Ncuti Gatwa Is Ready to Take Over the Universe

Ncuti Gatwa is my new best friend, though I suspect anyone who has sat down with the actor has come away thinking the same thing. When we chat, we’re in different time zones: Gatwa is starting out his day in New York City, while I’ve just indulged in my usual 3 pm caffeine hit at home near Edinburgh. Gatwa is running a little late for our meeting, and when he dials in, I can tell his morning has been a rush. “I’m so sorry I kept you waiting,” he says as he takes a drink of water and settles himself. He’s wearing a white t-shirt with the sleeves turned up just so, gold chain necklaces and equally chunky rings. He’s inherently cool to the point where it could almost be intimidating, but after a few moments, and upon the realization that he’s talking to fellow Scot, he flashes a smile, and I know we’re in for a fun conversation. “Are those the Bottega Veneta earrings?” he asks me as he peers closer into his laptop screen. “They’re not real Bottega,” I confide, “but they’re giving”. There it is again: that movie-star smile coupled with a laugh so infectious that it takes us a minute to get back on track.

Gatwa doesn’t just look like a movie star; he is a movie star, having recently graced the screen with his depiction of Ken in Barbie and featuring in the big-screen adaptation of the beloved Jojo Moyes novel, The Last Letter From Your Lover. I don’t need a time machine to see that many more film roles await in Gatwa’s future; it’s as good as guaranteed. If his turn as Eric Effiong in Netflix’s acclaimed series Sex Education wasn’t enough to set him firmly on the path of fame and stardom, his latest role will undoubtedly seal the deal.

As I begin writing this, it’s two years to the day since it was announced that Gatwa would succeed Jodie Whittaker as the lead in Doctor Who. A coincidence? After speaking with Gatwa, I’d be more inclined to call it fate. For anyone who hasn’t switched on the BBC in the last 60 years, Doctor Who is nothing short of a British television institution: a sci-fi series that chronicles the adventures, escapades and witty back-and-forth of its central character, the Doctor. The show continues to reinvent itself each time a new Doctor is ushered in: Gatwa serves as the 14th and, notably, will be the first Black actor to play the iconic part. When I ask Gatwa how the role came about and what the process was like landing it, like the setting of much of the show itself, it seems to have been written in the stars.

Ncuti Gatwa wears a crop grey blazer and matching trousers with a backdrop of white flowers behind him

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“You know, the interesting thing is it wasn’t arduous at all,” recalls Gatwa. “I had one audition, but really, it happened over the course of about a month and a half. It started with me texting my agent to say I would love to play Willy Wonka or Doctor Who, and then her responding saying she would speak to the casting director [about me]. There was a call with the casting director, and then a week later, going in for the audition. Then, the next week, I got the role. It happened so smoothly it caught me: I was like, ‘Surely it shouldn’t have been this smooth?’. I mean, I text her [Gatwa’s agent] last month saying, ‘Can I be Doctor Who?’ and then I was. It was wild! It all felt a little too good to be true. It still does, actually.”