After fleeing the Rwandan genocide, Ncuti Gatwa takes on the biggest acting job in UK TV as ‘Dr Who’

Abu Mubarik May 09, 2022
Gatwa played Eric in Sex Education. Photo credit: BBC

Ncuti Gatwa, 29, is a Rwandan-Scottish actor famous for his role in Netflix’s Sex Education series where he plays the role of Eric Effiong. Gatwa has now landed British television’s most iconic TV role after being named by the BBC as the next Doctor Who. He will become the 14th Time Lord on the popular science fiction show, and the first Black actor to play the lead role.

Gatwa would have probably followed in the footsteps of his father in the theological sphere had his acting skills not caught the attention of his drama teacher when he was 17. He honed his acting skills at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow and completed his Bachelor of Arts in Acting in 2013.

He moved from Scotland to London for more acting opportunities. His breakthrough came in 2018 when he landed a role in Sex Education playing Effiong, a young gay British-Nigerian who is best friends with the lead character of the show, Otis. Gatwa’s character has since become one of Sex Education’s most loved actors, according to Mail Online. And being named as the next Doctor Who attests to his acting prowess.

However, the road to success for Gatwa has been rough. He was born in Rwanda but when he was just two years old, his family fled the country during the 1994 genocide to Scotland. In Scotland, his family lived in university accommodation while his father studied for a PhD in philosophy and theology. His father was subsequently forced to leave the family to Cameron upon completion of his PhD because he could not get work as an academic in the UK, according to the Guardian.  

Schooling in Scotland, Gatwa was racially abused and when he first came to London to pursue his acting career, he was homeless and struggled financially. He even had to borrow $10 from friends to enable him to afford the tube fare for auditions.

“Being a 25-year-old man with no money or job affected my sense of self-worth,” the Guardian quoted him as saying. “Rejection became unbearable. Auditions weren’t just acting jobs, they were lifelines.”

“I couldn’t seem to handle it all financially. I was supposed to move into a new place and it fell through. So for five months before Sex Education, I was couch-surfing among all my friends. I didn’t have a home. I was homeless. The only thing stopping me from being on the streets was the fact I had friends,” Gatwa added.

Becoming the new Doctor Who feels amazing, he told BBC. “It’s a true honor. This role is an institution and it’s so iconic,” he said. Gatwa will make his debut as the Time Lord in 2023. At Sunday’s Bafta TV Awards, he was nominated for Sex Education. The actor has already won a Scottish Bafta and a Rose d’Or Award for Sex Education.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 9, 2022


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