Jodie Whittaker, actress

 21 June 2011

Actress Jodie Whittaker has worked with Peter O'Toole, Viggo Mortensen and Cillian Murphy. Graduating the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, she has worked in cinema, theatre and television.

Jodie studied acting at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Jodie studied acting at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Choosing an acting career

Jodie loved acting classes at school. Acting can be great fun. Classes aren’t about sitting and learning; they’re active, they’re about getting up and trying things. School is where many people fall in love with acting.

“I never ever wanted to do anything else. I was lucky because my parents supported that decision. It was a class at school that I really enjoyed and had really good teachers.

"There was just one class that I was the top of, and that was drama. I was incredibly passionate about it.”

But it was after she left school that she decided that she would really go for acting.

“I knew I wanted to live a bit. I took a few years out and then wanted to go to drama school. And I think that’s when I knew I wanted to be an actor.

"I think until I got to drama school I didn’t really understand what acting was or what it required of you, and how hard and exciting it can be.”

Starting as a professional actor

For Jodie, the breakthrough moment came at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama during her third year. A casting director saw her Shakespeare scene during a showcase.

“I did a kind of comedy Northern Shakespeare scene. It’s fate that I chose to do that and not an RP [received pronunciation] straight piece, because they needed a Northern kind of… bumpkin! I went to Shakespeare's Globe and I had an audition the next morning.”

"Actors choose a career where we may never be given the opportunity to do our thing. That’s scary, because it’s a life choice."

The next day, she was in the middle of rehearsals at Guildhall. The last show in the third year is always a musical. Rather than concentrating on the choreography, Jodie’s mind was elsewhere.

“I had my mobile on! I wasn’t supposed to have it on, it was on vibrate in my pocket.” She slipped out of rehearsals when it went off.

“I was like ‘oh my god, I’ve got a job!’ and I had to go in and tell the director that I was leaving! And he literally said 'well, you might as well go then!' in a lovely way! So I got up that morning to go to rehearsal, and left a professional actor. Which is an amazing thing!”

Getting cast in a film

"The job at The Globe was such an amazing time, it was brilliant. Even now, if I look back, I have to say that was one of my top five jobs I’ve ever done.”

While Jodie was working on stage at The Globe, auditions began for the film Venus. She went through a gruelling series of four auditions before a decision was made to cast her. The film was a success and Jodie was nominated for three awards.

Though her talent played a huge part in getting Jodie to where she needed to be to make the most of these opportunities, she emphasises the role luck played.

“Because, you know, Venus could have been cast three years before I went to drama school, or been a film that never got made. The chances of it being at that time were in the gods’ rather than my control. So, I was really lucky.”

Skills and training for acting

"In no other profession would someone like me, with no experience, be given that opportunity."

There are plenty of famous successes who never trained. And the expense of training can be very daunting. If you have the talent and drive, why spend three years and such a lot of money?

Different people have their own paths to success. What training can give you is a launch pad. Especially for someone from outside London with no previous contacts in the profession. There’s a strong focus in most drama school courses on getting noticed and getting an agent. Just remember it’s not the only option.

“Drama school isn’t for everyone. It’s different for different people.

"Sixty-five hours a week: that’s a lot of hours. You’ve got to want to go there! It’s not the only route. I enjoyed it, I loved Guildhall. But I know enough successful actors, friends who didn’t take that route at all.”

The appeal of a career in acting

“There’s no rhyme or reason to your journey in acting. It’s unusual. In medicine, say I’m a student doctor, they’re not going to go, ‘right, we need someone in surgery - you’ll do!’ You have to work to get there. In no other profession would someone like me, with no experience, be given the opportunity of Venus.”

For Jodie, that’s the real draw of acting. What some people find scary, she thrives on. There is no career structure, no sure thing, no right way or wrong way. That’s not for everyone. But it’s definitely for Jodie. As far as she’s concerned, the only things worth doing are the ones that scare us.

“I love the self-employment sense of it. I’d love to work every day. That’s why I totally understand why people go into a career where every day, they get to do their thing.

"We choose a career where we may never be given the opportunity to do it once. That’s scary, because it’s a life choice. But I quite like that fear!”

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