Interview: Jodie Whittaker and the Cast of ‘Doctor Who’

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“It was a pretty amazing moment and not one I thought would happen as a girl born in the 80’s. You know, the Doctor did not look like me. So it was a big moment.” – Jodie Whittaker on Becoming the First Female Doctor Who

Doctor Who fans have only a few more months to wait for the new season to start but that didn’t stop the new cast from coming to Comic-Con to talk about all things Doctor Who! The new Doctor – and first female actress in the role –  Jodie Whittaker, sat alongside cast members Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill (alongside producers Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens) in a backstage press conference to talk about the upcoming season, how Whittaker felt becoming the first female Doctor, the origin of her costume and more.

I know you can’t give us any specifics, but was there a line in the script or like when you first put on your costume where there was a moment that made you feel like you started to gel in your version of the Doctor?

Jodie Whittaker: I was thrown into the deep end in the first week of filming that I’m not allowed to tell you anything about. But, I had a kind of important speech with, you know, more lines to say and it was, it was early on. So, I think when we moved on, because obviously the first take, the first shot is exciting and terrifying. But it is for everyone, you know, Jamie Childs, who is the director, it was his first take as well, so everyone’s nervous. But I think when we moved on from the very first shot, on to a different angle, I thought okay, it’s tattooed on film forever and so I must be the Doctor.

It was a pretty amazing moment and not one I thought would happen as a girl born in the 80’s. You know, the Doctor did not look like me. So it was a big moment. I’ve spent a long time crying about it, it’s been great.

So Jodie, how much of a woman’s touch do you think your version of the Doctor will mean to the TARDIS?

Jodie Whittaker: It’s interesting, because I am obviously not allowed to talk about the TARDIS.

But in regards to it is a bigger question of bringing it to the Doctor, I think it’s interesting because I have never approached a role thinking it as, “How would a woman play this role?” because I just am one. And I don’t know if a guy has ever gone, “How would a guy do this scene?” You just, you just are and it’s your POV.

So essentially, I suppose my energy, my approach to this is coming from a very distinctive place, which feels genderless to me because it’s never been necessarily ingrained to me that that’s a specific way a woman behaves or a specific way a man behaves, but the best thing about the Doctor is I am not playing either; I’m an alien. So, you know, so there’s really no rules. And I’ve got two hearts, so I can do whatever I want.

Are you looking forward to exploring the past, either like the present or even the future?

Mandip Gill: Without saying, “done that,” I’d absolutely love to go back and go back and go forward and presently.  For me personally, it would be to learn multiple things that I may not have got taught in school or we forgot about or you know, things that I think about, whether they’re out there or not. So yeah, completely, whether we have or not, I can’t discuss.

Tosin Cole: Yeah, to see cool things, like in space or universe, all different kinds of stuff that you won’t see on Earth, you know what I mean?  And different gadgets and that type of stuff. So, I’m just looking forward to seeing cool stuff and yeah, learning new things and experiencing new things.

Jodie Whittaker: And when we see it, it will probably be the first time we’ve seen some of the things as well, because obviously a lot of our reactions have like, been to a tennis ball. So for us, it will be a big revelation to see what we’re doing. Hopefully, we are all looking in the same direction.

Tosin Cole: Do you remember that time when, we were somewhere and I was like “What are we looking at? What’s that? What are we actually looking at?” Then they showed us a picture of what we was looking at and I was like, “Bro, I was looking at something completely different.”

We’ve already seen this Doctor’s outfit, can you talk a little bit about the thought you have to put into this new Doctor’s outfit?  Also, Jodie, how you felt wearing it, the practicality of it, because there’s like short pants and boots and things like that?

Jodie Whittaker: I’ve never had a creative input to that level to any character, so you know, this rules with most and particularly period being the main thing. You know, obviously if you are in an Edwardian piece, you can’t walk up in Converse, so it was in that sense… without giving anything away, the costume kind of felt as if it could come from anywhere and it should feel like that. Rather than, I didn’t, I think I, me and with Ray Holman, the costume designer, we didn’t want something that felt too neat, I suppose and tailored in that sense.

And I think initially, I might get into trouble for saying this, but I found a picture while I was stalking Chris Chibnull to give me the job, sending him images between auditions, hundreds of images. And one of them that I found on the internet… I don’t know where it’s from or what I googled, but it was a woman walking with purpose and deep in thought; striding and she had short trousers on, boots, bracelets and a T-shirt and the picture was black and white, so I don’t know what era that picture is from. The woman kind of had hair like mine, which was already in a kind of bob, so it felt… it was just a wonderful expression in one image of timelessness, purpose, and inclusiveness in all in one simple look. And it didn’t feel like you needed to be a certain shape or age to wear it or gender, and that’s mainly where this came from. But then there’s so many little details that you’re never gonna find.

I am sure you getting a lot of questions, Jodie, what you would say to young girls who are watching the show for the first time? What message would you have for young boys who are watching the show?

Jodie Whittaker: That it’s okay to look up to woman and that is exciting.  And also just, you know, like Chris has said, in that this is a show for everyone. I think us three sitting here didn’t always have, when we were growing up, necessarily people on television that looked like us, or me and Mandip, sounded like us. Normally people don’t have our accent, which is fortunate for them.

But you know and I suppose it’s just that your heroes don’t have to tick the same box. Its 2018 and the fact that we are having these conversations and also, you know as a woman, being the front of a show, it will be really exciting when women aren’t treated as a genre and just as a cast member, it’d be great.

You know, if you lead a show, it doesn’t mean it’s for women, which I think always happens within it. So, when you’ve been thrust into a kind of genderless role… this is incredible but it can also, you know, let’s not have this conversation in 2020, hopefully.

Can you tell us anything about your characters?  Not necessarily the plot, but who they are and what they like?

Mandip Gill: Yeah I think, {character] is a 19 year old girl who went to work and just thought she could do more, asked for more, got more… so just be careful what you ask for… and went along this adventure and found a family away from home. She’s completely at war with the Doctor, so, initially the Doctor says “Jump,”  she says, “How high?” And she really frets and there’s this huge shift towards the end.  And she has a really nice relationship with Tosin’s character and Brad’s character, Graham, who is not here. And there’s just this great dynamic between the three of the friends and the friends with the Doctor. You know we all bring something completely different.

Tosin Cole: Yeah, I play Ryan, you know, he’s a chap. This is normal day life, going about it, then he just gets caught in a crazy situation. Then, he just kind of goes with the flow, there’s a crazy road and he just enjoys the ride as it goes on more and more and more. He’s a more of a boisterous attitude, you know, he challenges the Doctor from time to time. He gets it right sometimes, wrong a lot of the times, so yeah. He just kind of finds his way through his journey. Yeah, that’s me or him.

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Lance Carter is an actor and the Editor of Daily Actor.

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