‘Doctor Who’ Stars Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson Talk Naughty Babies, Former Doctors and Companions

The Doctor Who press juggernaut materialized in New York last week, bringing with it leading stars Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson. The iconic, long-running BBC science-fiction show about a time-and-space traveling alien debuts its latest season on streamer Disney+ on Friday.

Gatwa, who grew up in Scotland after leaving Rwanda as a child, is already known for playing Eric Effiong in Sex Education (Netflix) and as one of the many Kens in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (2023). Lesser known internationally is Gibson, who turns 20 in June. In the U.K., the actor made a name for herself in the television soap opera, Coronation Street (which is even longer-running than Doctor Who).

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The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the pair to discuss the opening two episodes of their first season (which release at 7 p.m. on the streamer). There’s no spoilers below, but do come back Saturday for the second part of this interview, which delves into spoiler territory.


One of my first thoughts after watching the first episodes was: when you both signed up for Doctor Who, did you think there’d be this much dancing and singing, especially with a sci-fi show?

MILLIE GIBSON Absolutely not! (Laughs) That wasn’t included in the audition process.

NCUTI GATWA No, I didn’t see that in the briefing notes, funnily enough.

GIBSON We kind of got thrown in the deep end, but we definitely hung on. Tried to swim through it.

GATWA Tried to make our way through, yeah. Decided to just enjoy the ride.

At any point, did you suggest doing more songs and dance routines, or were they already there in the scripts you received?

GATWA Oh, everything we shot was already there in the script. Definitely. Russell [T Davies, showrunner] has a very, very, very clear vision as to what he wants, and he knew he wanted us singing and dancing. So, we did!

In the season opener “Space Babies,” much is made of the fact that these children are refugees. And it’s an interesting topic for Doctor Who — should it be a political show?

GATWA I don’t know so much if he’s commenting on it as to maybe that he’s just acknowledging that these crises exist. This is an extraterrestrial show, so let’s take that to the stars. Refugees exist and so why not speak about them?

The episode also features quite a number of babies. Did working with them get either of you broody?

GATWA Oh! My! God! (Laughs.)

GIBSON You loved Captain Poppy! [Poppy is one of the main babies in the episode.]

GATWA I did love Captain Poppy.

GIBSON She gave the best hugs.

GATWA They were so cute. But even they were very cute…

GIBSON … it was a great handing them back to their mothers! (Laughs)

GATWA It was a lovely contraceptive reminder! I thought, “Wow! One of you can make that much noise?”

GIBSON One cried just to get a bit of attention! This guy’s winding us up!

GATWA Oh, my God, they are such masterminds! Poppy, she’s going far!

GIBSON She can come back!

GATWA She is going far, she’s got a career ahead of her!

You’ve mentioned previous Doctor Who actor David Tennant in interviews. As he’s such a big fan, has he asked for spoilers for the series?

GATWA No, he hasn’t. He’s been very, very gracious and let us get on with it and take the floor. But no, no, he hasn’t.

And Millie, did you reach out to any previous actors who played companions, or did any of them reach out to you?

GIBSON The day after I got announced, I remember getting two messages from Mandip Gill [who played Thirteen Doctor companion, Yasmin Khan] who’s kind of passing the baton to me, and she was so, so lovely. And then I got a text from [Thirteenth Doctor actor] Jodie Whittaker and I was like, “Which Jodie do I know???” And they were like, “oh, Jodie Whittaker!” [And I was like,] “Oh, my god! (Laughs)

But otherwise, I slipped into Karen Gillan’s DMs to just thank her and ask for advice, mainly because it’s such a unique role [the Guardians of the Galaxy actor played Eleventh Doctor companion Amy Pond]. It’s so nice to share experiences and have that validation from past companions and past doctors.

Ncuti, as you are Scottish, have you asked Russell T Davies to do a story set in Scotland? With David Tennant, one of his very first stories was set in Scotland.

GATWA Do you know what? I haven’t. But I will. I was preoccupied… Next trip, Bonnie Scotland! (Laughs) Fight for the kingdom of Fife! There’s a big something goes down in Kirkcaldy!

I would love to see the Americans pronouncing “Kirkcaldy.”

GATWA Oh, we know it’ll be fun!

There’s an actor called Susan Twist who has been spotted in some of the 2023 Doctor Who specials as different characters. Do we see more of Susan Twist, whatever character she’s playing, and does that pay off down the line?

GIBSON Are you sure it’s her? Are you sure? I don’t know who that actress is.

GATWA Who is that?

[Both laugh as they demonstrate mock ignorance to the question.]

GATWA Do you know what? It is so enjoyable watching the worlds that Russell creates. And then also how Russell pieces together stories and how long he can do that for across multiple, multiple, multiple episodes. And then it culminates in something, God knows what.

GIBSON God knows what, I don’t know.

GATWA They don’t tell us anything.

Doctor Who streams Friday May 10 at 7 p.m. on Disney+. New episodes debut weekly.

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