The New ‘Doctor Who’: 7 Essential Things to Know About Jodie Whittaker

In the realm of all things timey wimey, it’s always a big deal when Doctor Who’s Time Lord regenerates. But when the BBC announced the name of the 13th Doctor on July 16, it was especially epic.

When the seminal sci-fi hit airs its 2017 Christmas episode, “The Doctors,” we’ll get a chance to meet the newest incarnation of the Doctor: Jodie Whittaker. The 35-year-old actress is familiar to many TV viewers across the pond, as well as those of us stateside who have taken a liking to the popular British series. But she’s not exactly a household name — or at least she wasn’t until the big reveal. Here’s everything we know about the newest actor to take the TARDIS’ wheel.

1. She’s making history

Jodie Whittaker stands in front of trees n a grey sweatshirt in a promotional photo for 'Doctor Who.'

Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor Who. | BBC

Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the newest Time Lord is that she is actually a Time Lady. Since the series premiered in 1963, all previous incarnations of the alien time traveler have been male. So Whittaker isn’t just stepping into one of the most iconic roles of all time, she’s also the first woman to lead Doctor Who.

Fans reacted passionately when news broke that Whittaker had been cast. While the majority of fans, young and old, seemed to be thrilled that the series has finally switched it up when it comes to the Doctor’s gender, a few expressed displeasure at the casting news.

For her part, Whittaker is proud to take on the role of the first female Doctor. She told the BBC that joining Doctor Who feels “incredible.” To fans who are nervous about her ability to take the reigns from the last Doctor, Peter Capaldi, she said this: “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. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”

2. She’s already acted alongside some Whovians

Actors Olivia Colman, David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker sit in a living room in a scene from the ITV series 'Broadchurch.'

Olivia Colman, David Tennant, and Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch | ITV

Whittaker may be new to the Doctor Who family, but she does have some previous connections with the franchise. She’s appeared alongside more than one previous cast member in the past few years.

From 2013 through 2017, she starred as bereaved mother Beth Latimer on the critically acclaimed ITV crime drama, Broadchurch. Among her costars were David Tennant, who played the 10th Doctor, and Arthur Darvill, who played the 11th Doctor’s companion, Rory. Maybe she’ll ask for some pointers from her fellow Whovians — after all, they likely have plenty of advice.

3. She has serious sci-fi cred

John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker and the rest of the ensemble huddle in a dimly lit elevator in a scene from 'Attack the Block'

Attack the Block | StudioCanal

For the most part, Whittaker has built her career by taking on meaty roles in heavy-hitting dramas, like Broadchurch and One Day. But she also earned attention when she appeared in the 2011 sci-fi black comedy, Attack the Block. Fans of the indie British film have helped turn it into a bona fide cult hit.

And Whittaker isn’t the only member of the Attack the Block ensemble to experience breakout success: The film also starred Star Wars’ John Boyega.

4. She also has an impressive acting resume

Jodie Whittaker lays on a black couch in a tan turtleneck as Ffione in the 'Black Mirror' episode, 'The Entire History of You.'

Black Mirror | Channel 4

Playing the Doctor can’t be easy, as the actor who fills those shoes has to be able to hit the perfect balance of comedy and drama, silliness and sincerity. But any fans worried about whether Whittaker is up to the task can rest easy. She’s been working as a professional actress for more than a decade. Before she made acting her career, she also trained at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she graduated with a Gold Medal.

Whittaker has appeared in numerous high-profile series and films, most notably in the fan-favorite Black Mirror episode, “The Entire History of You.” She’s also performed in classic plays, like Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, and even on one of the most famous stages in the world at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. In other words, Whittaker definitely has the chops to play the Doctor.

5. She almost didn’t become an actress

Actress Jodie Whittaker speaks onstage at the "Broadchurch" panel discussion during the BBC America portion of the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association tour - Day 2 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 25, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California.

Jodie Whittaker | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

With her impressive resume and obvious talent, it’s hard to imagine Whittaker taking any other career path. From a young age, she wanted to be an actress. But she was told by a school career adviser that she should try to come up with a more sensible plan for her future.

Whittaker told The Sun that she was told her dream of becoming an actress was “a stupid idea.” Luckily for her — and for Doctor Who fans — her parents encouraged her to stick with her passions.

6. She had a hard time keeping her big news a secret

Actress Jodie Whittaker attends the Classic BRIT Awards 2013 at the Royal Albert Hall on October 2, 2013 in London, England.

Jodie Whittaker | Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Any time a new Doctor is announced, the casting is kept top secret. And the reveal is, historically, a big event. This year, it dropped following the Wimbledon finals. But Whittaker has known she would be joining Doctor Who for quite some time — and she had a very hard time keeping the news under wraps.

She told the BBC that it was “nerve-wracking” to keep her friends and family — not to mention the general public — in the dark. “I’ve told a lot of lies,” she revealed, explaining that she was only allowed to tell her husband.

To be able to talk about it without talking about it, she said they came up with a code name for the role: They called it The Clooney. “George is an iconic guy,” she said. “And we thought, what’s a famous iconic name? It was just fitting.”

So while fans were glad to finally know the identity of the next Doctor, no one was more relieved to have it out in the open than Whittaker.

7. The Who crew is totally behind her

Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor on 'Doctor Who.'

Peter Capaldi, the current Doctor | BBC

Sure, there are a few disgruntled fans who don’t believe Whittaker should have been cast as the 13th Doctor. But as far as the Doctors who have come before her are concerned, she’s perfect for the part.

Numerous former Doctor Who stars have expressed their excitement over Whittaker’s historic casting. Capaldi released a statement saying he believes she has “the huge heart to play this most special part. She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor.” Former Doctors Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy all tweeted their support for Whittaker as well, as did a slew of former Who cast members, including Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, and her Broadchurch costar, Darvill.

Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.

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