Jodie Whittaker only did the research she needed to 'you can't act the medical stuff'
Before Jodie Whittaker debuts as the Time Lord in Doctor Who she's set to appear as a doctor of a different kind in a drama for BBC One called Trust Me. She talks to Susan Griffin about challenges and 'game-changing' roles
As soon as Peter Capaldi announced he was stepping down as the Time Lord in Doctor Who, all bets were on as to who would replace him.
Death In Paradise's Kris Marshall was a hot favourite for a long time, as was Bond's Ben Whishaw, Chronicles of Narnia's Tilda Swinton and Fleabag's Pheobe Waller-Bridge.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Jodie Whittaker was revealed to be the next, and first female, Doctor, in a short reveal following the men's Wimbledon final.
But before she makes her debut at Christmas, when Capaldi bows out, Whittaker's appearing as a very different kind of doctor in a new drama for BBC One called Trust Me.
In the four-parter, she stars as mum-of-one Cath Hardacre, a caring, hard-working nurse whose life derails when she raises her concerns about the standards slipping in the hospital. Sacked for whistleblowing, she turns to her best friend Dr Ally Sutton who's emigrating to New Zealand.
At a drunken party Cath finds Ally's discarded paperwork and makes the desperate decision to take a second chance at life - by stealing her best friend's identity.
But just how long can she lead a double-life without serious repercussions?
"I think it really fascinated me that we could easily judge her and we could've taken the really moral high ground, like, 'Who does this? She's obviously a b****'. Whereas it's a much more blurred line," explains the 35-year-old actress.
"There is ego; it's morally dubious, but there's also good intention, which makes it complicated. Also, I didn't know where it was going when I read it. I loved that, it's exciting to play."
In preparation, she and writer Dan Sefton, who's worked on the likes of Mr Selfridge and Delicious, were taken on a tour of an Edinburgh hospital.
"I only did medical research that I needed to do. You can't act the medical stuff, you're either holding a scalpel wrong or right," highlights Whittaker, who has a two-year-old child with her husband of nine years, Christian Contreras.
It's the first time Whittaker's heard of imposter doctors.
She doesn't consider herself suitably "clear-headed" to be in the medical profession ("There's a reason why I'm an actress and not a doctor"), but she can relate to the idea of being an imposter.
"You always think you're about to be found out. I don't know anyone that doesn't feel like that," admits the actress who studied at Guildhall School Of Music And Drama before making her professional stage debut in 2005.
The following year she appeared alongside the late Peter O'Toole in the movie Venus.
The industry deems it her breakthrough role and Whittaker herself describes it as "a game-changer".
"Venus absolutely changed everything because you could say I went from straight out of drama school to being in a film."
As for the Dorset-based detective drama Broadchurch, in which she starred as grieving mother Beth Latimer, Whittaker believes it will take time to appreciate just how significant the role has been.
"It's definitely been an amazing thing for my career, but it's difficult to know how much of a game-changer it is.
"I'm not (Star Wars') Daisy Ridley. It's not like I've gone from an absolute brand-new face to the biggest franchise in the world. It's from being on television, or in films, and working and knowing people to then being in a role that has a huge audience."
Whittaker cherishes the people she met during the three-series run - not least Chibnall, the Broadchurch creator who cast her in Doctor Who.
It's an exciting new chapter for them both, but then Whittaker's always keen to challenge herself.
"I've been really lucky because the jobs I've done have been really hard and that's what you want. You want to have to work at it, you don't want it to be second nature."
- Trust Me, BBC One, Tuesday, 9pm