She was the first woman to play one of British TV’s most iconic roles, but as Dr Who returns without her this weekend, Jodie Whittaker is back on our screens in new Australian drama One Night.
The series follows three female friends whose lives have been shaped by the traumatic events of one night when they were teenagers.
Now as grown women, they are reunited and the truth of what really happened is revealed throughout the show.
With each episode told from a different character’s perspective the programme examines the complexities of friendships and memories, as well as dealing with sexual assault.
Whittaker told Sky News’ Backstage podcast that the way it was written allowed her to do something she felt hadn’t been done before.
“Sexual assault has been portrayed in many TV shows and dramas but this point of view of it for me was completely unique,” she said.
“Very often, we’re with the detectives, the people it most affects are the people being talked about, not listened to, and [with] this it was as if Emily [Ballou – the show’s writer], went into everybody’s brain that this really affected and gave them a voice.
“But also it showed the challenging thing of ownership of memory, what a thing to be the main thread throughout – that it’s about ownership of who has the right to tell a story.
“I found that fascinating because within this story that, on paper, is a narrative that we’ve seen before, it isn’t done like this.”
While it’s clear from the first episode that something terrible happened on the night in question, Whittaker’s character Tess has memory loss.
The actress says she read real impact statements to prepare for the role.
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“There is a lot that you can find that is particular to someone who has no memory of the assault and that was very helpful,” Whittaker said.
“But also it was really important as well for myself that I was playing someone who didn’t know, so therefore I didn’t read episode six and no one was allowed to talk about episode six around me.
“I’m not method and I don’t stay in character, but there’s certain things you can do to help yourself, and sometimes actors have knowledge of things but their characters don’t, so I tried to separate that completely and keep it there – if my character didn’t know, I didn’t know, and that really helped.”
One Night has come out soon after the release of Time – the second series of the prison drama which saw Whittaker playing a woman serving time for not paying for her electricity.
Both shows look at real-world issues that affect many women in the UK, but Whittaker says it wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice to do something so different to the time-travelling sci-fi she had previously been working on.
“Doing Doctor Who I’ve been unavailable for however many years and it was just such a joy to have had a year off and then go do [Time],” she explained.
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“Sydney [where she filmed One Night] was a kind of beautiful gift of a place because I was there when I got sent Time, and at the time it overlapped… So then I missed the first two weeks of filming [Time] and I got back in a completely different time zone and ran into it.
“But it was very method because I was totally out of my depth, but [so was her Time character] Orla in every scene, so that’s fine.”
As for the much-anticipated return of Doctor Who – which will celebrate its 60th anniversary with three specials starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate before a full series return with Ncuti Gatwa taking on the role of the Time Lord – Whittaker says she, like the fans, can’t wait.
“I’m absolutely desperate to see it, it’s the first time since I’ve been a part of the universe of Doctor Who that I don’t know what’s about to happen,” she said.
“So I don’t know anything, I have zero spoilers – I’m definitely not in it and there’s no way of me giving anything away, there’s no pressure, I can’t ruin it.
“I am so excited and I’m just immensely jealous.”
One Night is streaming on Paramount Plus – to hear more on the show and the return of Doctor Who listen to the latest series of Backstage, the film and TV podcast from Sky News.
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