Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker teases 'high energy, high comedy' New Year's Day special 'Eve of the Daleks'
In the New Year's Day special episode of Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker's two-hearted alien and her friends (played by Mandip Gill and comedian-actor John Bishop) face off against the dreaded Daleks while trapped in a Groundhog Day-style time loop.
"For the Doctor, this is the ultimate of horror stories, getting stuck in a time loop with them where the outcome could be extermination permanently," says Whittaker, who will leave the show after two more special episodes. "It's a high energy, high comedy farce. It pulls in all the brilliant things that you want over the festive period from television. It's got adventure, it's got jeopardy, it's got conflict, it's got drama, but at the heart of it it is great fun. I think that's why it works so well as a standalone festive episode."
The special is also screening on a certain Entertainment Weekly writer's birthday, so thanks for that.
"No way! A New Year's Day birthday!" says the actress. "That is brilliant!
It's actually the worst birthday to have.
"Because everyone's hungover!" Whittaker says with a laugh. "No one wants to hang out. You get a joint birthday [and Christmas] present. You won't be getting two presents off me! Mandip's is early Jan. and I am always like, 'Argh! It's Mandip's birthday!' I've always forgotten."
Whittaker talks more about the "Eve of the Daleks" special episode, its guest stars, and the pros and cons of working with multiple comedians, below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The most recent season of Doctor Who comprised one long story with a lot of plot strands. What did it feel like to come back and shoot a self-contained, one-episode adventure?
JODIE WHITTAKER: It felt wonderful because for us guys, the people on set essentially, it was a core group of five, fighting the Daleks. Having spent the season being away from Mandip and away from John for various elements of it, or them having interactions with actors I didn't even get to meet, it was just really wonderful to suddenly be in this incredibly high energy [episode]. I loved the Groundhog Day theme. I think it's a really brilliant premise to use in any kind of narrative. Russian Doll was absolutely brilliant. Obviously, Groundhog Day [too].
There was a recent film called Happy Death Day, a horror movie, which is great.
Happy Death Day, yeah. I think it's in the trailer, but there is what feels like a very early demise of the Doctor. [Laughs]. But thank goodness it's a time loop! When I first read it I was bit like, wow, I'm being kicked out a bit early, I thought I'd got another two specials! Nobody talked about ending my contract when I was 10 minutes into an episode! It's a bizarre thing to shoot, repeating the same thing, I've never done it before in that way. To be slightly different but the same, and to work out what you've shot, what you haven't shot, and you need it to feel like it's moving forward, because if you're stilted the audience will feel that as well.
Tell us about the episode's guest stars.
So, Adjani Salmon and Aisling Bea. Aisling is in the new Home Alone and for us she's a huge comedy [star], she writes and creates her own show (This Way Up). It was really exciting for us for Aisling to want to be in it. I'd never met Adjani before, but was familiar with his work because he's created something (Dreaming Whilst Black) for the BBC as well. We were all introduced essentially on Zoom, that is the new way of doing a read-through. It can either work perfectly on a Zoom meeting, because everyone's committed or it's just really hard to follow. [Laughs] But with both of their energies, which are completely different, I missed my lines so many times because I was absolutely wetting myself. I knew from that Zoom meeting we were going to have such a wonderful time.
[The main cast] all know each other. We've been on set with Daleks before. The guy sat in [the Dalek] is like, "Hi, mate, you alright?" That 's totally normal for us. But [Salmon and Bea] just came in and brought everything and more and it really elevated it. Adjani and Aisling, the chemistry between them was brilliant. And so, me and Mandip, we were on set with three comedians for an entire episode of running around and having what felt like the most fun and most kind of chaos that we'd had in a while. Every time there was a gap between scenes, me and Mandip, it was like we were at a free gig, listening to these three people being absolutely hilarious.
So that doesn't wear off by, say, day three?
Absolutely not! Now with us guys! There literally isn't one shy or quiet cast member in that group. For the crew it will have been a nightmare. I heard, "Stand on your mark!!!" [from a crew member] and I'd be like, "Ooh, that was a bit aggressive." They're like, "I've been asking you for about 15 minutes." "Oh, I didn't hear you, I was monologuing." [Laughs]
"Eve of the Daleks" also stars Pauline McLynn and premieres on BBC America on New Year's Day. Watch the episode's trailer below.
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