“Sometimes a talent walks through the door and it’s so bright and bold and brilliant that I just step back in awe and thank my lucky stars,” Russell T. Davies said last weekend.
He spoke about how actor Ncuti Gatwa “blinded” him when he auditioned to be the new Time Lord Doctor Who. Gatwa, 29, was announced as the successor to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor on Sunday May 8 – news that set social media ablaze as soon as it broke.
“WHAT A BOOKING. DOCTOR NCUTI!” squeaked Radio 1 DJ Greg James.
“I don’t know anything about that time traveling phone booth except for Ncuti?? I’m invested now,” wrote actor Kelechi Okafor.
“Congratulations on this ray of sunshine,” Gatwas sex education said co-star Gillian Anderson.
Gatwa will be the 14th actor and the first black person to play the Doctor in the popular, long-running sci-fi franchise.
Speaking of the diversity casting, Gatwa said of the Time Lord, “He’s literally an alien – ‘they’ are an alien. And so they can regenerate into anything and everything…
“I feel like anyone can put themselves in that position. The Doctor doesn’t come from anywhere. They don’t fit anywhere and I think for marginalized people in a way they were a real beacon of feeling seen.
“You’re someone who can help people escape, which I love.”
Before Gatwa climbs into the Tardis and ventures 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 1992 in Nyarugenge, Rwanda. He moved to Edinburgh with his family at the age of two during the 1994 genocide.
In a 2020 interview, he recounted The Independent that his family was one of “like three black families in all of Edinburgh”, adding: “I was a pretty easy target in a Scottish state high school. I grew up in a working class neighborhood and I got noticed – for my voice, my looks, I danced and stuff like that. But I’ve always believed in my charm. I’ve always believed in my charisma.”
Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a free 30-day trial
On the weekends, Gatwa, whose father was a pastor, went to church. Gatwa was sent to study the Bible until he was 15, but of his relationship to religion he said: “I have faith, but I’m not the biggest fan of organized religion. There are many hypocrites in the Church. Many hypocrites.”
The family lived in university accommodation while Gatwa’s father was studying for a PhD in philosophy and theology. His father was later forced to leave the family and move to Cameroon because he was unable to find academic work in Britain.
Gatwa first thought about being an actor at the age of 17 when an acting teacher told him he was talented.
Leaving school in Edinburgh, Gatwa trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow (where former Time Lord David Tennant was also trained) before moving to London. In England, his accent confused people.
“People tried to fight me,” he said The Independent. “There were times when I would go out at night and people would ask me where I was from… So many times I almost got spanked for saying I was Scottish. It gave me an identity crisis.”
He added: “People really can’t understand the concept of a black boy in a tracksuit in London hailing from Scotland. People think I’ll take the piss. I say, ‘Stop taking my Scottishness from me. You don’t define me.’”
In London he worked as a temp at Harrods and shared a friend’s bed after using up all the money he had saved. Gatwa spoke openly about his experience of not having a home of his own and losing weight because he couldn’t afford to eat at a play he was writing for The big topic in 2020.
His best roles – and what the criticism says
Gatwa’s film career began in 2014 with the role of “Male Customer” on the short-lived sitcom BBC Four Bob servant. In 2016 he appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe as Demetrius, one of the play’s four young lovers.
But his big break came in 2019 with Netflix’s hit teen show sex education. Speaking about how the series changed his life overnight, he opened up The Independent: “[The day it was released] I got on a plane with 500 Instagram followers. Eight hours later I got off the plane with a few hundred thousand.”
In the show, Gatwa plays Eric Effiong, the irrepressible best friend of Asa Butterfield’s Otis Milburn. The Independent‘s Alexandra Pollard wrote of Gatwa’s character: “Eric, in particular, struck a chord at the show’s premiere – not just among those who are smitten with his exuberance and gorgeous wardrobe, but also among people who rarely, if ever, see themselves , have seen on screen.”
The guard‘s Lucy Mangan, meanwhile, wrote: “All appearances in sex education are absolute miracles by the way, but Gatwa is something very special. It’s real, unaffected, upbeat, with perfect timing and subtle emotional weight. I hope this is the breakout performance he promises: I want to see more of him on my screen as soon as possible.”
On a show that has launched the careers of the likes of Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells and Aimee Lou Wood, it’s all the more impressive that Gatwa has been dubbed a “scene thief.” radio times and the “real star” of the show from metro.
What the future brings
Gatwa is one of several sex education Stars set to star alongside Margot Robbie in Greta Gerwig’s much-hyped film Barbie Film expected to hit theaters in July 2023.
sex education is coming back for a fourth series – but it’s currently unknown if Gatwa’s role in Doctor Who will stand in his way of reprising his role as Eric.
The new series of Doctor Who will hit screens in 2023. Gatwa is looking forward to getting started.
Speaking at last weekend’s Baftas, he said: “I’m really happy to be able to talk about this now because I was cast in February and have kept it a secret ever since. So it’s nice to finally be able to breathe. But I’m also very nervous.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/ncuti-gatwa-doctor-who-sex-education-b2074628.html Ncuti Gatwa: The rise of the exuberant sex education star to Doctor Who