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Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa on embracing his identity to find pride and joy

Exclusive: From Sex Education to Barbie through to his fresh, titular role in Doctor Who, Ncuti Gatwa is a thoroughly modern British screen star. More than that, he is enjoying therapy, has proudly confronted his internalised homophobia and is now joyfully sitting on top of the world

By Cliff Joannou

The first full outing of Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor Who has yet to drop, and cast and crew are already in full swing shooting the follow-up season. If ever there was a vote of confidence by a major broadcaster in the success of a return/revamp/re-tweak of a long-running franchise, this is it. As if the return of Russell T Davies as showrunner and scriptwriter wasn’t enough to create a buzz among the Whovians (as the committed Doctor Who fans are called), the epic series that celebrated its 60th anniversary last year is back and more relevant — and perhaps more needed — than ever before. 

It’s relevant because the title role is being played by one of the most exciting British actors of his generation, a Black and queer man from Rwanda, making this incarnation of the Doctor — the 15th — a casting that is more reflective of the world around it. And it’s needed because, to quote two-time Doctor David Tennant, the world absolutely needs more kindness than ever before. “The Doctor is constantly fighting for every life, even his villains,” says Gatwa when we meet for his interview in a posh London hotel. “He shows mercy and compassion to all because he understands that there’s a need for everything, and that we need each other. It’s really nice to have a show like Doctor Who running after all these years in this era that we are in now.” 

A breakout role in Sex Education as Eric would go on to make Gatwa more than just a global star. With his many intersectional identities, it helped him find balance and acceptance. As he shares in this interview, it was a gift that was more than just a job; it helped him find inner peace. As Sex Education wrapped, he found himself in a supporting role in Barbie, arguably the film of 2023, before taking ownership of the Tardis in its Christmas Day special. 

Even after season two of Doctor Who wraps, Gatwa is not ready to slow down. His energy is in abundance as he vogues, poses, leaps, dances and shakes his tushy on set for his Attitude cover shoot. “I think this year my break will be to do something different creatively in between. Or another project, just, like, another character,” he teases. “That will be my mental break in between. But I dunno. We’ll see. We’ll see whether I work or take a holiday.” 

His enthusiasm is infectious. As we speak, Gatwa gesticulates wildly, his eyes widen, whether it’s to denounce the current government’s scapegoating of minorities to distract from its abysmal performance in power or to regale me with stories about his Oscar-worthy Academy Award performance. He also speaks freely about how therapy has helped him deal with internalised homophobia — an issue he didn’t realise he carried with him until Eric came along to show him otherwise — and even offers up the information that he’s currently happily dating a muggle — aka, a regular civilian and not a celebrity. 

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