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‘I’m so nervous’: Ncuti Gatwa prepares to begin new Doctor Who role

<span>Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA</span>
Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA

Doctor Who actor Ncuti Gatwa says he feels “ready but nervous” as he steps into his new role in the BBC sci-fi series.

Having auditioned for the part in February 2022, Gatwa was unveiled to the world by showrunner Russell T Davies two months later.

In an exclusive interview with the Big Issue magazine, the Rwandan-Scottish actor said: “It’s felt like I’ve been the Doctor and also had to hold off from being the Doctor for most of the last two years.

“So how do I feel about people seeing it? I feel ready. But I’m so nervous.”

Former Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate recently resumed their roles as the Doctor and Donna Noble for special episodes this year.

“It feels like it’s come full circle – because David was my Doctor and such a great inspiration to me as an actor,” said Gatwa, who previously starred in the hit series Sex Education.

“I would have been 13 – a pivotal time. And firstly, he’s Scottish. Plus he was so charismatic and fun – I mean all the Doctors have been fun, all the way back.

“Well, I don’t know if you can say that about William Hartnell. Maybe he wasn’t fun. But David had such a Scottish almost feral-ness to him, which is what I liked. I felt an affinity to that. So for him, of all people, to be handing the baton over – it just feels really surreal.”

Born in Nyarugenge, Rwanda and raised in Scotland, where his family moved when he was two during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, he has said he was “an easy target” at secondary school in Edinburgh, where there were few black families, but he said he “always had faith in my charisma”.

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

The idea that he might become an actor first came when he was 17 and his drama teacher complimented him on his talent. After training at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, he moved to London where he struggled to make ends meet.

Before landing his breakthrough role in the Netflix show Sex Education in 2018, Gatwa spent time homeless after burning through his savings.

“Being a 25-year-old man with no money or job affected my sense of self-worth,” he previously wrote in the Big Issue. “Rejection became unbearable. Auditions weren’t just acting jobs, they were lifelines.”

While working as a temp at Harrods and sharing a friend’s bed, he lost weight because he could not afford to eat. He also suffered from depression but did not tell friends because he did not want to be a “burden”.

He replaces Jodie Whittaker, the first female actor to play the Doctor, and will be joined by the former Coronation Street actor Millie Gibson as new companion Ruby Sunday.