The actress on Sunday was announced as the 13th Doctor for BBC's Doctor Who. Whittaker will take over the role from the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, who will exit after this year's Christmas special.
Whittaker becomes the franchise's first woman to take on the Doctor, a fact that hopes is accepted by diehard Whovians and new franchise viewers alike.
"I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one," Whittaker told BBC in an interview that accompanied Sunday's announcement. "To be asked to play the ultimate character, to get to play pretend in the truest form: this is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. To be able to play someone who is literally reinvented on screen, with all the freedoms that brings: what an unbelievable opportunity. And added to that, to be the first woman in that role."
The actress will reunite with Broadchurch executive producer Chris Chibnall on Doctor Who, as the latter takes over for current showrunner Steven Moffat. It was Chibnall's idea to bring the franchise its first female Doctor.
"We had a strange chat earlier this year where [Chibnall] tricked me into thinking we were talking about Broadchurch. And I started to quiz him about his new job in Wales, and asked him if I could be a baddie! And he quickly diverted the conversation to suggest I should consider auditioning to be the 13th [Doctor]," she said. "It was the most incredible chat because I asked every question under the sun, and I said I’d take a few weeks to decide whether I was going to audition. He got a phone call within 24 hours. He would’ve got a phone call sooner, but my husband was away and there was a time difference!"
Whittaker's casting comes three months after Pearl Mackie made history after she was tapped to play the first openly gay companion to the space-hopping series.
"It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible."
Whittaker was announced as the next Doctor following a competitive casting process that saw names including Fleabag creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Death in Paradise actor Kris Marshall and Tilda Swinton, among others, discussed by fans and bookies alike.
The actress, who had to keep the casting a secret for months, said she's hoping to hear from previous stars of the franchise including friends Matt Smith, Chris Eccleston and David Tennant as well as David Bradley.
"I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey — with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet," she said. "It’s more than an honor to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait."