Doctor Who star Freema Agyeman says she ‘didn’t anticipate’ racist abuse for playing first black companion

By Isobel Lewis
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Freema Agyeman has said that she hadn’t anticipated the racist abuse she received for being the first black companion on Doctor Who.

The British actor played Martha Jones in the BBC sci-fi series opposite David Tennant’s Doctor, following Billie Piper’s departure from the show.

Martha, who is in love with the Doctor, eventually leaves the Tardis of her own accord, with Agyeman returning for a number of episodes in the following series after joining Torchwood.

Speaking at Ofcom’s Diversity in Broadcasting event as part of National Inclusion Week, Agyeman said that her time on Doctor Who had been “good and bad”, but that she’d been unprepared for the racist response to her casting.

Describing how she’d had a “great time” making the show, the New Amsterdam star explained: “It is a game changer. My life changed completely overnight. You go from obscurity to people knowing who you are, in a good way.

“And then we aired and I didn’t even mind that there was so much on the fact that I was the first black companion because I was. It never bothered me at all. It was something I was, and still am, so proud of.”

Agyeman continued: “What I didn’t anticipate – and maybe I was naive – was the racism from certain sectors of the fanbase.

“There was criticism levelled towards my contribution for other reasons, which I could handle. I could rationalise those away. I’m an artist, no one’s going to like your work all the time, people are entitled to their opinions, it’s all subjective. But the racism… yeah, I couldn’t rationalise that.”

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