Yasmin Finney on Portraying a Trans Character on Doctor Who: ‘Representation Is So Important’

Summary

  • Yasmin Finney, a transgender actress, stars as Rose, Donna Noble’s daughter, in Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary special, highlighting the importance of representation for LGBTQ+ youth.
  • The plot of the anniversary episode explores Rose’s gender identity and her experience with bullies who use her dead name, with Donna proudly supporting her daughter.
  • The show has faced criticism from social media users calling it “too woke,” but showrunner Russell T Davies defends the inclusivity of Doctor Who and condemns hate and violence from detractors.


In Doctor Who‘s first 60th anniversary special, series newcomer Yasmin Finney stars as Donna Noble’s daughter, Rose. Just like Finney, Rose is a transgender woman. During a recent conversation with the BBC, the actress, who is best known for her Emmy Award-nominated performance in Netflix’s coming-of-age drama series Heartstopper, discussed the significance of her Doctor Who casting, noting that representation is crucial for LGBTQ+ youth:

“It was so surreal to me, because obviously ‘Doctor Who’ is huge, and I remember watching ‘Doctor Who’ when I was growing up years ago, especially the bride episode, David Tennant and Catherine Tate. And I just felt, like, lucky enough to be seen as a trans person in something so huge as ‘Doctor Who,’ and I just felt lucky that like, I would be Catherine Tate’s daughter. In a way, that’s just insane, I mean, she’s an icon, and I love her. I think representation is so important, and if I had Rose growing up, it would be a completely different story, I think. I think representation is what we need and what the younger generation needs to feel like they can do it to. You know?”

Rose’s gender identity is very much a part of the 60th anniversary episode’s plot. In “The Star Beast”, she deals with bullies who taunt her by using her dead name. Her mother Donna (portrayed by Doctor Who icon Catherine Tate) proudly stands by her daughter.

Despite critical praise for the introductory special (which aired on November 25 and is the first of three), some social media users have critiqued it, calling it “too woke.” During a recent press conference (via Yahoo), showrunner Russell T Davies (who famously created the British series Queer as Folk) commented on press taking issue with Doctor Who‘s inclusivity.

“[There are] newspapers of absolute hate, and venom, and destruction, and violence who would rather see that sort of thing wiped off the screen, destroyed. Shame on you, and good luck to you in your lonely lives.”

Related: Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi Unveils the Reason Why He Is Not Reprising His Twelfth Doctor Role


Representation Progresses in the Doctor Who Universe

Ncuti Gatwa holding his hand, with a ring on his finger, toward the camera in promo photos for Doctor Who.
BBC

In recent years, the minds behind Doctor Who have strived to expand representation on the show. In 2017, the series introduced the first female Time Lord, portrayed by Jodie Whittaker (who exited in 2022). While David Tennant is reprising the role of the Doctor for the specials, Ncuti Gatwa is expected to make his first appearance as the 15th Doctor during the specials’ conclusion. The Sex Education actor will be the first Black Doctor in show’s history.

Davies noted the importance of the arts being more reflective of current society:

“It’s not just a ‘Doctor Who’ thing for me, it’s something I and a lot of other writers are very keen to do, to be progressive and to reflect more of society,” He added: “And it’s funny in casting Yasmin, [Rose] was a 15-year-old of mixed race there’s very few people we could have and it’s like she came down from heaven and there she was, before ‘Heartstopper’ actually. It was just so powerfully meant to me, and I think she does the most amazing job, and it’s an absolute privilege to work with her, to get her on screen.”

Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary special “The Star Beast” is available on BBC iPlayer in the U.K. or Disney+ in the U.S. now, while the second episode, “Wild Blue Yonder” will debut December 2nd. Check out that episode’s sneak peek below:

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