Jodie Whittaker Talks Good Vibrations
The Yorkshire actress feels the fear in Good Vibrations and stands up for Anne Hathaway's accent
Jodie Whittaker. The name rings a bell but you can't think why. Take a look at her photograph though and she's instantly recognisable.
As one of the UK's most prolific young actresses, Whittaker is omnipresent, a familiar face on the big screen and small. She may not have the profile of Carey Mulligan or command the same column inches as Emma Watson, but that's probably because she's too busy working to be papped at premieres or showbiz parties.
The 29-year-old Yorkshire lass has an impressive resume. She first came to prominence in the 2006 Oscar-nominated comedy/drama Venus, starring opposite Peter O'Toole.
Numerous television roles followed – Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Cranford and in the last year alone, Jimmy McGovern's anthology series The Accused, supernatural drama Marchlands and war-time romance The Night Watch. Her film credits include St Trinians, Perrier's Bounty, Attack The Block and current box office smash, One Day.
So it was something of a coup for the production team behind Belfast movie
Good Vibrations to secure Whittaker's services for the female lead. Good Vibrations, written by Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry, tells the story of Godfather of Punk Terri Hooley and his one-man mission to reclaim his city through music. Whittaker plays Ruth, Terri's first wife.
Sitting in her trailer on the Belfast set, knees huddled up to her chin, the elfin-featured actress explains why she was keen to do this role. 'I still love being part of indie cinema and I've been lucky that casting directors have given me the chance to do so many different things,' she says.
'When I read this script, it was like nothing I'd ever done before. And when I heard Richard Dormer would be playing opposite me, that clinched it. He has such an amazing reputation as an actor and every scene I do is with him. For me, it's a real honour to be working alongside him.
'And finally, I like to feel the fear. I've never done the Belfast accent before and I am finding it pretty difficult, but I have a wonderful dialect coach. Mind you, the directors seem happy enough with me so far, so, you know, that's good.'
Dressed in a brown striped jumper and jeans, with her long hair pulled up tightly into an unflattering hair net, the fresh-faced Whittaker looks younger than her 29 years.
'Oh God, it's the big 3-0 next,' she groans. 'I did this movie called Swansong: The Story of Occi Byrne with Belfast actor Marty McCann and I had to play his mum. He's only a few years younger than me, but I was playing 30 and he was a kid. It was believable though, Marty can get away with it, he's got such a baby face.'
In Good Vibrations, Whittaker's part as the former Mrs Hooley is, she says, 'self-explanatory'. 'I only met Ruth for the first time yesterday,' she says. 'The thing is, I'm not doing an impersonation of her. It's a story about Terri and his life and Terri is the well known character, so, of course, it's important to get him right.
'This is my interpretation of Ruth, her softness and her strength. There are no similar hand gestures or anything like that, I'm playing her my way.
'Like I say, it's about Terri's life and how everyone else fits in, or, as it turns out, how they don't fit in.'
Whittaker freely admits to never having heard of the Belfast music legend beforehand. But she certainly knows him now.
'I consider myself fairly educated when it comes to music, but there were so many musical references in the script that I wasn't aware of, so I Googled Terri and was blown away by the amount of stuff that came up,'she says.
'I did a really good delve into it all and it was such an education. I went down to Terri's shop with Karl Johnson, who plays Terri's dad in Good Vibrations. Karl was in the film Hot Fuzz, so I ended up buying the DVD.'
'Then Terri took us to the Duke of York, where we had a really good chat. It was fascinating to talk to someone who has led such a colourful existence and is so passionate about music.'
The fact that Hooley and his legendary Good Vibrations record shop may not be known outside of Northern Ireland is irrelevant, Whittaker believes.
'The story transcends that. It's about a period in time that is significant to many people,' she says. 'What I find refreshing and exciting about this film is that although it's set against the backdrop of the Troubles, it's not a political movie. It's hard to predict if a film will appeal to everyone, but in this case, there's a great cast and a great story and hopefully people will like it.'
Whittaker is also full of praise for the team behind Good Vibrations. Husband and wife pairing Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D'Sa have joined forces with life-long friend David Holmes to form new company Canderblinks.
While the trio have worked on several shorts together – and Leybrun and Barros D'Sa previously directed Cherrybomb – this is the first feature length film for the unit. And with Chris Martin and Andrew Eaton on board as producers and Holmes providing the sound-track as well, there's no shortage of experience.
'It's been great working with Glenn and Lisa,' says Whittaker. 'They are such dynamic, up-and-coming directors and their take on things is so exciting, with lots of abstract decade shifts and flashbacks done in an interesting way.'
Whittaker also loves the close-knit feel about the set. With Hooley himself, daughter Anna and son Michael all making cameo appearances in Good Vibrations, it's very much a family environment.
'I've never been on a set before where all the supporting actors know each other and that's lovely," says Whittaker. "I've been made to feel very much at home here in Belfast.'
Although home for Whittaker these days is London, she was born near the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield. Her Yorkshire brogue remains as thick as ever and while we're on that subject, I ask her what she thought of the casting of Anne Hathaway in One Day.
The American plays a girl from Leeds in the film and her accent has been the subject of much controversy, with many critics declaring it less than convincing.
Whittaker, who plays the flat-mate Tilly in One Day, rolls her eyes in annoyance. 'You know, it's so unfair that she's come under fire," she says. 'I've watched the movie three times now and I love Anne in it, she's brilliant.
'Put it this way, my parents went to see it and their response was "there's nowt wrong with that accent." So if it's good enough for them well, that's all I'm saying.'