Jodie Whittaker, Michaela Coel and Jodie Comer represent a “real sea change” in TV

Radio Times TV editor Alison Graham celebrates three brilliant female British stars at the centre of a new wave of television


As the quality of the light changes, and autumn brings its burnished shades and colours to a Mother Nature who’s ready to cast off her dowdy cloak, it’s time to switch on the central heating and murmur, “By heck, isn’t telly good again?”


But it’s not just the brilliance and sheer talk-about excitement of the dramas – we have to mention once again the all-conquering Bodyguard, of course, which broke the boundaries of its medium to turn up on newspaper front pages and the BBC 10 o’Clock News the day after the finale.

It’s more than that: it’s towering performances by incredible young female leads.

You could stick lighted matches in my ears and I still wouldn’t be able to look away from the goddess-like Michaela Coel in Black Earth Rising. True, I have very little idea what the hell is going on but I don’t care, and it doesn’t matter. Coel was wonderful in her own comedy show, Channel 4’s Chewing Gum, and watching her in Hugo Blick’s dense and dangerous drama is like being wrapped in a velvet blanket made of puzzles while being kicked in the shins.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 04/09/2018 - Programme Name: Black Earth Rising - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. Generics) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 4th SEPTEMBER, 2018* Kate Ashby (MICHAELA COEL) - (C) Drama Republic - Photographer: Des Willie

I love Coel’s furious containment as Rwandan genocide survivor Kate, who was adopted as a child by human rights barrister Eve (Harriet Walter). Now she’s a woman in search of her past. Kate is a driven, solitary and damaged soul in the most terrible danger. But she’s fearless and pulsing with the howling need for revenge, and she looks amazing with her neat backpack, black jeans, big boots, leather jacket and sturdy, determined stride. And – fashion note – just the right amount of pitch-perfect silver jewellery. These things are important…

It’s an awesome performance and I think if I ever met Coel in real life she would terrify me just a little bit.

Jodie Comer in Killing Eve

What, too, of Killing Eve: everyone’s go-to, talk-about binge-watch? What of Jodie Comer, whom I’ve always liked – but who knew her face could be so magnificently expressive? Coquettish and winning one moment, black-eyed and heartless the next as a playful, charmingly deranged assassin? And boy, does she know how to dress. Remember that netty pink thing she wore in an early episode (above)? I wanted that dress so badly, even though it would make me look like a caravan covered in candy floss.

There’s another Jodie, of course, who will blaze through autumn: Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who, a proper mould-breaker and a terrific performer.

Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who (BBC, HF)

Isn’t this all so exciting? I love it, I love the confidence of these young actresses. I can’t call them actors, sorry; they are actresses and they should be proud of the noun, they should own it.


The thing is, there’s something really important going on here, there’s a real sea change and the atoms in the air are shifting. Great actresses in great shows, with great fashion that doesn’t wear them, they wear it. Everything meshes beautifully and it’s all rather wonderful. They aren’t maverick cops, they don’t weep about faithless partners, they take their places in a world where they truly belong.