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Jodie Whittaker: 'Who Do You Think You Are? knocked me sideways!'

Who do you think you are? Jodie Whittaker
(Image credit: BBC)

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? (opens in new tab)

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.”

Greta Whittaker Jodie Whittaker Who Do You Think You Are

Greta and Harold Whittaker, the grandparents of Jodie Whittaker (Image credit: BBC/Wall to Wall/Yvonne Whittaker)

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.”

Edwin Auckland Jodie Whittaker Who Do You Think You Are

Jodie Whittaker's great-grandfather Edwin Auckland Jr (second right front row) with his brothers and police during the 1921 strike (Image credit: BBC/Wall to Wall/Jodie Whittaker)

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.”

MORE: Everything you need to know about the Doctor Who Christmas special

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

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.