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.”
Meet the cast of Broadchurch 2
Meet the cast of Broadchurch 2
1/12 Broadchurch 2 cast
The Broadchurch 2 cast read through Chris Chibnall's 'brilliant' new script ahead of shooting
2/12 David Tennant
He's been making the US version of Broadchurch (Gracepoint) but Tennant has been confirmed to return for the second series in Dorset. The former Doctor Who star plays DI Alec Hardy in the crime drama - but will his troubling heart problems get the better of him this time around?
3/12 James D'Arcy
James D'Arcy, known for Cloud Atlas and Hitchcock, is another new face for Broadchurch series 2. Executive producer Jane Featherstone has promised he will be a 'thrilling and important' addition
4/12 Olivia Colman
Fresh from her Best Actress win at the 2014 TV Baftas, Colman will be back as DS Ellie Miller for the second series of Broadchurch. Her character has been re-invented by Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn but Colman insists she is not 'really cross' at her stateside replacement. Colman has read the first few scripts of Broadchurch 2 and says they are 'brilliant'
5/12 Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Black British actress Jean-Baptiste, pictured here in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, is a new arrival on Broadchurch. Creator Chris Chibnall said he would have 'wept for months' if she had turned down a role that was specifically written with her in mind. Jean-Baptiste is set to make an 'indelible impact' on the show, apparently
6/12 Charlotte Rampling
Veteran film and TV actress Charlotte Rampling will play a new character in Broadchurch, with details being kept as hushed as possible, bar that her role will be 'integral'. 'There's none more exceptional than Charlotte' said creator Chris Chibnall
7/12 Jodie Whittaker
Whittaker will reprise her role as Beth Latimer, mother to murdered 11-year-old schoolboy Danny and friend of Ellie Miller. She was in attendance at the 2014 TV Baftas to receive the award for Best Drama Series for Broadchurch
8/12 Eve Myles
Torchwood and Frankie star Eve Myles is set for a central role in Broadchurch 2 but once again, details are being kept heavily under wraps
9/12 Arthur Darvill
Arthur Darvill will be back as local vicar and recovering alcoholic Reverend Paul Coates
10/12 Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is known for her work in several acclaimed stage productions and is described as being 'on the way to superstardom' by Broadchurch's Chris Chibnall
11/12 Andrew Buchan
Andrew Buchan will return for Broadchurch series 2 as Danny's father Mark Latimer. Mark was one of the first suspects in the hunt for Danny's killer
12/12 Meera Syal
Meera Syal, who is renowned as a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me, will have a "pivotal" role in series 2
She refuses to give any insights into the new season, saying that one of the strengths of the first series was that no one could read in a magazine what was going to happen the week after. She has the same issue with trailers for films at cinemas: “You’ve shown it to me, now what?”
The 32-year-old 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.”
It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy Christmas dinner at her parents’ house: “I’m quite laid back. I’m happy wherever. As long as everyone is happy, I’m quite transferable. I can hang with anyone. I think my ideal Christmas would be to hang out with my mates.”
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 is no stranger to taking roles at the last minute. She once stepped into an incapacitated Carey Mulligan’s shoes to take on the role of Nina in an acclaimed Royal Court production of The Seagull in 2007 with two hours’ notice. “Me and my book,” she recalls. “I’ve never been so scared in my life, it’s like your worst nightmare, walking on stage and not knowing your lines. I got a phone call at 5pm. Can you do this? I was actually more concerned that I’d not had my tea. I was walking around starving and anxious that I didn’t eat and had to sit in a corset and was thinking, ‘I’m going to have a sugar low in a minute’. When we bowed I thought, ‘I don’t think I’m doing this again!’.”
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 got an email the other day and 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, because you really worked hard and would love it to be on, but you can’t let things like that break you in anyway. I’ve not even seen any of it.”
That 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 then bring up One Day, the disappointing 2011 adaptation of David Nicholls’s bestseller. Like many, I thought one of the main problems with the film was the Hollywood casting of Anne Hathaway in the role of Brit Emma Morley. “Don’t be so provocative,” exclaims Whittaker. “You will not get me in one second of an interview criticising another actress for a phenomenal performance. There is no way I could ever step into the shoes of Anne Hathaway, much as I would love to.”
The one area that Whittaker immediately says is off-limits is the death of her nephew, three-year-old Emmerdale actor Harry Whittaker, who had Down’s Syndrome. She adds, “The worst thing about being in the public eye is that journalists write things that you can’t control.”
Whittaker has just completed filming How To Live Yours, the debut from film editor Rachel Tunnard. It is a feature length version of the short Emotional Fusebox, which been nominated for a British Independent Film Award and is a comedy drama about someone who has recently lost her twin. The actress served as executive producer on the project. “I’d be a terrible writer as I can’t take the solitude and directors have to work too hard outside hours. When they wrap, they don’t really wrap. I think producing is more natural to my shout-ey, scream-ey, disposition.”
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 point 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 yearReuse content