11 Fun Facts About Jodie Whittaker

Joe Scarnici, Getty Images for BBC America
Joe Scarnici, Getty Images for BBC America

Though she long dreamed of being an actor, celebrity life has never held much appeal for Jodie Whittaker. She didn't set out to make history either, but she’s about to do that, too: This weekend, the 36-year-old actress will make her official debut as Doctor Who’s Thirteenth Doctor, and the first woman to ever permanently commandeer the TARDIS in the iconic sci-fi series’ 55-year history. Here are 11 things you might not have known about Jodie Whittaker.

1. IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG FOR HER TO LAND SOME PLUM ROLES.

Unlike so many actors who spend years waiting to get their big break, Whittaker found success pretty quickly after graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2005. That same year, she made her professional debut at Shakespeare’s Globe in a production of The Storm, in which she shared the stage with Mark Rylance. Shortly after, she landed a role opposite Peter O’Toole in Roger Michell’s critically acclaimed Venus, which premiered at the 2006 Telluride Film Festival. Whittaker received a positive reviews across the board for her performance, which earned her nominations from the British Independent Film Awards and the London Critics Circle.

“I'll never be able to quantify how important Venus was for me or my career,” Whittaker told The Guardian in 2011. “I ticked a huge box.”

2. PETER O’TOOLE WAS AN EARLY FAN.

Jodie Whittaker and Peter O'Toole in 'Venus' (2006)
Miramax

Peter O’Toole reportedly cited Whittaker as one of the two best young actresses he had ever worked with. (The other was Rose Byrne.)

3. SHE NEVER WANTED TO BE FAMOUS.

Though she long dreamed of making a living as an actor, being famous has never been on Whittaker’s to do list. “People never recognize me in the street and that’s brilliant—I love it,” Whittaker once said. “A chameleon face is good—because you don’t want to be going everywhere and have people thinking they know you. I’ve been around people who that has happened to, and sometimes it makes me angry on their behalf.” Like it or not, Whittaker’s surely about to lose a bit of that anonymity.

4. SHE STEPPED IN FOR CAREY MULLIGAN IN THE SEAGULL WITH THREE HOURS’ NOTICE.

In 2007, producers of the Royal Court’s production of Chekhov’s The Seagull found themselves in a bit of a pickle when the show’s star, Carey Mulligan, had appendicitis. They needed a great actress and needed one quickly, so they called Whittaker—who had auditioned for the part of Nina, but lost out to Mulligan—to take over. She had a full three hours between that phone call and her first performance.

“Carey powered back to health after a few days—she was an absolute warrior,” Whittaker later told the Daily Mail. “And when I saw her on stage again, I realized why I hadn’t got the job in the first place. There are a lot of good girls out there."

5. SHE CONSIDERS HERSELF A “QUIET PERSON’S NIGHTMARE."

Jodie Whittaker stars in 'Doctor Who'
Sophie Mutevelian, BBC

While many actors are happy to rattle off any number of professions they would have possibly attempted had they not gone into show business, Whittaker doesn’t see herself as a 9 to 5 type. “I’m a quiet person’s nightmare,” she said. “The only time I shut up is when I’m reading, because I’m a book geek. I was the attention-seeking child in class who needed everyone to look at meee … Luckily that got channeled into acting, because I would have been terrible at anything else. I would have been a nightmare in any kind of office, because I wouldn’t have had any friends in any environment other than performing.”

6. SHE LIKES THE UNPREDICTABILITY THAT COMES WITH ACTING.

While some people can only be comfortable with stability, Whittaker loves the unpredictable nature of being an actor. “I’ve got a very manic energy,” she once explained about why living in London was a good match for her personality. “And I’ve always panicked about taking an acting job that would be really long, because the motivation for me is that I don’t know from day to day what I’ll be doing. I don’t want to know that in five years’ time I’ll be at such-and-such a level. I like the unpredictability of it all.”

7. WHITTAKER WAS CHRIS CHIBNALL’S FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR.

Whittaker isn’t the only newcomer to the new season of Doctor Who: Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall, who has worked with Whittaker for years and has written for the sci-fi series in the past, was tapped as the show’s new showrunner. And the Thirteenth Doctor will be surrounded by a whole new cast of companions.

While it’s always a big deal when the Doctor regenerates on Doctor Who, Chibnall made it clear that he wanted the next Doctor to be a woman. And Whittaker quickly rose to the very top of his list of the very few actors who could pull the role off.

"I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth Doctor to be a woman, and we’re thrilled to have secured our number choice," Chibnall said. "Jodie is a force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength, and warmth to the role."

8. HAD CHIBNALL NOT BEEN RUNNING THE SHOW, WHITTAKER DOESN’T THINK SHE’D BE AN OBVIOUS CHOICE TO PLAY THE DOCTOR.

Jodie Whittaker stars in 'Doctor Who'
Steve Schofield, BBC Worldwide

Because so much of her past work has been dramatic in nature, Whittaker’s pretty sure that it was only because Chibnall knew her offscreen personality that she was even considered for the part.

“If Chris had only known my work, I don't think he would've necessarily thought of me as right for the role, because a lot of my work has been emotional or heavily traumatized, with a quite heavy energy,” Whittaker told TV Guide. “But in real life, I'm quite hyperactive and manic. So I think he saw qualities in me that lent themselves to the role. I was lucky that he knew me personally, and knew that I was a team player and I really enjoyed being part of an ensemble, and I really love filming and being on set. You need someone who enjoys the job, because it's long hours.”

9. CASTING A WOMAN AS THE DOCTOR HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING.

Although Whittaker’s casting as the first woman to play the Doctor made headlines around the world, Doctor Who producers have been toying with the idea of having an actress lead the ensemble going back nearly 40 years.

When Fourth Doctor Tom Baker departed the series in 1981, he famously wished "good luck to the new Doctor, whoever he or she may be," fueling speculation as to whether the next Doctor would be a man. (It was.) When Tenth Doctor David Tennant left the series 10 years ago, then-showrunner Russell T. Davies was gunning for Catherine Zeta Jones to become the Eleventh Doctor.

10. SHE HAD TO TELL A LOT OF LIES WHILE NEGOTIATING HER DOCTOR WHO ROLE.

Because of all the secrecy surrounding her casting, Whittaker gave The Doctor a codename: The Clooney. “In my home, and with my agent, it was The Clooney,” she said. "Because to me and my husband, George is an iconic guy. And we thought: what’s a really famous iconic name? It was just fitting.” (Yes, her husband was one of the few people she was allowed to tell.)

11. SHE STAYS FAR, FAR AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA.

Jodie Whittaker appears on 'The Graham Norton Show'
Matt Crossick, BBC

Given Doctor Who’s immense popularity, and the number of fans who like to make their thoughts about the series public via social media, it’s probably a good thing that Whittaker has never been into the whole Twitter thing. For her, it’s an important part of staying grounded as an actor.

“One of the main things that's been very healthy for me throughout my life and my career is having never entered social media,” she told TV Guide. “I didn't get a Facebook page, I never got Twitter, I never went on Instagram. It's a wonderful tool for so many reasons. But for me personally, it was never a direction I wanted to go in, because it lets in things that don't necessarily need to be a part of your day. I am very proactive of making sure I know the news and what's happening. So to then kind of dilute that with opinions, whether good or bad, of people who've never met me isn't necessarily helpful for my type of personality.”

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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8 Facts About David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'

Express/Express/Getty Images
Express/Express/Getty Images

On July 20, 1969, astronauts walked on the Moon for the first time. Just a few weeks earlier, another space-age event had rocked the world: David Bowie’s single “Space Oddity” hit airwaves. The song, whose lyrics tell the story of an astronaut’s doomed journey into space, helped propel the artist to icon status, and five decades later, it’s still one of his most popular works. 

1. "Space Oddity" was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Many listeners assumed that "Space Oddity" was riffing on the Apollo 11 Moon landing of 1969, but it was actually inspired by a Stanley Kubrick film released a year earlier. Bowie watched 2001: A Space Odyssey multiple times when it premiered in theaters in 1968. “It was the sense of isolation I related to,” Bowie told Classic Rock in 2012. “I found the whole thing amazing. I was out of my gourd, very stoned when I went to see it—several times—and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing.”

2. "Space Oddity" was also inspired by heartbreak.

The track was also partly inspired by the more universal experience of heartbreak. Bowie wrote the song after ending his relationship with actress Hermione Farthingale. The break inspired several songs, including “Letter to Hermione” and “Life on Mars,” and in “Space Oddity,” Bowie’s post-breakup loneliness and melancholy is especially apparent.

3. "Space Oddity" helped him sign a record deal.

In 1969, a few years into David Bowie’s career, the musician recorded a demo tape with plans to use it to land a deal with Mercury Records. That tape featured an early iteration of “Space Oddity,” and based on the demo, Mercury signed him for a one-album deal. But the song failed to win over one producer. Tony Visconti, who produced Bowie’s self-titled 1969 album, thought the song was a cheap attempt to cash in on the Apollo 11 mission, and he tapped someone else to produce that particular single.

4. The BBC played "Space Oddity" during the Moon landing.

"Space Oddity" was released on July 11, 1969—just five days before NASA launched Apollo 11. The song doesn’t exactly sound like promotional material for the mission. It ends on a somber note, with Major Tom "floating in a tin can" through space. But the timing and general subject matter were too perfect for the BBC to resist. The network played the track over footage of the Moon landing. Bowie later remarked upon the situation, saying, "Obviously, some BBC official said, 'Oh, right then, that space song, Major Tom, blah blah blah, that’ll be great. 'Um, but he gets stranded in space, sir.' Nobody had the heart to tell the producer that."

5. David Bowie recorded an Italian version of "Space Oddity."

The same year "Space Oddity" was released, a different version David Bowie recorded with Italian lyrics was played by radio stations in Italy. Instead of directly translating the English words, the Italian songwriter Mogul was hired to write new lyrics practically from scratch. "Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola" ("Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl") is a straightforward love song, and Major Tom is never mentioned.

6. Major Tom appeared in future songs.

Major Tom, the fictional astronaut at the center of "Space Oddity," is one of the most iconic characters invented for a pop song. It took a decade for him to resurface in David Bowie’s discography. In his 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes," the artists presents a different version of the character, singing: "We know Major Tom's a junkie/Strung out in heaven's high/Hitting an all-time low." Bowie also references Major Tom in "Hallo Spaceboy" from the 1995 album Outside.

7. "Space Oddity" is featured in Chris Hadfield's ISS music video.

When choosing a song for the first music filmed in space, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield naturally went with David Bowie’s out-of-this-world anthem. The video above was recorded on the International Space Station in 2013, with Hadfield playing guitar and singing from space and other performers providing musical accompaniment from Earth. Some lyrics were tweaked for the cover. Hadfield mentions the "Soyuz hatch" of the capsule that would eventually shuttle him to Earth.

8. "Space Oddity" played on the Tesla that Elon Musk sent to space.

Dummy in Tesla roadster in space with Earth in background.
SpaceX via Getty Images

In 2018, Elon Musk used SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket to launch his Tesla Roadster into space. The car was decked out with pop culture Easter eggs—according to Musk, "Space Oddity" was playing over the car’s radio system during the historic journey. The dummy’s name, Starman, is the name of another space-themed song on Bowie's 1972 masterpiece The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.