There has been a buzz ever since Ncuti Gatwa, the actor from Sex Education and Barbie, was cast as the 15th Doctor.   Unlike most of the previous actors who have graced our screens as the Doctor, Gatwa has an international presence with key roles in Apple TV’s Masters of the Air, Sex Education and Barbie.  However, it could be argued that Gatwa was just “a” Ken in the Barbie movie.

The flamboyant actor shone in his appearances in the 60th Anniversary and The Church on Ruby Road.  He is off to a great start as his career as the mysterious Time-Lord, the Doctor, begins. 

Doctor Who, Season 1 The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) ,BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who, Season 1 The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) ,BBC STUDIOS AND BAD WOLF, Photo by James Pardon

How did you react when you heard you had got the part of The Doctor?

My agent called to tell me I had the role just as I was walking into the barbershop. I think I was paralysed by the weight of 60 year history. No pressure! I was very, very overwhelmed. But I felt like I had a little piece of gold.

Did you understand at that point how massive the Whoniverse is?

No! I feel quite silly that I didn’t comprehend the sheer scale of it beforehand. But once I stepped into the world, I realised how huge it is. I thought, ‘Well, of course, it’s Doctor Who!’ I immediately understood why it’s a show we all know and love. It just takes your breath away, how far-reaching the scope of the show is. You embrace the fandom. The fans absolutely make the show what it is. They’re the final character.

There’s a real excitement surrounding this new series? Talk about that.

Absolutely. It’s really nice to have that buzz around Doctor Who. It’s a great show, and I feel very lucky to have the baton handed on to me for such an incredible drama. This is a really exciting time.

Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials,09-12-2023,The Giggle,3 - The Giggle,(L-R); The Doctor (DAVID TENNANT); The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA),BBC Studios 2023, Photo by Alistair Heap
Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials,09-12-2023,The Giggle,3 – The Giggle,(L-R); The Doctor (DAVID TENNANT); The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA),BBC Studios 2023, Photo by Alistair Heap

Did the other Doctors give you advice about the role?

Yes. They have been amazing, so supportive. I bumped into Matt Smith at a party before I was allowed to announce it to anyone. I told him I was following in his footsteps, and he had no idea what I was talking about. But when it was announced, he texted me – ‘Aah, now I get it!’ He was so lovely. He was like, ‘Take it all in your stride. If you ever need any advice, here’s my number, send me a text.’ Now that I’m in the role I get what they mean. What it’s like to play that role is not something that anyone else can understand. I’m very grateful for their support.

There are only just over a dozen people in history who have ever played the role. So it’s an extraordinary, exclusive club to belong to, isn’t it?

It’s mind-boggling! They’ve all been great actors, and just through their performances they have informed and supported me as well because they have given so many defining interpretations of the character. I was able to pick and choose things they did and throw them into the mix for my interpretation.

Doctor Who - The Church on Ruby Road - The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) - BBC STUDIOS 2023, Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who – The Church on Ruby Road – The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) – BBC STUDIOS 2023, Photo by James Pardon

Where did you watch the Christmas Special?

I spent Christmas in London. My friends came round and we had turkey and watched the episode together. I watched it from behind my hands. I wanted to watch it from behind the sofa because I find it so cringe-worthy seeing myself on screen. But my friends managed to coax me out of that!

What was your friends’ response?

They loved it! They saw what we’re trying to do. It’s the Doctor Who that we know and love, but it’s also a completely brand-new show. Russell has really got hold of it and pushed it forward to become a show that can compete with any huge franchise now. We’ve got so much competition in terms of sci-fi and fantasy, but Russell’s taken it into an arena where it can really compete. But it also retains the British charm that we all adore. It was really nice to know that came across as well.

Can you talk about some of the monsters that the Doctor will be meeting in new series?

Russell’s brain has managed to create a whole new level of monster that’s really terrifying! In the first episode, for instance, the monster is so scary. When I heard about it, I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a nice beginning-of-the-series monster to warn the audience about what’s to come. It’s on the same level of scariness as the Goblin King.’ But then I saw the actual costume and it is absolutely terrifying. I was so shocked! We certainly are on track to get a whole new generation of kids hiding behind the sofa!

Can you tease any major storylines?

What I can say is that Russell is a master at creating a certain intricate world. And he’s doing so already. So that’s going to be really exciting for the fans to piece things together.

Do you have a favourite moment from the series?

I’d say Rogue was my favourite. Millie and I just had a blast. The Doctor and Ruby are very excited to go to the Regency era, and Millie and I had very similar sentiments. We were excited about our costumes which were amazing. And it was incredible working with Jonathan Groff as well. He’s an amazing actor. He brings such gravitas to the episode.

Is there an overarching theme in this series?

Yes – It’s to do with family. The mystery of Ruby Sunday is the overriding theme of this season. We saw in the Christmas special that the Doctor and Ruby bond over the fact that they both orphans, they are foundlings.

What are the key characteristics of your Doctor?

I would describe him as a bit cheeky and confident, but there is also a depth to him, emotionally. The character is very emotionally strong. This Doctor wears his heart on his sleeve.

Also, there has always been a note of sadness about him because, however much he loves his companions, ultimately, he’s always alone.

He’s certainly quite a loner. It’s a solitary existence just constantly regenerating. He’s been travelling since time immemorial. So that’s a lonely existence because mere mortals come and go and have human lifespans, and my Doctor makes a lot of jokes about that! There is an element of his character that’s constantly searching for something, but also constantly running away from something. That’s a really nice dynamic to play.

How would you characterise the relationship between the Doctor and Ruby?

They are definitely best friends, but also big brother, little sister. He feels very protective towards her. But they can’t help but have a bunch of fun together. They’re both very curious, very cheeky, and have got very high-energy personalities. They are bouncing off each other constantly.

Doctor Who - The Church on Ruby Road - Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) - BBC Studios 2023,James Pardon
Doctor Who – The Church on Ruby Road – Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) – BBC Studios 2023,James Pardon

What is it like working with Millie?

It’s incredible. She’s a great actor, and she’s delightful. She charmed us all the moment we met her, and that never stopped. She helps define the energy of my character. It was the missing element. As soon as the companion walked in, the energy and the chemistry were just there. Millie and I had never met before, but we just hit the ground running.

That dynamic between the Doctor and the companion just worked instantly. Millie is the perfect person for this new era. Of course, as we know, the companion is the eyes of the audience. And what Millie brings is a lightness and a curiosity, but also something real and deep. I think that’s the perfect vessel for the audience to join us in the new era. Millie brings so much to the table.

What makes Russell’s writing so special?

I think he brilliantly captures the human condition at the same time as taking us to times we couldn’t imagine. He’s really good at putting the micro and the macro right beside each other, light and darkness, tragedy and comedy. He’s excellent at writing duality. He’s also not afraid to be a little bit dangerous as well. And that makes things really exciting.

Have you been impressed by the Doctor Who fan art?

Absolutely. After the Christmas episode, the fan art just exploded. I was so blown away by the talent, but also by the love for the show. It’s really overwhelming. There are some incredible artists in the Whovian Family.

Did one particular work of art stand out for you?

I posted on my Instagram a picture someone had drawn of William Hartnell handing me the keys to the TARDIS. That one gave me a lump in my throat. It was amazing. Talk about the history of the show summed up in one picture. This show has carried many a generation and it just feels wild to be a part of it.

Doctor Who is now more widely loved than ever. What is it that people adore about the show?

One thing that sticks out in my mind is when I hear people talk about how they share Doctor Who with multiple generations. You often hear people say, ‘I watched the show with my dad or with my grandma,’ or some other member of the family has introduced them to the show. That is really nice because it’s a family show. I guess the show is like a member of our family. We all grew up with it.

Could you give us a summary of this series in five words?

It’ll blow your socks off!

Doctor Who S1,The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson),BBC Studios/Bad Wolf, Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who S1,The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson),BBC Studios/Bad Wolf, Photo by James Pardon

Doctor Who returns Space Babies and The Devil’s Chord at midnight on May 11 on BBC iPlayer and 7pm ET on Disney+. They will be broadcast simultaneously on Disney+ around the world.  Please check your own time zone

SPACE BABIES – OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Ruby learns the Doctor’s amazing secrets, when he takes her to the far future. There, they find a Baby Farm being run by babies. But can they be saved from the terrifying Bogeyman?

THE DEVIL’S CHORD – OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: The Doctor and Ruby meet the Beatles, but discover that the all-powerful Maestro is changing history. London becomes a battleground with the future of humanity at stake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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