TV & Radio

Ncuti Gatwa: The exuberant Sex Education star’s rise to Doctor Who

“Sometimes talent walks through the door and it’s so bright and bold and brilliant, I just stand back in awe and thank my lucky stars,” said Russell T Davies last weekend.

He was discussing how actor Ncuti Gatwa had “dazzled” him in his audition to be the new Time Lord in Doctor Who. Gatwa, 29, was announced as the successor to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor on Sunday 8 May – news that set social media alight as soon as it broke.

“WHAT A BOOKING. DOCTOR NCUTI!” squealed Radio 1 DJ Greg James.

“I don’t know a single thing about that time travelling phone box but for Ncuti?? I’m now invested,” wrote actor Kelechi Okafor.

“Congratulations to this ray of sunshine,” Gatwa’s Sex Education co-star Gillian Anderson said.

Gatwa will be the 14th actor and the first Black man to play the Doctor in the beloved, long-running science-fiction franchise.

Speaking about diversity casting, Gatwa said of the Time Lord: “He is literally an alien – ‘they’ are an alien. And so they can regenerate into anything and anyone…

“I feel like anyone can put themselves in those shoes. The Doctor is not from anywhere. They don’t fit in anywhere and I think for marginalised people they have been a real beacon of feeling seen in a way.

“They are someone that can help people escape, which I love.”

Ahead of Gatwa stepping into the Tardis and adventuring through time and space, here’s what we know about the actor’s rise to become the new master of the Whoniverse…

The actor’s early years

Gatwa was born in Nyarugenge, Rwanda, in 1992. Aged two, he moved with his family to Edinburgh during the 1994 genocide.

In a 2020 interview, he told The Independent that his family were one of “like three black families in the whole of Edinburgh”, adding: “I was quite an easy target in a state Scottish high school. I grew up in a working-class area, and I stood out – for my voice, my appearance, I did dance and things like that. But I always had faith in my charm. I always had faith in my charisma.”

At the weekends, Gatwa, whose father was a minister, would go to church. Gatwa was sent to bible study until the age of 15, but speaking about his relationship with religion, he said: “I have faith, but I’m not the biggest fan of organised religion. There’s a lot of hypocrites in church. A lot of hypocrites.”

The family lived in university accommodation while Gatwa’s father studied for a PhD in philosophy and theology. His father was later forced leave the family and move to Cameroon because he was unable to get work as an academic in the UK.

Gatwa first thought about becoming an actor at the age of 17, when a drama teacher told him he was talented.

When he left school in Edinburgh, Gatwa trained at Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (where former Time Lord David Tennant also trained) before moving to London. In England, his accent baffled people.

“People have tried to fight me,” he told The Independent. “There’ve been times when I’ve been on a night out and people ask me where I’m from… The amount of times I’ve almost been beaten up for saying I’m Scottish. It’s given me an identity crisis.”

He added: “People really cannot understand the concept of a black boy in a tracksuit in London being from Scotland. People think I’m taking the piss. I’m like, ‘Stop taking my Scottishness away. You don’t define me.’”

Ncuti Gatwa and Asa Butterfield in ‘Sex Education’

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