Jodie Whittaker on #MeToo: “this should be a turning point”

"This should never happen, not in our workplace [or] in any workplace anywhere."

Jodie Whittaker’s latest movie, emotional boxing drama Journeyman, is the passion project of Paddy Considine (actor, writer, director) and hits cinemas this week. It’s about a veteran boxer who suffers a serious head injury during a fight, leaving him severely disabled as a result. Whittaker plays his distressed wife, tasked with caring for him and their infant daughter. If you’re in need of some light, post-work relaxation then keep looking. Journeyman is a deep and distressing watch that tackles important social issues like mental health and gender stereotypes.

It’s just one of many projects Whittaker’s been working on since she was announced as the first ever female Doctor Who in July 2017. It caused a minor scandal amongst long-term Who fans. They boggled in disbelief, their fragile worlds torn asunder. “It’s Time LORD not Time Lady!’ they cried. How could they possibly watch a sci-fi series with a female lead? It was political correctness gone mad.

Now that nonsense has subsided a little. So we rang Whittaker up to talk acting chemistry with Paddy Considine, the #MeToo movement and getting strange gifts from Whovians.

It’s been nearly a year since the BBC gender pay gap first came to light – has anything changed?

“I think there’s universal shock and outrage, and not just from women, there’s support from both sides. I’m fascinated by it all. I think the BBC’s response was right. They didn’t go, ‘Oh, really?’ They went, ‘Obviously we need to address this,’ and I don’t think they would lie.

You always find out afterwards, you never find out at the time. It’s always afterwards that someone’s having to apologise for something. So I think until something else is revealed we won’t know how much has changed [at the BBC].

Men and women should be paid equally. For me, hopefully this is something we’re all learning from, but I’m certainly not in the knowledge of anything.”

What is your experience of sexism and sexual assault in the film and TV industry?

“I’ve never experienced sexual harassment at work, but I 100% believe and support everyone that has come forward, because I’m very lucky that it has never happened to me. It’s appalling that I even consider myself lucky, [it] shouldn’t be part of anyone’s mindset that it would ever happen. But with these revelations and the bravery of these people coming forward, we now know it’s not an isolated event, it’s obviously a huge issue and a problem. I 100% want to support the movement, #MeToo and Time’s Up. We are a sisterhood.

Thank fuck it’s [happening] at a time when people listen. This should be a turning point. This should never happen, not in our workplace [or] in any workplace anywhere.

To suggest that it isn’t a problem is naive. But obviously for me, until the revelation, it wasn’t part of my journey in the industry. I was also not aware of how lucky I was for that as well because it’s so many people. You think, “Fucking hell! It could have been a very different life.”

Jodie Whittaker

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor

Your new film Journeyman is about a boxer who suffers a brain injury – do you think the sport does enough to combat such issues?

“I honestly don’t know enough about it. I didn’t come to this as a boxing fan. To me, it doesn’t feel like a boxing film, it feels like a family drama with boxing as an element. Emma didn’t need to be an expert on boxing, because I wasn’t a boxer in it. But I had to be very aware when I was filming that this isn’t an isolated event, things like this do happen.”

You and Paddy Considine had a very believable on-screen relationship – did it come easily?

“I haven’t really worked with anyone that I haven’t connected to in that way. In a way, that’s the journey of the character. It’s in everything – the writing, the directing. I was handed it on a plate really. But then sometimes, instinctively, I would go completely in the wrong direction and would need to be directed back.”

Can you give me an example?

“There’s a scene in the film where I can’t find our daughter, Mia. In rehearsal, I bloody bulldozed through it. I went from 0 to 200 in two seconds. So it’s things like that. I wouldn’t instinctively always be on point. Which is why it’s so brilliant to work with fantastic directors like Paddy [Considine].”

Was it scary to film the scenes where Matty turns violent?

“No, it’s not scary because it’s all protected and set up. It’s lightly shocking, if you see what I mean, because of how good of an actor Paddy is.”

What about when he smashes the mug against the wall?

“Oh! It’s made of sugar. I’m ruining loads of cinema secrets there by telling you that. What I found really hard was not breaking the mug before the moment. So when I was sipping the cup of tea I was absolutely bricking it. If you hold it too hard it will crumble. But all the physical moments are well choreographed. So there’s never any fear that something like that is going to go wrong. You can just commit to being the actor in the scene.”

In the final scene, ‘Into My Arms’ by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds is playing – are you a fan?

“Oh I love him!  I’d be surprised if someone on set didn’t know that song. If it comes on you should be singing along. Often the music gets picked after it’s shot. Sometimes you can be doing the scene to a song and it doesn’t get clearing, or you don’t get the rights to it, or it’s just for the director. There was a scene in Adult Life Skills where I was dancing in a club and because we knew, with our budget, that we were never going to get the rights for anything, they just said, “What do you wanna dance to? We’ll dance to that.” Even though we knew full well it would never be in the film.”

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever received from a Doctor Who fan?

“I haven’t really had anything weird yet. I’m not supposed to open stuff actually, it gets sifted through. I can honestly say, I’ve only had nice stuff so far. Ask me in a couple of years and I’m sure I will have a very different answer!”

Journeyman is out March 30