British actress Jodie Whittaker was unveiled Thursday as the first woman to play Doctor Who, telling fans of the cult BBC series she felt the weight of history — but that gender should be irrelevant these days.
The 36-year-old, who rose to fame in award-winning British drama Broadchurch, takes over from Scottish actor Peter Capaldi as the 13th incarnation of the Time Lord.
“I knew, obviously, being the first female it was going to have some extra responsibility thrown in,” she told 6,500 fans at the annual Comic-Con fan convention in San Diego, which hosted the cast’s first news conference together. “It’s incredibly inclusive, and it also feels, knowing that the fans are all over the world, like this huge Whovian family that you want to be a part of because it’s so supportive and inclusive, and fun.”
Fans were treated last year to a brief glimpse of Whittaker, walking towards the Tardis in a forest, in a clip shown after the Wimbledon tennis final on BBC television.
At Comic-Con, which attracts 130,000 movie, TV and comics fans from around the world, BBC America dropped the first full trailer which opened with Whittaker’s startled expression.
“All of this is new to me,” she says, presumably after just regenerating. “New faces, new worlds. New times. So if I asked really, really nicely, would you be my new best friends?”
There were glimpses of the Doctor with her new sonic screwdriver, some impressive-looking shots of alien worlds and the first look at the Doctor’s new companions Yasmin, Ryan and Graham.
The trio are played by Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole, both of whom were at the panel, and Bradley Walsh, who didn’t make it to San Diego.
The adventures of the Doctor — a time traveling, humanoid alien who traverses the universe — have maintained a fervent following since they were first aired in 1963.
The new season gets a 10-episode run and although there is no announced release date, fans are expecting it to return in October.
Whittaker will work alongside Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall, who takes over from Steven Moffat as the new showrunner.
“She just walked in the room she was the Doctor. It was one of those things where you don’t know what you’re looking for until you see it, and the energy she bought was just the Doctor — but it was new, it was fresh,” said Chibnall.
“It was very funny, very emotional. It’s really exciting as a showrunner when you see them audition and you want to write instantly, and it suggests scenes. That’s what happened really — she just nailed it.”
The show is aired around the world, and marked its 50th anniversary four years ago with a special episode screened simultaneously in nearly 100 countries.
“The thing about this role, which is why it’s so amazing for any actor to play, is that essentially gender is irrelevant and that’s completely liberating,” Whittaker told the audience.
“As a woman who isn’t a genre, is just a woman, I have never approached a role thinking, ‘Oh, how do women do this?’ I’ve just done it from my perspective.”
Whittaker described her first day on set, filming The Doctor regenerating from Peter Capaldi’s incarnation to hers, as “incredibly nerve-racking.”
“I was in somebody else’s costume, I was on their set, in their Tardis. I was nervous to touch anything. I felt very much as if I was in someone else’s shoes,” she laughed.