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Ncuti Gatwa went from being homeless to becoming the first Black Doctor Who

'It feels really amazing. It's a true honor. This role is an institution and it's so iconic,' the star said of being named the next 'Doctor Who' lead.

Ncuti Gatwa went from being homeless to becoming the first Black Doctor Who
Cover Image Source: Ncuti Gatwa attends the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards at The Royal Festival Hall on May 08, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

The BBC on Sunday announced that Ncuti Gatwa will replace Jodie Whittaker as the Time Lord on the long-running British science-fiction franchise "Doctor Who." Gatwa is best known for starring in the popular Netflix sitcom "Sex Education." He'll be the 14th actor and the first Black man to play the lead role of the Doctor. "It feels really amazing. It's a true honor. This role is an institution and it's so iconic," the 29-year-old said of the historic opportunity. "It means a lot to so many people including myself, and so it means everyone feels seen as well, so that everyone can enjoy it. So I feel very grateful to have had the baton handed over and I'm going to try to do my best."


Speaking on the red carpet before this year's BAFTA TV Awards—at which he was nominated in the category of Male Performance in a Comedy Programme for his performance in "Sex Education"—Gatwa revealed that he struggled to keep the news secret. "I've known since about February this year, so it's been tricky trying to keep this under wraps because I've got a very big mouth," he said. When asked whether he would model his portrayal on any of the previous versions of the time traveler, Gatwa replied: "I'm definitely going to do my own thing. I mean they're all amazing. You can't pick. You cannot pick."


Born in Rwanda, Gatwa moved to Scotland as a toddler when his family fled the Rwandan genocide. Speaking to The Big Issue in 2020, he revealed that he was at one point homeless before finding his big break as an actor. "I was constantly working but I still found it impossible to survive in London. Because it was so expensive," Gatwa shared. "I am from Scotland and moved down to London when I was 21. I was working constantly – and at some good places – I spent a year at the Globe Theatre, I did a lot of work at Kneehigh, who are a physical theatre company."


"But you have to feed yourself, you have to get to work, with rent, bills, travel, days off from temping to go to an audition, I couldn't seem to handle it all financially. I was supposed to move into a new place and it fell through," he continued. "So for five months before 'Sex Education,' I was couch-surfing among all my friends. I didn't have a home. I was homeless. The only thing stopping me from being on the streets was the fact I had friends. But you can use up that goodwill. Or you feel scared to ask people for help. Your pride kicks in. So my life before 'Sex Education' was SO different. To go to my audition, I had to get my friend to transfer me 10 quid so I could top up my Oyster card."


"I was thinking it was so mad, because if someone was to see me on the street – on my way to temping at Harrods in my trenchcoat and brogues, because you have to be so well-polished and look the part – they would never believe I was about to spend two hours on the phone to people trying to find where I could sleep that night," Gatwa recalled. "I got a sense of how lucky I had been. I was looking at people, thinking, 'You are so lucky to be about to go home to your own bed.' I couldn't believe I was homeless and working in Harrods. How many people must be going through this in London?"


"Doctor Who" fans on Twitter celebrated news of Gatwa being cast as the next Time Lord, with many expressing their excitement to see a Doctor who resembles them. "Ncuti has an incredible dynamism, he's a striking and fearless young actor whose talent and energy will set the world alight and take 'Doctor Who' on extraordinary adventures under Russell T Davies' new era," said BBC Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore. Meanwhile, screenwriter Davies revealed that Gatwa had impressed him in a "blazing" audition. "It was our last audition. It was our very last one," the writer and producer said. "We thought we had someone, and then in he came and stole it. I'm properly, properly thrilled. It's going to be a blazing future."


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