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21 Interesting Facts About Ncuti Gatwa, The New Star Of "Doctor Who"

On the Barbie set, Ncuti Gatwa once turned around to find Ryan Gosling looking at him, and "his eyes were so blue that [Ncuti] just…fell over."

Last summer, you almost definitely saw Ncuti Gatwa as one of many Kens in Barbie. You may also recognize him from Sex Education or, most recently, Doctor Who.

Ncuti Gatwa in a formal dark suit and tie, looking at the camera

Here are 21 interesting facts about Ncuti Gatwa:

1. Ncuti Gatwa (whose first name is pronounced like "shoot-ie") was born in the Nyarugenge district in Kigali, Rwanda on Oct. 15, 1992.

Ncuti in patterned jacket and tie standing by floral arrangement

His full name is Mizero Ncuti Gatwa.

2. He's a Libra sun, Gemini moon, and Scorpio rising.

Ncuti in a sheer top with a draped detail at the waist on the red carpet

3. When he was two, his family left Rwanda for the UK amidst the Rwandan genocide. They settled in Scotland.

Ncuti and his mom smiling at a table with drinks, him in a suit, her in a floral dress

In BBC Scotland, he said, "Landscape wise [Rwanda] looks really similar to Scotland. We were refugees, we were refugees coming to the UK and I definitely now view myself as a Rwandan Scotsman – yes there’s such a term and I’m giving it a name today! It's a thing...I'm making it a thing."

4. He has one brother and one sister.

Ncuti in patterned suit and tie with sunglasses smiling at an event

5. When the Gatwas got to the UK, Ncuti's dad, Tharcisse, enrolled as a philosophy and theology PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, so the family lived in university housing where they met people from all across the globe.

Ncuti wearing textured top with layered gold necklaces and sunglasses, standing in front of an audience

Ncuti told Teen Vogue, "They had these accommodations for international families, so there was just a whole big estate with a big garden meadow in the middle. And then there were just kids from all over the world."

6. After graduating, Tharcisse couldn't find work in the UK as a Black professor, so he moved to Cameroon, which Ncuti acknowledges as an "amazing sacrifice."

Ncuti in a bright suit standing in front of a backdrop with logos

The actor told Teen Vogue, "[My parents] just worked so hard for everything that me and my brother and sister have, so they're definitely my role models. They've given me my work ethic and I guess a sense of responsibility. I guess they instilled in me a sense of walking through this world. I've not completed the spot yet, but do things with intention and it's not just you, you're not just doing this for you, you're doing this for other people that are looking up to you and your future kids."

7. Growing up, Ncuti "felt like [he] was the only Black person in the world" because "there were no Black Scottish role models."

the Doctor wearing a kilt and dancing energetically in a crowded party scene

He told BBC Scotland, "I remember my mum being like... 'everyone looks the same'. She travelled all around Edinburgh walking around all of Edinburgh trying to find someone that was Black and she couldn’t see anyone.”

8. In 2023, he came out as queer publicly in an interview with Elle by sharing the story of the first time he met another queer Rwandan person.

Ncuti in a unique striped suit with skirt bottom, holding a tennis racket, at a themed event

He said, "I remember being at Manchester Pride, going through the streets with all my boys, shaking my cha-chas, living it up, when I saw this woman who looked exactly like my auntie. She wasn’t – but I knew she was Rwandan...It just blew my mind that she was there. I can feel myself getting emotional just thinking about it. We were holding hands, and she said to me, 'I don’t really know why I’m here. I’m just here.' I told her, 'Honey, you don’t need to know. You absolutely. Do not. Need. To. Know. You’re here. Be proud of who you are.' I had never met another queer Rwandan person before. I thought I was the only one in the world."

Reflecting on describing himself as queer in the Elle interview three months later, he told British GQ, "It felt right in the moment. I’ve never been in the closet, you know. I just never talked about it. The work I do is what’s important."

9. Ncuti sent his agent an email expressing that he'd like to play someone like the Doctor (or Willy Wonka). He got the audition for Doctor Who a week later.

Ruby in a shearling jacket over top and the Doctor in a leather jacket, both smiling, in a warmly lit setting

He prepped by binging the entirety of the 2005 revival series in a week. 

He told Rolling Stone UK, "I fell in love with it. When you watch it, you forget all your troubles. You go to space, or to another time. You have adventures."

He also related a lot to the Doctor because, at the start of the 2005 series, they were the only survivors of the Time War, which had wiped out all of their fellow Time Lords. Ncuti said, "This person survived a genocide. This person fits in everywhere and nowhere. I am the Doctor. The Doctor is me. I decided that I had to get this role."

10. When he auditioned for Doctor Who, he knew he "needed to go in and give them a wink and a [smile]." However, he "almost forgot about [the audition] as soon as [he] left the room, because there was just no way."

the Doctor with a bright smile, wearing a tank top, seated indoors

He told British GQ, "I’m a good actor [but] this is a 60-year-long British institution and I’m a Black man, so I never thought that I’d be chosen to front something that is basically the heart of the BBC. Your existence when you’re a marginalized person is political. So you, and the world, are aware of that, and people make decisions accordingly...My industry is not a meritocracy. So yeah, I was like… I don’t think I’ll get it. And then I did, and I thought Wow... Oh shit…. Oh shit! What have I done?! And then once the shock of it all left my system, it was a no-brainer."

11. Ncuti is the first person of color to play a main, series-leading regeneration of the Doctor. He's also the first openly queer actor to play the Doctor.

the Doctor in a leather jacket beside a British police box on a city street

Technically, the first POC to play the Doctor was Jo Martin, who played the Fugitive Doctor, one of the Thirteenth Doctor's forgotten past regenerations that she discovered in Season 12.

12. He's the first actor born outside the UK to play the Doctor and the fourth Scottish actor to take on the role.

the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctor on top of a building, looking intently forward, with extras in the background

The other Scottish actors who've played the role are Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor), David Tennant (the Tenth and Fourteenth Doctor), and Peter Capaldi (the Twelfth Doctor).

13. On Doctor Who, his version of the sonic screwdriver (the Doctor's iconic tool) is engraved with a Rwandan proverb written in Gallifreyan symbols. Translated into English, it says, "The sharpness of the tongue defeats the sharpness of the warrior."

14. To help him understand his characters, he decides what their astrological chart would be. For example, the Doctor's adventurousness would make him an Aquarius sun, a water moon (like a Pisces), and a Sagittarius rising.

the Doctor in a half-unbuttoned shirt and undone tie

15. The son of "traditional Rwandan Christians," Ncuti grew up in church, but "a long time ago [he] fell out of love with it all." For him, astrology, "probably filled a gap that religion left."

Person in a striped sweater and yellow scarf posing for the camera

He told Rolling Stone UK, "I found astrology so accepting. It helped me accept my own darkness, and other people’s darkness, too. I had a very… bad breakup. I ended up becoming homeless after it. People will probably think this sounds so silly but once the grieving was done, once I’d found a safe home again, typing in our respective star signs and seeing all this writing that described so accurately what the problem was between us, it led me to be able to forgive them. I understand their motives now. I don’t forget their actions, but I can forgive their motives."

16. When he played Eric Effiong in Sex Education, he "really wanted to draw away from the stereotypes of gay best friend or Black best friend because we’ve seen that before and it's boring."

Eric in vibrant patterned jacket with backpack looking surprised inside a building

He told News 18, "Eric is so well written and I’m so grateful to Laurie Nunn for writing such fully fleshed character, he goes through a lot during the series and I think his journey and arc is going to be so important for people to watch and realise that the best way to lead your life is unapologetically and free. I love the fact that he is of Ghanaian and Nigerian descent also, because I am also African (my parents are Rwandan) and having that form of representation of screen felt really empowering as an actor to play."

17. When he first booked the role of Eric, he was nervous about his lack of experience with makeup, so he "dropped some serious money on Fenty Beauty" then watched a ton of makeup tutorials.

Eric with a beaming smile wearing futuristic attire and bold eye makeup at a club

He told News 18, "It's actually hugely fascinating and a real skill to master. I think make up artists are incredible anyway but my appreciation for what they do went up ten fold because by the time I finished my tutorials I looked like Krusty the Clown."

18. He thinks of costar Asa Butterfield as a "little brother."

Eric and Otis smiling and walking down a hallway, Eric with an arm around Otis's shoulder

"Honestly as soon as we met it felt like we had been friends for years, we were just comfortable around each other. We’re quite similar to Eric [and] Otis is the fact that we are both very different personalities but somehow they just gel," he told News 18.

19. When he initially auditioned for Barbie, he actually read for an unnamed part, not one of the Kens. However, a month later, he was invited back to read for the role that would eventually be his.

Ncuti Gatwa posing with a guitar next to the word 'Barbie', movie poster for an upcoming release

"This sounds so arrogant, but my agent said that Greta [Gerwig] hadn’t been able to stop thinking about me, so I was asked back to audition for Ken. Which was confusing because Ryan was Ken!" he told Rolling Stone UK.

20. While filming Barbie, he was so nervous that he barely spoke on set for the first month. However, those nerves didn't last, and he "noticed that it was also the most kind, empathetic set [he's] ever been on."

Physicist Barbie and Artist Ken are in a conversation, he is wearing a leather jacket and she's in a denim dress

21. And finally, on the Barbie set, he once turned around to find Ryan Gosling looking at him, and "his eyes were so blue that [Ncuti] just…fell over."

Stereotypical Ken exercising with a pull-up bar and Artist Ken holding a clipboard, both wearing unique costumes

He told Elle, "‘I just drowned in his eyes."

Are you excited for Ncuti’s turn as the Doctor? What are your favorite roles of his so far? Tell us in the comments below!

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