‘Doctor Who’ star Jodie Whittaker on how gender is irrelevant: ‘The Doctor is the Doctor’

British actress Jodie Whittaker was hardly a familiar face, at least not until recently.

“Being recognized on the street was maybe (like), ‘Oh I think I know who that is,’ or being kind of looked at in a quizzical fashion, ‘Did we go to school together?’” Whittaker says. 

But after the BBC anointed her as the first woman ever to step into the iconic lead role on “Doctor Who” in July 2017, that all changed. 

“It’s strange to have someone know exactly who you are and at what point they’re going to be seeing you play this role,” she says, just two days before her first full episode as the Doctor in BBC America’s season premiere (1:45 p.m. EDT/10:45 a.m. PDT, and 8 EDT/PDT). 

“It’s a wonderful thing, but (it) can be quite overwhelming at times to know that no matter how many Doctors there will be, I’ll still be one. It’s a job for life in a way that no other is.”

Despite all the trappings, baggage and pressure that comes with the role, Whittaker is remarkably chill about her big debut. 

“I wanted to approach it like I approached any job,” she says. “I think this is one of the first times I’ve been able to bring what is my in-between-scenes personality, which is a very different thing. I talk a lot and I jump from subject to subject and I love the physical energy required of this role, and it bleeds into life.”

She added that playing the Doctor can help actors discover things about themselves. “You can find yourself playing the Doctor,” she says.  

Whittaker and new “Doctor Who” head writer and executive producer Chris Chibnall caught up with USA TODAY to talk inclusion, monsters and whether the Doctor can actually remember that she’s a woman. 

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