Who Is Jodie Whittaker? Get to Know Doctor Who's First Female Star

Whittaker will replace Peter Capaldi as the star of the BBC America series starting with the 2017 Christmas special

By Lauren Piester Jul 17, 2017 1:27 PMTags

The TV world was set ablaze by the news that Jodie Whittaker—a woman!—would be taking over the role as the Doctor on Doctor Who after Peter Capaldi exits. 

In the show's 54-year history, the Doctor has always been a man, despite it being long established that the aliens known as time lords could regenerate in any form. This was further confirmed when Michelle Gomez began playing the latest regeneration of another time lord known as the Master in 2014, and constantly reminded us that time lords can be women, too. 

Many fans are still inexplicably unhappy about the change, but many fans are extremely happy about the change, and Whittaker seems thrilled to be at the center of it. 

"It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you're told you can and can't be," she told the BBC. "It feels incredible."

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The 35 year-old actress and mother of one has starred in the critically-acclaimed British series Broadchurch since 2013, which was created by new Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall. Chibnall, who is taking over for exiting showrunner Steven Moffat, released a statement saying that he "always knew" he wanted the new Doctor to be a woman. 

Whittaker told the BBC that she originally asked Chibnall if she could play a villain once he took over the show, and he told her she should audition to play the Doctor instead. She did not need much convincing.

"There was no persuasion needed," she said. "If you need to be persuaded to do this part, you're not right for this part, and the part isn't right for you. I also think, for anyone taking this on, you have to want to fight for it, which I certainly had to do. I know there will have been some phenomenal actors who threw their hats in the ring." 

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You should know, that wasn't the Doctor costume she filmed her arrival in (phew) and she's seriously expecting some phone calls after the Sunday, July 16 announcement. When asked whether she's received any advice from the other Doctors, she said not yet because she was keeping the secret.

"Well they can't because they haven't known until now, but I'm certainly expecting a couple of calls—I've got a couple of mates in there. I'm mates with a companion [Arthur Darvill], I'm mates with a trio of Doctors. I know Matt Smith, Chris Eccleston and obviously David Tennant. Oh! And let's throw in David Bradley! Four Doctors! So I'm hoping I get some calls of advice," she said.

As for keeping that secret, she said it was "very hard."

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BBC America

"I've told a lot of lies! I've embroiled myself in a whole world of lies which is going to come back at me when this is announced," she said.

Now about the naysayers who are skeptical of a woman taking over as the eccentric alien savior of the universe, Whittaker has a message for them. 

"I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender," she said. "Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that's exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one." 

To see more of Whittaker's work before she makes her Doctor Who debut in this year's Christmas special, you can also watch the excellent Black Mirror season one episode, "The Entire History of You." Her other credits include The Smoke, Cranford, The Night Watch, The Accused, and on the big screen Attack The Block, Black Sea, Adult Life Skills and Venus. She's also an accomplished stage actress and made her theatrical debut at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in The Storm.

Whittaker is a graduate from Guildhall School of Music and Drama.