New BBC Doctor Who Ncuti Gatwa's incredible journey from homelessness to one of TV's biggest roles


Scots actor Ncuti Gatwa returns to screens tonight as the new series of Doctor Who kicks off.

The Barbie star has taken the reigns as the 15th Time Lord and, after making his debut in a Christmas Day special, he's back with new companion Ruby, played by Millie Gibson, for a full run of his incredible new role.

The actor shot to fame after appearing on hit Netflix show Sex Education, where he plays fan-favourite teen Eric Effiong.

But it hasn't been an easy path to fame for the talented 31 year old, from struggles with depression and homelessness before his Netflix stardom and now Doctor Who, it's been a long and winding journey for Ncuti.

Gatwa takes on the role of the Time Lord previously filled by Matt Smith, David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker for the role of a lifetime.

Born in Rwanda before moving to Scotland, where he was raised in Glasgow, Gatwa began his career as an extra on the 2014 sitcom Bob Servant.

In 2016, he played Demetrius in a production of A Midsummer's Nights Dream at Shakespeare's Globe.

His big break came when he was cast in Sex Education as Eric Effiong, a young gay British-Nigerian who is best friends with Otis, the show's lead character.

The Netflix show's three series document Eric's growth as he deals with his family's acceptance of his sexuality while he embraces his Nigerian heritage.

Ncuti also starred in TV's Sex Education.
Ncuti Gatwa -Credit:Netflix

He also falls in love with Adam, who bullied him in the first series.

Despite Gatwa's seemingly meteoric rise, his life has been far from plain sailing.

Writing in The Big Issue in May 2020, he said he ended up homeless after running out of savings in the months before he landed his role in Sex Education.

"Being a 25-year-old man with no money or job affected my sense of self-worth," he wrote. "Rejection became unbearable. Auditions weren't just acting jobs, they were lifelines."

He continued: "One friend gave me money towards paying off the prior month's rent and offered to let me move into their spare room rent free for a while.

"Great, I thought. An opportunity to get back on my feet and start paying people back.

"On moving-in day, he changed his mind. As I was standing on the street with my suitcases, one thought came into my head: 'I'm homeless."'

While everything appeared fine to the outside world, Gatwa was losing weight because he could not afford to eat properly.

-Credit:Dave J Hogan/Getty Images
-Credit:Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

"To the outside world everything seemed fine. I was temping at Harrods," he wrote.

"I'd wake up from the double bed I shared with my best friend, leave the house without a hair out of place in a slick-looking trench coat and polished brogues.

"I would get compliments for looking so presentable. When I lost weight due to eating only one meal a day, people told me how lean and healthy I looked."

In reality, Gatwa had developed depression, though he kept it from his friends out of fear of being a "burden".

He was able to turn his life around and has since shot to stardom. He joins Doctor Who during a state of flux for the show.

Showrunner Russell T Davies, who was behind the programme's 2005 revival, is back leading proceedings.

Davies has since had success with Channel Four's It's A Sin, which charts the lives of a group of gay friends during the Aids epidemic.

A Doctor Who double bill landed on BBC iPlayer at midnight and will air again on BBC One tonight, ahead of the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, which is also on the BBC.

The first two episodes will be followed by Boom, 73 Yards, Dot And Bubble, Rogue, The Legend Of Ruby Sunday and Empire Of Death.

Gatwa first appeared on screen as the 15th Time Lord during the last instalment of the 60th anniversary episodes which saw David Tennant return to play the 14th Doctor.

Gatwa’s Doctor met his new companion Ruby during a Christmas Day special, The Church On Ruby Road.

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