Broadchurch star Jodie Whittaker on the good vibes set to follow the darkness of the ITV drama

She entranced millions in ITV's cult crime drama, but she still loves the buzz of making indie movies. Holly Williams meets her

“I've got one of them faces,” says Jodie Whittaker, talking – as she does constantly – at great speed, in an accent that broadcasts her Yorkshire roots, even if she's lived in London since starting drama school. “I'm the lass in the tracksuit eating a Pot Noodle, playing my iPhone on the back of the bus – and you believe that – but equally you put me in mascara and a nice dress and I doll up quite well. I'm not a self-conscious person; I think it's f**king great!”

It's an accurate summary of her range. Whittaker burst rudely onto the young-Brits-to-watch lists in 2006 with a gobby, gutsy performance as a troubled teen who befriends an older man in Venus – five weeks after graduating from the Guildhall, there she was, acting her trackie bottoms off (sometimes literally) opposite acting legends like Peter O'Toole and Richard Griffiths. A career was launched, and it has taken in TV, theatre and film, from the daffiest (St Trinians) to the most highbrow (Antigone at the National). The 31-year-old most recently lit up TV screens in Broadchurch, ITV's hugely successful crime drama.

Meeting in a cafe in Muswell Hill in North London, where she lives, Whittaker proves she certainly does doll up alright. She can switch on a sudden poise for the camera; striking, given that the rest of the time her energy is – as she herself confesses – “kind of manic”.

This was something she had to grapple with while filming Good Vibrations, the biopic of Terri Hooley – a punk pioneer in troubled Seventies Belfast – the DVD of which Whittaker is promoting. She plays Ruth, the long-suffering wife of the ever-optimistic but shambolic Hooley (a cracking performance from Richard Dormer). “I loved how gentle she was,” says Whittaker. “She's a really calm character, and she loves him, and he is a flawed guy. It was a very different energy. I laid off coffee, because I had to have that side – which I think all my friends and family wish I [really had] – less hyper!”

Whittaker's own enthusiasm seems boundless, and she's full of fervour for Good Vibrations. “It's an indie film, which I'm incredibly passionate about. The sweat and blood that goes into making British independents: that's what I love.” The debut script of Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson, it was made with full endorsement from Hooley. A lot came from his charismatic stories: running fledgling punk nights, setting up a record shop on the most violent street in Belfast, breaking The Undertones by introducing John Peel to “Teenage Kicks”, not taking money for it… “People love an anti-hero, and someone who isn't motivated by money, a guy who's always falling on his arse but keeps getting up,” says Whittaker, blithely. Hooley visited the set, and Whittaker met Ruth; their daughter, Anna, even appears in the film, playing a nurse in the scene where – weirdly – Whittaker is giving birth to her.

Whittaker has been getting motherly lately; in Broadchurch, she played the grieving mum of a murdered little boy. Another series is in the pipeline and Whittaker flies to LA after our interview to promote the show for BBC America. What does she think was the secret of its success in the UK?

Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch

She points to the quality of the characterisation: “As a woman, I felt incredibly proud of being part of something like that: every female character in it was so layered, and no one was a stereotype. And David [Tennant] and Olivia [Colman] played police detectives that people haven't seen before: she's incredibly emotional and vulnerable… there's not many shows where you see the police officer crying as much as the family.”

Whittaker certainly did plenty of sobbing. She researched cases of child murder, but insists the writing did the real work – plus a bit of gut reaction. “If someone says, 'you've lost your kid', it needs no explanation. I can't deal with that. In a way it's not hard [to act], because it's f**king devastating,” she begins, before quickly acknowledging “we got to go home, and it isn't real. I never wanted to take the piss or be blasé, but I also never wanted to appear like, 'I know how it feels, I've gone through this' – I f**king haven't. We had a responsibility to portray the family without vanity.” Whittaker's performance was moving precisely for that reason: there was no tragic beauty to it – it was raw, ugly and believable.

Although Whittaker hails from a West Yorkshire village, she doesn't think of herself as a northerner anymore: “I loved where I grew up, I'm obviously not ashamed of it or else I'd have lost my accent, but I had wanted to live in London for as long as I can remember – where you could wear bright red shiny Doc Martens and no-one would give a shit… London is a melting pot, and Yorkshire isn't.”

Home is moveable for Whittaker however; she loves travel and would happily go where the work is. Married to an American – Christian Contreras, who was the year below her at drama school – also means the whole Briton-goes-to-Hollywood thing is not particularly daunting. “America doesn't hold a great mystery to me; it's a place we go at Christmas.” Her Broadchurch trip to LA means a sneaky break from filming her next project, The Smoke, an eight-part Sky drama about London fire-fighters, penned by hot young writer Lucy Kirkwood; her play Chimerica is about to transfer to the West End. Whittaker describes The Smoke as “extraordinary” – one of her favourite words, she sprinkles it generously over any discussion of co-workers, from the starriest lead to the focus-puller.

Peter O'Toole and Jodie Whittaker in 'Venus' Peter O'Toole and Jodie Whittaker in 'Venus'

She also recently finished shooting black comedy Hello Carter, a “really low budget indie” expanded from a short. Whittaker does a lot of shorts – part tactically, part because she believes in supporting emerging talent. She's on a sub-committee for the British Independent Film Awards too.

When it comes to how and what kind of films get financed, Whittaker's breezy gabbling gets more rattled: “It's really difficult to get finance, it's really difficult to be taken seriously. But unfortunately you need money to make a film. Sometimes, the people in the position to say 'yes' or 'no' are not coming from an artistic point of view, they're coming from a financial one.” When I mention the Tories' approach to arts funding, she bleats, “don't even get me started on it!” before taking a breath, smiling, and getting back to the positive.

“There are people who say, 'yeah, lets go for it'.” Which, really, could be her motto.

'Good Vibrations' is out now on Blu-ray and DVD

*This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of The Independent's Radar magazine

 

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?