TV

Jodie Whittaker: "Acting gives a false sense of achievement"

Recently revealed as the 13th actor to play Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker talks about her starring role in The Smoke, Broadchurch and why wishes Brits were less reserved

The Smoke is a drama about firefighters. So there is some explosive action?

I think you would feel short-changed if there wasn’t any.

But does that mean the characters’ personal lives have to be equally explosive?

I loved the fact that the drama and the action were in equal measure. The whole series explores this life-changing injury that drops like a pebble and ripples through everybody. It’s shocking and unexpected. It was certainly unexpected to me when I read for the audition. I was like, “What the fuck is this?”

Is that the reaction you want while reading a script? I like when things aren’t what they appear to be and I’ve felt that with quite a few things I’ve done recently.

For something like this or Broadchurch, does all the drama not seem like too much hard work and put you off taking these roles?

No one gets put off by hard work if it’s something they like. If someone said, “I want you to go swim the Thames”, I’d say no, it’s too much hard work because I don’t like swimming, but if someone said, “I really want you to invest five months into something we think is going to be exciting and brilliant”, you’d be like, “Yeah!”

So do you get a sense of achievement when you finish a role?

It’s quite bizarre. Acting is the only job in the world where you turn up and people clap. It does give you a false sense of achievement because you go, “Yes! I’m so amazing, I got clapped today!”

What are your feelings about people who clap on planes when they land?

My husband’s American and it’s always Americans. I love it, I think why not? That bloody pilot has landed a flight. I wish British people weren’t so reserved.

When playing a grieving mother over an entire series, do you have to live with these emotions the whole time you’re filming?

After we completed episode two of Broadchurch I was terrified because I didn’t know how I’d be able to maintain it. There was no release or scenes of joy. For four-and-a-half months we cried or were angry or sad or frustrated all day every day for 12 hours. Olivia Coleman and I shared a flat and at the end of the day we’d have a good couple of gin and tonics, watch Grand Designs and zone out.

What are your feelings about the US remake of Broadchurch?

I’m like, why not? Plays are put on all the time. You don’t just do one version of a play, you do a different adaptation of it, a different take on it. I think it’s nothing but exciting. I cannot wait to see what they all do with it.

The Smoke is out now on DVD

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