Whoopi Goldberg, this year’s International Icon at the Edinburgh TV Festival, said on Tuesday that despite achieving hallowed EGOT status in her 40-year career, there remains one British TV role she would dearly love but will possibly remain beyond her grasp.
“I wanted to be Doctor Who and I still do,” she said. “I think it would mean an evolution into being American and I don’t know that that’s correct for Doctor Who. I don’t know I can usurp that. As much as I love it, I love watching it still in all the iterations.
“There are certain things that are blatantly all English. Doctor Who is like that to me. It’s like Marmite. It’s very English and needs to stay that way.”
Goldberg previously said she had lobbied for the job, saying earlier this year that the long-running BBC series’ producers at one point turned her down for the role. The current Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, said last month she is stepping down after three seasons as the sci-fi show’s star.
It seems Goldberg’s love of classic British TV does not end there, as she also revealed herself today to be a big fan of EastEnders when it was previously shown on BBC America.
“I got very involved in it and then it was gone,” she said. “I was shouting, ‘Where is Peggy? Where is that woman with the cigarette? Dot Cotton! Where is she?’ I loved all those actors and was sad that they stopped showing it in the U.S. It should get done here, but it would take too much explaining.”
Elsewhere during the session, Goldberg reflected on her long career that has seen her winning awards, but also being canceled after making a joke about then President George W. Bush back in 2004. Of this time in her life that resulted in her going almost five years with barely any work, she said lessons were learned.
“I would describe that situation as a lot of people covering their backsides,” she said. “The joke was never about him, but no one ever stood up and said this was what actually happened. They put it in a newspaper, but all somebody has to say is that you said it, and that’s what happens.
“The truth doesn’t seem to matter as much these days. I find it’s a lot easier for me to make decisions about what I think based on my experiences of that same thing. That makes me think about stuff in a different way. I knew I hadn’t done any of the stuff they wrote about, but it didn’t matter.”
Goldberg revealed it was a tough five years before Barbara Walters called and offered her a job on The View, where she’s been ever since.
“I’ve been here, sometimes in trouble, sometimes not, but the beauty is the show is all about your view,” she said. “The hardest thing is people who don’t want you to have a view, because you’re someone who is an actor, as though your job description keeps you from feeling what’s going on in the world. It’s very, very interesting.”
Despite roles in film hits The Color Purple, Sister Act and her Oscar-winning turn in Ghost, Goldberg explained that her status as a person with influence and clout has been a long time coming in the industry.
“You learn how to keep pushing for what you want in the ways that work in the experience you’re in,” she said. “When you have a lot of clout, you can get a lot done, but when you don’t have clout, you can’t, but it doesn’t mean you’re not trying.
“I wanted to work. When I had the opportunity to say I would like to see XYZ happen, it happened here and there, but it didn’t take hold. Nothing happened hugely as things are starting to happen now. It’s taken some time but I’m glad to see it happen.”
Goldberg laughed when reminded of the time director Spike Lee accused her of not speaking out strongly enough for Black actors’ representation on screen. “That pissed me off,” she admitted. “How much more can a Black person do than be a Black person in the conversation? I thought, ‘What are you doing? You’re making your movies, you haven’t hired me, leave me alone.’ ”
She added: “We laugh about it now. I said, ‘Dude, what was wrong with you?’ He said, ‘I was trying to be provocative.’ I said, ‘You were.’
Asked if things were changing fast enough for people of color in her industry, Goldberg opted to take a positive and long-term view.
“You learn who came before, how hard it was, and how you are always standing on the shoulders of someone else,” she said. “You think of Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, a string of women whose shoulders we’re standing on. We all make up this pot of actors and the more we put out for ourselves, the more roles there will be.
“That’s why more of women of color have to write the things they want to see. You can do it on your YouTube channel. You don’t have to wait for them to see you. Someone can write a six-episode thing and it takes a little dough to get it done, but you can get it done. The industry can help new talent just by opening their eyes, just look around, it’s everywhere.
“Slowly things are changing. They never change fast enough for the people involved in the change, but for the people who come after me, it will be better for them.”