Doctor Who star Freema Agyeman has praised the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the series’ lead, arguing that diverse representation needs to become intrinsic.
Agyeman, who has previously played the Doctor’s companion Martha Jones, argued that diversifying casting in television and theatre should be structural rather than “something extra to sprinkle on top”.
She was speaking ahead of the opening of Apologia, at London’s Trafalgar Studios, in which she stars alongside Stockard Channing .
She told The Stage: “I know the entertainment industry is there to do different things, it’s there to entertain, it’s there to educate, but when people are saying it’s changing their lives because they are getting something they can connect with on screen, for the Doctor to be a female, there are all these young girls who are going to sit there, and whether they want to get into the industry or not, it just empowers them in some other way.”
She added: “For these girls to actually get to sit there and identify – in what world is that wrong?
“It’s fairness. We are looking for equality, and I know people start getting uppity about the word diversity – because that does make it sound like it’s something extra to put on top – ‘here’s something extra to sprinkle on top of the main course’. It needs to be intrinsic and, hopefully, in 50 years time we won’t be having this conversation.”
Her comments were echoed by Downton Abbey actor Laura Carmichael, who also appears in Apologia.
She said: “[Jodie’s] brilliant, I’m so delighted for her, she’s a really lovely person, and a superb actress, and we’re all cheering.”
Agyeman added: “We hope that Jodie is being paid exactly what the past Doctors have been paid.”
Both actors also called for more diversity in offstage and offscreen roles.
Agyeman said: “If the people writing the stories, directing the stories, producing the stories don’t actually have any kind of insight into telling that person’s story, if they’re from a completely different background, then the representation of that person may not be wholly genuine.
“Whereas if you have people from all walks of being able to be part of the story creation process then it’s not just about representation, it’s about portrayal.”
Carmichael added: “Entertainment is not flippant. It’s something that is part of our culture and who we are and therefore it needs to represent the landscape we live in and anything other than that is not only disappointing, it’s outrageous. We all need to be stamping our feet about that.”