Doctor Who star Ncuti Gatwa teases new details about ’emotionally vulnerable’ Time Lord

Ncuti Gatwa will take on the role of Doctor Who this Christmas (Getty)

Ahead of his Doctor Who debut, Ncuti Gatwa has shared new details about his role as the fourteenth Time Lord (John Hurt’s brilliant “War Doctor” is not considered “official” by purists – or the BBC – and David Tennant will always only be their 10th).

Doctor Who returning showrunner Russell T Davies (It’s A Sin) is heralding in a new era of the hit British sci-fi series with a standout LGBTQ+ cast including Yasmin Finney, Neil Patrick Harris, Jinkx Monsoon and Jonathan Groff, as well as introducing the first Black Doctor, played by Gatwa.

After the 60th anniversary special starring returning cast members David Tennant and Catherine Tate in November, Gatwa will officially make his debut alongside companion Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) over the festive period.

But aside from some spectacular costume reveals, little is known about Gatwa’s run as the gender-bending, best-known son of Gallifrey – until now.

In a new interview with Rolling Stone UK, the star revealed that he is firmly following in the footsteps of his predecessors by carving out his own unique take on the Doctor.

Jonathan Groff (L), Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa (R) in Doctor Who.
Jonathan Groff (L), Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa in Doctor Who. (James Pardon/BBC Studios)

“My Doctor is emotionally vulnerable,” he explained. “He hides it with humour, but he’s lonely. I can’t say much more than that, I don’t want to spoil anything.

You may like to watch

“But he’s also energetic, the poor cameramen struggled to keep up.”

Gatwa recalled how he watched every single episode of the show since 2005 in the lead up to his audition, a time in which he discovered that the Doctor was the sole survivor of the Time War, a conflict that all-but wiped out his civilisation.

This aspect of the character’s painful past allowed Gatwa to forge a deeper connection with the story, especially given that his own family fled Rwanda when he was a youngster, to escape the genocide against the Tutsi minority, before eventually settling in Scotland.

“This person survived a genocide,” Gatwa reflected. “This person fits in everywhere and nowhere. I am the Doctor. The Doctor is me. I decided that I had to get this role.”

The actor also opened up about how “isolating” it was to grow up as one of the very few Rwandan families living in Scotland. Gatwa and his family found community in the Church, although he has since distanced himself in order to explore his identity.

“That was isolating. I had to discover myself in a deeper way,” he said. “Not that there’s a disconnect between me and the Black British community, because I am Black and I am British, but there aren’t any Rwandans.

“Certainly, there weren’t any in Scotland. Church was how we found a community. Church people can be the kindest people and they can be shockingly cruel.”

Ncuti Gatwa's first look as the Doctor. (BBC Studios)
Ncuti Gatwa takes over the Tardis during the festive period. (BBC Studios)

Now he has landed the part, Gatwa is all too aware of the criticism people of colour receive when playing high-profile roles.

“I’m the first Black man to play this character,” Gatwa said. “The British press can be very mean. I just have to focus on the job and stay true to what the Doctor is: a mad scientist alien who has adventures and cares about everyone.”

During a speech celebrating Doctor Who‘s major distribution deal with Disney+ in October, he acknowledged the importance of representation.

“[This role] is so deep in British culture and the fabric of Britishness that as a Rwandan immigrant to the country, it feels really powerful,” he said at the time.

“[Doctor Who] matters for people of colour, for marginalised people who really gravitate towards the show because it’s about friendship and adventure, and it’s about union and unity.”

Gatwa also told Rolling Stone about celebrating his identity as a Black British man during filming for Doctor Who.

“The day Russell invited me to meet everybody, they asked me what sort of costume I wanted,” he revealed. “I showed them this Ralph Lauren collection that was in partnership with historically Black colleges in America. I love those pieces, they’re so preppy and so Black.

“But then they asked what else, because they’d been thinking about lots of outfits, almost a different one each week, which is new.

“I love it. The Doctor has travelled all of time and space, they’re going to have a sick wardrobe.”

Doctor Who
Ruby Sunday and the Doctor sport a swinging 60s look. (@bbcdoctorwho/ Twitter)

Gatwa went on to say he felt “a connection” with the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, who dressed in “lovely velvet jackets and frilly shirts” in the 1970s.

“Our Doctors are the only two who dress like sluts,” he joked.

The actor also enthused about his colourful wardrobe, especially the swinging 60s look, which saw Gatwa sporting an Afro and a blue suit.

“The hair and makeup department have been incredible,” he said. “Claire Williams and my own makeup artist, Bella, who is an old friend, worked so well together in creating my looks.

“Originally, we weren’t going to have the Afro, but Bella convinced me and I’m very glad she did. It’s such a shot into the bloodstream. It’s a statement: the Doctor is f**king Black.”

Happily, Gatwa also confirmed that his Doctor would feature in at least two seasons, with filming for the second set of adventures set to take place next year.

Doctor Who returns in November for a three-episode 60th anniversary special before Gatwa takes over at Christmas, with a full series regenerating at the beginning of next year.