herself was in the house for the first time. As part of what host Jessica Shaw of Entertainment Weekly wryly described as “an uneventful for year for women, huh?” the past twelve months saw the Doctor regenerate into the sprightly live wire form of Jodie Whittaker. Alongside fellow panelists Camila Mendes (Riverdale), Amandla Stenberg (The Darkest Minds, The Hunger Games), Regina King (Watchmen, The Leftovers), and Chloe Bennet (Agents of SHIELD) she engaged in a far reaching discussion on being a role model, acceptance, and the difficulty of finding parts you want to play.
On being cast as the first female Doctor: “There was no part of me, as an actor, would ever think I would be auditioning for the Doctor because the Doctor’s played by a guy. But why? … I’ve probably got as much, like, on my CV to qualify me for that as any of the other guys. … You know, none of us have really come out of alien school.”
On dealing with the negative reaction to her casting from some fans: “People were like, ‘You’re a girl?!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah…but you know what? I can play an alien.”
On the culture of negativity online: “It’s hard isn’t it because, like, often with stuff anywhere hate has the loudest voice … it’s trying not to hear the negative [because] actually there’s much more support than there is not support; it’s just sometimes hard to hear it.”
On inspiring young girls: “If you see an unselfconscious, like, wonderful little girl seeing something for the first time and being delighted by it … so for one cool little kid to be pleased that I’m in this role then it’s really moving because we want to inspire.”
On the Doctor being a role model to both girls and boys: “You want to inspire little girls, but you also want to say, ‘Look, little guys, you can look up to women. We’re all right, we’re not that scary. We do all the same things and, sometimes, a bit more!'”
On who she would cosplay: “I would love to totter around as E.T. Or, ideally, someone would ride a bike and I’d just sit in the front and then be taken around like the star that I am.”
On wanting a future where women in these roles is no longer a novelty: “Being the first female [Doctor] I appreciate the moment, I’m proud of the moment, but I can’t wait for the moment to go … If we sit on this panel in five years, will we still be having these same conversations? Hopefully not.”
Doctor Who, starring Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor alongside Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole and Bradley Walsh, returns to BBC One this Autumn.