Jodie Whittaker, the first woman cast as the title character of the BBC’s beloved sci-fi programme Doctor Who , expressed hopes on Monday that fans will embrace her role as a symbol of diversity rather than fear the shift from a man. Whittaker, 35, breaks a tradition going back to the start of the television series in 1963 that the Doctor is a man, travelling the universe as a “Time Lord” in a spacecraft that looks like a telephone box, protecting the weak and combating evil aliens. “I hope, you know, my gender isn’t a fearful thing for the fans,” Whittaker said in her first broadcast interview since her casting was announced last month. “In this world particularly – there aren’t rules and that’s a great thing, you know, so hopefully, hopefully everyone is excited, as excited as I am,” she added. Doctor Who Peter Capaldi on why there’s nothing bittersweet about leaving the BBC sci-fi show She said she believed getting the role would be “a blessing and a curse”, and expressed the hope that media interest in her personal life would die down: “It’s not very exciting,” she said. Her casting was largely viewed positively by fans and commentators but some on social media argued that the role of the Doctor should not be played by a woman. Whittaker said that she had missed the reactions as she was not a social media user. Whittaker replaces Peter Capaldi, who has played the Doctor since 2014. She will be the 13th Doctor. Ultimately, Whittaker hopes that her casting will help fans of the programme to embrace diversity. “Now we can say to young boys and young girls that the people that you potentially look up to or the characters that you love don’t necessarily have to look the same as before – you know, we can celebrate the fact of differences.” Doctor Who is one of the BBC’s most popular programmes, and has a devoted fan base in many countries, with clubs, conventions and fan publications. BBC’s value under question as salaries disclosure reveals big earners and gender pay gap Her casting comes as the BBC deals with revelations that it pays its highest profile female on-air talent significantly less than men in comparable positions.