Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker reveals the secrets and surprises she discovers in Who Do You Think You Are?
Jodie Whittaker is used to travelling through time as the Time Lord in Doctor Who, but now she is delving into her own history as she explores her family tree for Who Do You Think You Are?
The opening episode of the new four-part series sees Jodie Whittaker uncover a tragic story from World War One and a controversy involving coal mine owners in her ancestry.
Here, Jodie Whittaker tells us more about her discoveries on Who Do You Think You Are?
What did your family know about their past, Jodie?
Jodie Whittaker: “In our family it’s not like it goes blurry after 300 years, it goes blurry after my mum and dad! We could have been told anything and we’d have been shocked.”
You discovered that your paternal great-uncle, Walter Clements, was a hospital orderly in the UK treating wounded troops. He then volunteered to fight in France before being injured twice and finally dying, aged just 24, in 1918. Was that tough to find out?
JW: “That was emotional, because it wasn’t generations ago. It was my dad’s uncle, so it’s not a dusty history book away. He was a young boy but seeing the man he became in such a short life blew my mind. It was heartbreaking.”
How would your grandmother Greta, Walter’s half-sister, have felt about what you learnt?
JW: “There was a big surprise I found out about her name too and what feels saddest is that I can’t share the information with her. If she’d known the details, it would’ve been extraordinary. I adored Greta. She’s where I get my theatrics from because she lived a colourful life.”
On your mum Yvonne’s side, you were inspired by a photo of your great-grandfather Edwin Auckland and his brothers, who owned a Yorkshire coal mine that they controversially kept open during industrial strikes in the 1920s. Were you surprised?
JW: “We had that picture on the wall and I knew it potentially was a point of my family history that I wouldn’t agree with. I’m an 80s baby so I was part of the fallout when mines shut all around us. But I was surprised about the details. It was fascinating, I’ve always known I was from a mining family and that miners have tough lives but I discovered what life’s like for a village built on pits.”
Were you prepared for what an emotional rollercoaster the show would be?
JW: “I was knocked sideways and swore a lot! We’re a chatty family with big personalities and I felt that needed to come from somewhere. It wasn’t comfortable or easy on the ear for me but that was better than boring!”
Who Do You Think You Are? returns on Monday 12th October at 9pm on BBC1