Amanda Gurall writes,
When the new Doctor was first announced there was a flurry of excitement and a flurry of backlash. Showrunner Chris Chibnall has explained that when the BBC analyzed the global social media reactions, although the negative ones got a lot of attention they actually represented only about 20% of fans. Bleeding Cool was fortunate to spend a little time with our new Doctor, Jodie Whittaker at NYCC just before the new episode premiered.
How do you feel about being a role model for young people?
“When I was younger the characters and the people I looked up to within film and television were most of the time, played by men. I was absolutely happy to look up to those. The suggestion that a girl is a hero for a girl and a man is a hero for all– hopefully we are now realizing that’s not the case. You can look up to people whether they look similar to you or not. The wonderful thing is the Whovian fans and the Whovian world are so inclusive that-as a new Doctor without any screen time yet- for them to be so welcoming is really emotional.”
How important is this role for you in the era of the “MeToo” movement?
“For me the importance is the united voice of women being heard and being listened to in every capacity. It [her casting] wasn’t an intentional move because I was cast beforehand. The fact that this here, and the past, and hopefully the future is about a more inclusive and safe and open to conversation environment follows. It’s timely without being linked.”
What advice have previous Doctors given you?
“There’s quite a lot but one of the main ones was this is like no journey that can be explained to you. There’s many acting roles in life that you’re lucky enough to do but this is one of the extraordinary ones. Not completely unique but extraordinary in that you share that journey with people you don’t share screen time with. It’s just the most extraordinary journey for life and it’s to be enjoyed, and it will go like that.”
“There are very few roles, like the actors cast in Marvel and Bond and those things, you are famous before you’ve stepped on set. You’ve made this huge life choice for your family forever, for yourself and your career.”
She also explained that with previous roles she might be recognized in public as having played that particular character. With Doctor Who fans it hasn’t been the typical “I know who you played” but “I know who you are”. Between being part of such a big franchise and now part of a fandom that is so loyal and generally lovely to each other, this doesn’t really come as a big surprise. She’s already the Doctor.
How was it to work with your new co-stars?
“I had an immediate chemistry with my co-stars, I’m not a method actor but as far as being in love with those people on and off screen there is no effort required for chemistry. Their performances as well as being as being good people…we are an ensemble and it feels strange to be there without them but it feels wonderful knowing they are there.” Her co-stars are Tosin Cole (playing Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan) and Graham O’Brien (Bradley Wash).
Has your portrayal of the Doctor been influenced by any of the past Doctors?
“I was not a Whovian, I had seen it but not entire series arcs. I did my research through reading, not watching. You can never be wholly unique and never be wholly inventive but I wanted to feel like I was open and responding and using my instinct, not thinking ‘have I just knicked that from someone else?’ I probably have and there have been happy accidents but none of it was intentional.”
Do you have a message for young girls watching for the first time?
“If you’ve never seen the show this show is for you. This show in 2018 represents your social circle, your ability, your chance to not clap from the sideline. And for boys this is your opportunity for you to see your hero not have anything removed from the things you love, just to look a different way. That’s not a disconnect that’s more of an inclusion than an exclusion.”
More of an inclusion than an exclusion. That seems like the perfect way to sum up this whole journey to the 13th doctor. At one point when I was watching the first episode I realized that something executive producer Matt Strevens has said was completely true- she simply WAS the Doctor and that’s the best kind of transition on the show, hopefully an indication that this season will be a great one.
Whittaker also said that this is a really special, groundbreaking moment but now we have to have another moment, then another until the representation of all types of people is simply the norm. The majority of the Whovian fan base has been open and accepting and it’s a really beautiful thing that the show is encompassing a broader range of people both behind the screen and on. To the 20% who feel that the show is forever ruined I think it’s safe to say that you won’t be missed from the fandom.
“As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.”- The First Doctor