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'Sex Education' actor Ncuti Gatwa will be the first Black lead in 'Doctor Who'

Actor Ncuti Gatwa at the premiere of the second season of the Netflix series Sex Education.
Tolga Akmen
/
AFP via Getty Images
Actor Ncuti Gatwa at the premiere of the second season of the Netflix series Sex Education.

Actor Ncuti Gatwa will play the role of The Doctor in the show Doctor Who, the BBC announced Sunday, in a historic casting selection that marks the first time a Black person has been cast to star in the show's central role full-time.

The 29-year-old Gatwa, best known for his work in the Netflix series Sex Education, is also among the youngest Doctors yet.

"There aren't quite the words to describe how I'm feeling. A mix of deeply honoured, beyond excited and of course a little bit scared," Gatwa said in a press release. "Unlike the Doctor, I may only have one heart but I am giving it all to this show."

Gatwa was born in Rwanda and raised in Scotland. He began his professional acting career eight years ago after graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, one of the world's top performing arts schools.

In Netflix's warm-hearted series Sex Education, Gatwa plays the vibrant Eric Effiong, a gay high school student.

As a gay Black teen who is the best friend of the show's main character, the role of Eric could have been a trap of cliches as the "gay sidekick" or "Black best friend" for a straight white male protagonist.

Instead, Gatwa's Eric stands out from the ensemble cast with a fully realized personality and inner life. The actor has twice been nominated for Best Male Comedy Performance at the British Film and Television Awards.

He becomes the 14th actor to be cast in the iconic role, following the departure of Jodie Whittaker, who was the first woman to play the role when she was cast in 2017.

In 2020, a Black person played a variation of the Doctor role for the first time when Jo Martin was cast as the Fugitive Doctor.

The new season of Doctor Who is also marked by the return of showrunner Russell T Davies, who helped revive the show in 2005 after a 15-year hiatus. Davies stepped away from the showrunner role in 2009.

"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," Davies said. "Ncuti dazzled us, seized hold of the Doctor and owned those TARDIS keys in seconds."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.

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