A new doctor is in! Ncuti Gatwa, one of the stars of Netflix's Sex Education, will play the 15th Doctor in the long-running British sci-fi series. He is the first Black man and person of color to play the lead role — and will star when Doctor Who comes to Disney Plus. Gatwa is sorta-taking over for Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to headline the show, but a different Doctor will be between them. More on that below.
Doctor Who has aired on and off since 1963. It follows the adventures of a Time Lord called the Doctor, who explores the universe in a time-traveling space ship. With the help of various companions, the Doctor battles adversaries to save people and civilizations from doom.
The show is an influential mainstay of British pop culture. Previous Doctors include David Tennant, Matt Smith and Christopher Eccleston. Whittaker served as Time Lord for three seasons, with a final wrap-up episode slated for this fall. Now, Gatwa will join their vaunted ranks.
"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 statement. "This role and show means so much to so many around the world, including myself, and each one of my incredibly talented predecessors has handled that unique responsibility and privilege with the utmost care. I will endeavour my upmost to do the same."
Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies said, "The future is here and it’s Ncuti! 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. Ncuti dazzled us, seized hold of the Doctor and owned those TARDIS keys in seconds. It’s an honour to work with him, and a hoot, I can’t wait to get started."
Who is Ncuti Gatwa?
Gatwa, 29, was born in Rwanda, though his family escaped the country during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. They settled in Scotland, living in Edinburgh and Dunfermline.
Gatwa previously told The Independent that they were one of a few Black families in Edinburgh. "I was quite an easy target in a state Scottish high school," he said. "I grew up in a working-class area, and I stood out — for my voice, my appearance, I did dance and things like that. But I always had faith in my charm. I always had faith in my charisma.”
After graduating in 2013 with a degree in acting from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (where Tennant also trained), Gatwa earned a place at the Dundee Repertory Theatre. He appeared in several productions and had small roles in the 2014 sitcom Bob Servant and the 2015 miniseries Stonemouth. In 2016, he played Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare's Globe.
In 2018, Gatwa joined the cast of the Netflix dramedy Sex Education and has appeared in every season as gay teen Eric Effiong, best friend to Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield). His performance has earned accolades, such as the 2020 BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor in Television, as well as critical acclaim.
The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan, raved, “All the performances in Sex Education are absolute wonders, by the way, but Gatwa is something particularly special. He is real, unaffected, joyful, with perfect timing and understated emotional heft. I hope this is the breakout appearance for him it promises to be: I want more of him on my screen as soon as possible.”
Mangan is getting her wish, as Gatwa will now take one of the most high-profile roles in all of television, the Time Lord called the Doctor. Gatwa is the first Black actor to play the main role, but he won't be the first Black Doctor. That distinction goes to Jo Martin, who previously appeared as the Fugitive Doctor.
How to pronounce Ncuti Gatwa
Gatwa's full name is actually Mizero Ncuti Gatwa, but he drops the first name in film and TV credits. Ncuti means "friend" in the Kinyarwanda language, the national language of Rwanda.
His name is pronounced "SHOO-tee GAT-wah." Listen to the actor say his own name in this video:
What's next for Ncuti Gatwa?
Gatwa is also set to appear in Sex Education season 4 and in the 2023 Barbie movie opposite Margot Robbie. He will also appear in the Grid Legends racing video game, as a driver named Valentin Manzi.
Oh, and let's explain why Gatwa isn't the Fourteenth Doctor:
Why is Gatwa the 15th Doctor and not the 14th?
In a bit of a surprise, David Tennant was revealed to be the Fourteenth Doctor, and will be here for three special episodes in 2023. In the reveal (more on that here), Tennant's Doctor was as surprised as we were, while Gatwa's Fifteenth Doctor seemed a bit annoyed about the hold up.