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I've Been Really Jammy in My Career

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2017-07-18 Daily Express p19.jpg


Jodie Whittaker made her debut opposite Peter O'Toole, became a household name in Broadchurch and has now made TV history as the first female Doctor Who

FEW TV casting announcements have been as keenly anticipated and as shrouded in secrecy. And when the trailer that screened at the end of the Wimbledon men's final revealed that Jodie Whittaker will become the 13th Doctor Who the reaction was unprecedented, even by the standards of the cult BBC TV show.

The reaction of one young fan - excitedly screaming "Doctor Who is a girl" - went viral as fans and detractors took to social media in their thousands.

While some were dismayed by the news that the Time Lord's next incarnation will be in the female form, those who have worked with the 35-year-old Yorkshire actress were clear that this is nothing short of an inspired casting decision.

It was Whittaker's role as grieving mother Beth Latimer in ITV's Broadchurch that made her a household name. And it was Chris Chibnall, the writer of Broadchurch as well as the new writer and executive producer of Doctor Who, who encouraged her to audition for the role.

"I always knew I wanted the 13th Doctor to be a woman and we're thrilled to have secured our number-one choice," says Chibnall. "Her audition simply blew us all away. Jodie is a super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role."

Whittaker herself describes the role as "completely overwhelming" and says: "I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time and Doctor Who represents everything that's exciting about change."

So who is the young actress who has broken the mould?

Brought up in Skelmanthorpe, just outside Huddersfield, the daughter or a businessman and a nurse who became a magistrate, young Jodie always wanted to be an actress, ever since she used to line up all her dolls and make them "speak" in different voices at the age of five. Seeking validation from an audience was appealing for a woman who admits in her flat Yorkshire vowels: "I were c**p at school."

As she once pointed out: "I've picked a job where you get clapped at the end. I was the attention-seeking child who needed everyone to look at me. If I'd have been good at everything at school I might not have known I was good at acting."

All her friends were going off to university so she decided to go backpacking for a year and see the world. On her return, having broadened her outlook, she applied to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

SHE recalls: "I obviously had something but I didn't have a clue. But they saw through that and let me in. And I left having improved a lot." This is the sort of understatement typical of an actress who describes herself as opinionated, manic and vain, with a "really bad" temper. She actually left having been awarded that year's prestigious gold medal.

She was immediately cast in The Storm, the first new play written for Shakespeare's Globe.

This was followed by the leading role in the 2006 film Venus in which she was plucked from relative obscurity at the age of 23 to star as a teenage misfit opposite the late Peter O'Toole, who was Oscar-nominated for his role as an aged actor having his last hurrah with a friend's great-niece. She decided to put on a stone in weight to make her performance more realistic.

"It was great to play someone so completely different from me, who was so rude and who didn't give a damn, whereas I was quite a polite teenager myself."

Since then she has rarely been out of work. "I've been really jammy," she says. "I've never had huge bouts of not working. But that is nothing but luck."

Fans of her stage and screen career, in which she has worked alongside such stars as Dame Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton in the BBC period drama Cranford, and Rupert Everett in the 2007 film St Trinian's (she played his secretary Beverly), might beg to disagree.

"A massive box was ticked with Venus and then I found myself on the set of Cranford with 90 per cent of the actors I could ever hope to work with in a 50-year career - so lots more boxes were ticked," says the chatty, straight-talking actress who describes herself as "a quiet person's nightmare - the only time I shut up is when I'm reading".

At drama school she met her husband, Mexican-American actor Christian Contreras whom she married at 26 and with whom she has a child. Sworn to secrecy over her new role, the couple codenamed it The Clooney when discussing it at home. "Because to me and my husband, George is an iconic guy. And we thought, what's a really iconic name?"

But while George always looks like George, Jodie has the ability to subsume herself so thoroughly into a part that she is almost unrecognisable from one role to the next.

"People never recognise me in the street and that's brilliant - I love it. A chameleon face is good because you don't want to be going everywhere and have people thinking they know you."

That aspect of her life, however, may prove rather more difficult to control once she steps out of the Tardis.


GRIEF: With Andrew Buchan in Broadchurch

SHARED SECRET: Husband Christian knew of her role

JOY: With Peter O'Toole In first film Venus

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  • APA 6th ed.: Warren, Jane (2017-07-18). I've Been Really Jammy in My Career. Daily Express p. 19.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Warren, Jane. "I've Been Really Jammy in My Career." Daily Express [add city] 2017-07-18, 19. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Warren, Jane. "I've Been Really Jammy in My Career." Daily Express, edition, sec., 2017-07-18
  • Turabian: Warren, Jane. "I've Been Really Jammy in My Career." Daily Express, 2017-07-18, section, 19 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=I've Been Really Jammy in My Career | url= | work=Daily Express | pages=19 | date=2017-07-18 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 April 2024 }}</ref>
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