“I am terrible at it”: Jenna Coleman admits what made her nervous filming the Jetty, Emmerdale & Doctor Who

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Lancashire TV and film star Jenna Coleman has opened up about her upcoming project and some of her most famous roles from years gone by.

38-year-old Jenna from Blackpool is perhaps best known for her roles as Clara Oswald in Doctor, Queen Victoria in Victoria, and a serial killer’s loyal follower in The Serpent. 

However her latest role is as Detective Ember Manning in the upcoming BBC drama The Jetty, and in an exclusive interview with the Financial Times, the former Arnold School head girl admitted she had some trouble with one of the pivotal scenes required of a police officer - that is arresting someone!

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Jenna told Financial Times: “I am terrible at it. It’s one of those scenes where I instantly feel like a five-year-old and become really aware of my body.” 

When asked why she finds it so awkward, Jenna explained: “Because you’ve seen it so much on TV. It’s like: ‘Oh, you’re doing that thing’. So then you try not to do the scene like you’ve seen it. On this show, I remember thinking: ‘Whatever you do, don’t put your hands in your pockets’, because that is the [classic] detective stance. But then I thought: ‘Why am I adopting these strange positions to avoid falling into the trap of the formulaic TV detective?’ As an actor, you have to know [the genre] you’re in and embrace it.”

Jenna Coleman as Ember in the Jetty, airing on July 15.Jenna Coleman as Ember in the Jetty, airing on July 15.
Jenna Coleman as Ember in the Jetty, airing on July 15. | BBC/Firebird Pictures/Ben Blackall

Jenna’s slight unease surrounding playing a detective was apparent before filming even began. The expectant mother told the Financial Times she was “a reluctant detective” because “I’ve been offered so many [detectives] where you end up being the vehicle for the story, as opposed to a real character.”

Explaining why she did take on the Jetty role in the end, Jenna said: “I could see Ember as fully formed. It felt like the characters were living and breathing.” 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In particular, Jenna told the Financial Times that the story is as much about Embers “personal awakening” as it is a whodunnit. 

Ember is a young widow trying to reopen a cold case relating to a missing young girl but she becomes distracted by a local teenager who is pregnant by a man in his twenties, as she herself was years prior, which makes her re-evaluate her relationship with her late husband.

The Jetty asks difficult questions about abuse and consent. The Jetty asks difficult questions about abuse and consent. 
The Jetty asks difficult questions about abuse and consent.  | BBC/Firebird Pictures/Ben Blackall

Jenna said: “Ember is a stunted adult because she gave up her childhood to become a mother. And then there’s this period of reframing, which is related to her own unresolved trauma. I don’t think the writer Cat [Jones] will mind me saying that part of the story was born from her own experiences as a teenager when she and her friends were hanging around with older guys. Although nothing untoward happened, it wasn’t until she got older and looked back that she wondered: ‘Was that OK?’.

“And what’s interesting and uncomfortable, is that there isn’t necessarily a clear answer. You think you’re old at that age. But looking back at yourself, you see yourself as a child.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Did Jenna say anything about any of her other roles?

Recalling her very first role - as Emmerdale’s Jasmine Thomas- Jenna told the Financial Times that it felt “totally bizarre” to suddenly be on the TV screen in millions of homes.

She got the part aged just 19, and had to move to Leeds to film the show, and Jenna remembers she would often walk around nervously with her head down to avoid being recognised. 

Jenna said: “My mum would ask me, ‘Why are you slumping so much?’ - it’s funny because you have this recognition and you’re thinking, ‘But this is my first job. I’m still trying to be an actor. I don’t know how to do this yet’.” 

Three years after her Emmerdale exit, Jenna joined the cast of another beloved British TV series - BBC’s Doctor Who - playing the Doctor’s companion, Clara Oswald, between 2012 and 2017.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Speaking to the Financial Times, Clara admitted she had never seen the series before getting the role, it having been off-air between 1989 and 2005.

Expressing her nerves at the time, Jenna said: “I thought, ‘Oh my God, am I supposed to know every episode that’s ever existed?’ Plus, it was my first time doing green screen and being a lead.”

Joining the cast midway through Doctor Who Matt Smith’s time on the show made the role particularly nerve-wracking says Jenna who told the Financial Times: “You’re the new cog in a very well-oiled machine. And you don’t want to be the one who breaks it.”

Of course Jenna did not break the well-oiled machine that is Dr Who and she went on to speak fondly of her time on the show and the lasting legacy it has - admitting she still is regularly approached by Whovians.

Jenna said: “I’ll always be in the club. When you’ve been in the show, you’ve got a little slice of someone’s imagination. It’s a fairytale and that’s why it captures people.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.