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Jodie: I can't sit and watch my own performances

By Kaleen Aftab

She's starred in TV hits Broadchurch and The Smoke as well as hit movie Good Vibrations, but Jodie Whittaker admits she is wary of seeing herself on the screen.

They should put out a tornado alert before a chat with Jodie Whittaker. The speed with which she spits out her Yorkshire accented words makes Usain Bolt look like a tortoise. The personality is also big - a wonderful mix of boisterous and savvy, and most of all down to earth. It's clear she appreciates her own good fortune.

Take her appearance as Beth Latimer, the mother of a murdered child in the hit television show Broadchurch, which returns early next year for a second series. It's the toughest role of her career, four months on set in which she plays a mother coping with grief, a rebellious teenage daughter and a strained marriage.

"We (actors) have it easy a lot of the time," she says. "We get to go through all these jolly bits so it's good when we 've got to work hard."

Yet even as she discusses the difficulty of the role, it's with appreciation that she's doing a job she loves. "It was brilliantly difficult. A part like that, where you know, unfortunately, thank God it's a small percentage of people, but there are people who have (gone through), and do have to go through, something as horrific as that, so you commit to it and throw yourself in, but you know that you are the one who at the end of the day can have a glass of wine and put it to one side."

The 32-year-old - who enjoyed a starring role as the wife of Belfast punk godfather Terri Hooley in recent hit film Good Vibrations - can be seen in two films at cinemas over Christmas. The seasonal one is the kids' caper Get Santa, in which she plays the mother of a boy (Kit Connor), who with his estranged father (Rafe Spall), has to spring Santa (Jim Broadbent) from prison. It was a part she jumped at: "I don't think I've seen - I know there are some - another recent British Christmas film like it".

She won't be spending Christmas in Huddersfield: "I'm doing the thing of being a wife where you spend one year with your family and one year with their family." She's married to the American actor Christian Contreras, who was in the year below her at Guildhall drama school.

"I lucked out with his family, because he lives in Tucson, Arizona, they live in the sunshine. So that's where I'll be, while my family will be freezing, probably in the rain, in the north of England."

The other film hitting the screen sees her play a cameo as the only female in Kevin Macdonald's pirate treasure-hunt drama Black Sea. She plays the wife of Jude Law, in flashback scenes on a beach. "That was brilliant, I got a call four days before. The film was in pre-shoots and it wasn't in the script, so it was all improvisation. It was shot in Cornwall on the three hottest days of year. At the time I was filming The Smoke, a gritty TV series for Sky and I got to hang out with Cornwall and work with Jude Law for the first time."

She has been in demand ever since her brilliant film debut as feisty Huddersfield lass Jessie in Roger Michell's 2006 tale Venus. There have been relatively few career knockbacks. One of them was her attempt to break into American television earlier this year in the ABC spy drama The Assets, based on a book by retired CIA officers Sandra Grimes (whom she played) and Jeanne Vertefeuille. The show was cancelled after just two episodes.

"I think they're going to put all eight episodes on Netflix. America, it's a very different thing over there, if the ratings aren't good they'll cancel the show, whereas over here, they'll air the whole series anyway. But we all know that about American shows, it happens all the time."

She's sanguine about the experience. "It sounds awful, and it doesn't mean you don't care, but you can't let things like that break you in any way. I've not even seen any of it."

Her last comment seems extraordinary, but it turns out that it's partly because she doesn't want to seem like a highly-strung actor, even with show producers. She doesn't ask for DVDs. "I'm not really the type of person that can sit and watch my own performances. If I called and said, 'Can you send me all the things that I've been in?', it's like, 'No'. Even with The Smoke and Broadchurch, I'll watch it when it's on, I'm not going to ask for DVDs. It depends on who you are, some actors are really comfortable with it, but it can knock your confidence massively, you can think you're brilliant one moment and then you're picking your heart off the floor in other moments."

I wonder if her gregarious personality ever leads to clashes on set, "I think I'm quite Marmite, I've always probably been quite Marmite. I don't think you're on your own being an actor described like that. Being on set is often like being back at school where you're in the classroom and you have a melting pot of different people, different ways, I'm sure I rub people up the wrong way."

  • Get Santa and Black Sea are on general release. Broadchurch season two airs next year. Good Vibrations is available now on DVD

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