BBC ONE & BBC AMERICA: Interview with Jodie Whittaker on playing Doctor Who for the final time
In the US, the show airs on BBC America, with series 1-12 available on HBO Max
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Can you tell us what audiences can expect from your final big special?
Was it exciting to be part of the BBC’s Centenary celebrations?
It is. I love the BBC, it’s a huge part of the fabric of our industry. Doctor Who is a huge part of that. Being part of a show that is so iconic in the BBC, I’m very passionate about. For this episode to come out now is a real celebration. As a young kid, the TV shows I watched led me to this now. All the drama, the comedies and the 100 years of the path that it’s laid has led to my casting.
It's a huge episode for the villains – it’s the first time we’ve got the cybermen, The Master and the Daleks all in one. How has it been working with Sacha again?
I love Sacha, he’s amazing, an incredible actor and a phenomenal force of nature on set. His detail and level of commitment to The Master is inspiring. But in that he’s also a team player, he turns up and the crew love him, cast love him because he’s a really good laugh and he makes sure he’s part of the team. For me, he’s the perfect villain because in real life he’s the complete opposite and on screen you absolutely believe everything that comes out of his mouth. If you know him in real life, he’s such a nice guy and a lovely man. So to be so convincing as The Master? Hats off. All his choices I love. A lot of my favourite scenes throughout my tenure have been with Sacha. So being told he would be part of my final episode was an absolute joy for me. I don’t feel as it would have served my Doctor to not have the moment of resolution and heartbreak with him.
How tense are those scenes?
What I love about Sacha’s Master, and what I think is important, is that he’s so broken and actually it’s not just two-dimensional evil. It’s got so many layers and there’s such a vulnerability to him that it makes things much more complicated for the Doctor. That he cannot let the Doctor survive is the most heart-breaking thing. Our last scenes were shot in order, which we never usually do so it had a big build up.
How were the stunts this time?
Stunt-wise, the opening sequences were really fun because they involved all of us at all different competence levels. You have got Dan falling out of the TARDIS but then smashing his landing. There are a lot of iconic costumes that even the fandom who haven’t even seen the episode are recreating. Someone at Comic Con turned up in my orange astronaut costume.
There are so many brilliant moments for us, there’s a lot of playfulness. There was a massive stunt that I wasn’t allowed to film where Sacha yanks the Doctor back. That was Linda, my double. Sometimes I’m gutted I’m not allowed to do things, but I didn’t miss out on being dragged over a quarry. I was fine with that!
We did loads of wire work for walking on the roof of the train. The suits were hot, and we had to have fans pumped in but they had to be turned off and then the screens would steam up. So, you had that critical moment where they’d scream ‘film’ and then the steam would come up. You go, ‘It’s not as easy as it looks!’
Can you tell us about the atmosphere on set during those final scenes?
Everyone was wonderful. On my last day there were last scenes with Yaz and the Doctor on the TARDIS but I got in a bit before Mandip to start filming. I was wondering where everyone was, but they got me on set and the cast and crew had lined up and were clapped me and I obviously lost it there. Then we did it for Mandip and I was crying more than her!
Jen, who was our third AD, had stepped up to step in as the first (AD) that last few days. She said ‘So this is the final time I’m going to call ‘Rehearsal in the TARDIS’ and I lost it. We shot the last moment and it was one take and once the camera team were happy, I could see everyone nodding and making eye-contact and my bottom lip went and I knew it was the end. It was just (the challenge of) being able to articulate to everyone what you think of them. It’s not just Mandip, not just the cast, it’s all the phenomenal people you get to work with. It’s lifelong friendships that have been forged in four years and we’ve had the time of our lives and survived a pandemic! At the beginning of our work, we had to be all separate and then at the end, we could all come together. It felt particularly emotional because of where we were at.
What will you miss most about being the Doctor?
I’m not a method actor, I don’t stay in character between scenes, but I spent a lot of time before I played the Doctor doing quite emotionally traumatised roles. I’ve played people who lost children, people whose husband had been disabled, things where characters were on the brink a lot of the time. They were major events that I can’t understand, so a lot of the time at work you are always on the moment of devastation. A lot of the time for me filming was amazing and fun to do, but you are always on the brink of upset. (With Doctor Who)
There were four seasons, there was heartbreak, there was fear and there was loss, but my overriding emotion was excitement. I felt like the over-riding thing the Doctor brought was curiosity and excitement. Obviously fear, rage and all those things, but the thing that encapsulated my Doctor the most was that bouncing into things, and that really fed into my evening and my weekend and my year. I was very half-full all day every day, so it bleeds into life. I’m not someone who sits in character all weekend but you do realise how much that emotional trauma leaves you on the edge of upset when you’ve been doing it for 12 hour days. You don’t quite let it go at the end of the day, without realising. So the reason I can gush so much about this job is because it wasn’t just happiness on set, it fed into everything. I feel like it’s knocked 15 years off me because I’ve been so energised because I had to be at work that it fed outwards and I’ll miss the energy of the Doctor.
What are you looking forward to about being a viewer of the next era?
I’m really excited to not know any spoilers! There was two big events for me – knowing O turned into the Master and that Whovians would be like, ‘OMG!’, and that I dig up a TARDIS and I turn round and Jo Martin is the Doctor. Knowing those two things were coming in one season and they hadn’t been leaked was the most fun. So now I won’t get to know those things before they come out, so I can’t wait to go, ‘You are kidding me!’. I cannot wait to see it in real time, and I don’t have the stress of keeping the secrets.
Did you steal anything from the set?
I’ve got my costume, my sonic, a Cyberman! When I fly the TARDIS, I flick a switch and what spins inside is a mini TARDIS that lights up so that spins and then I pull the handle down - I’ve got that too.
You and Mandip have spent such a long time together. What will you miss most about the bond between the Doctor and Yaz?
Mandip makes me laugh in a way that nobody else does. I find her to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever been around. Mandip is in-built half-full and really constant. Everyone loves being around her. Whenever we get people on set, everyone gravitates towards her because she just is ace to be around and she is a perfect energy for me. On a selfish note, she makes me a better actor and a more level-headed person. So, on a selfish note, I feel like my anchor has gone because she never runs out of chat, which is my favourite thing…there’s an unconditional love and sisterhood. It’s unique where you find that later in life. I met her at 36 and you don’t think you’ve got room at that age. But to not be around her energy every day has been hard and I have really missed it, but obviously we speak all the time.
If you could pick one scene from your whole time that you’d love to do again, what would it be?
The episode I’d like to do again because I had such an amazing time around it, it wasn’t just the filming but the location, the people, and experiences while we were there – was Demons of the Punjab. I loved that we shot in Spain, it was our first season, it book ended our time with Jamie Childs, who’d directed us at the beginning and the end. There were some very funny moments on and off camera, we had a wonderful story that educated me because I shamefully didn’t have the knowledge about that period of history that I should have had.
So if I could go back and relive that time, I’d choose Demons of the Punjab but it would be for many reasons. Any Doctor Who fan who is into our series knows I love a birthday and I had a birthday out there, so that played a big part. But as far as doing a scene again, because it was my first week, I wish I could do the crane scenes again because the jump across, filming with Jonny (Dixon) and having scenes with Amit Shah and doing massive stunts. They were my first scenes on set and I had my very first hero speech so I would love to do that again, not because I want to change anything, but so I could relive it.
What would be your top tip for the next Doctor?
This is yours for the taking.
The Power of the Doctor, which is the third Doctor Who Special, airs on BBC One and BBC iPlayer Sunday 23 October 2022 at 7:30pm BST.
Source BBC One
October 21, 2022 4:00am ET by BBC One