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Ncuti Gatwa: Doctor Who reminds me that there is always hope

Ncuti Gatwa told The Big Issue how Russell T Davies helps him look at the world with hope – despite Suella Braverman chatting rubbish

Ncuti Gatwa in Doctor Who

Ncuti Gatwa in the 2023 Christmas Special of Doctor Who. Image: BBC Studios/Bad Wolf/James Pardon

Ncuti Gatwa has revealed that Russell T Davies helped him to look at the world with more positivity and hope after a recent heart to heart with the Doctor Who showrunner.

Gatwa, who takes over from David Tennant this Christmas to become the 15th Doctor, appears on the cover of this week’s magazine – out 4 December 2023 – and explained how he has really embraced the message of hope that Davies brings to the show.

“Don’t get me wrong, Russell doesn’t shy away from big, bad danger,” Gatwa said.

“The scripts are everything. They’re intense, they’re dark, they’re energetic, they’re fun and funny and light, but also very dark and heavy. You know, the way he writes – he’s dealing with such existential crises and huge issues channelled in a really artistic, creative sci-fi way.

“But hope is certainly something he has put into these scripts. I was speaking to him the other day – not as actor to producer or Doctor to showrunner, just as Ncuti to Russell. We were talking about the world. I was like, ‘I just think it’s just not in a good place is it, and I don’t think it is going to get better, Russell. It seems like the human race is kind of useless!’ All of us. White, Black, whoever.

“We’re all kind of useless on this planet – we keep chopping down trees, you’ve got bloody Suella [Braverman] chatting rubbish. How are we gonna get better?

“And he said, ‘Ncuti, you can’t not have hope. You have to have hope in life. And you have to have hope in the fact that we are useless, but we’re also full of amazingness and wonder. Hope is what saves us.’”

For Gatwa, it mirrored words he heard growing up.

“Do you know what? My mum says the same thing. And that’s what my name means. Mizero [his full name is Mizero Ncuti Gatwa] means hope. So I must remember to have hope. Because what else is there? And this show always reminds me of that. There’s always hope at the end of each episode.”

The Big Issue magazine featuring Ncuti Gatwa on the cover
Ncuti Gatwa on the cover of The Big Issue. On sale: 4 December 2023

On Christmas Day, Gatwa’s Doctor will finally make his first full appearance. But the actor is already well into filming his second series of the show – with episodes set to air in spring 2025 currently being filmed in Cardiff and beyond. In the interview, he revealed how he feels about finally unleashing his Doctor on the world.

“It’s felt like I’ve been the Doctor and also had to hold off from being the Doctor for most of the last two years,” said Gatwa.

“So how do I feel about people seeing it? I feel ready. But I’m sooooo nervous. It’s been so long now that I’m like, ‘No, no, no, no. Don’t look! Nothing to see here.’”

In 2020, Gatwa first revealed in an interview with The Big Issue that he had spent some time sofa surfing early in his career. He later wrote about the experience exclusively for The Big Issue. In the new interview, he reflected on speaking his truth.

“I feel good I spoke about it. Because it can happen to anyone and can be extremely difficult to get out of,” he said. “There’s just so much judgement towards people who are homeless.

“I think about us as a society. As someone who grew up working class, who didn’t have money but now has some – seeing how the world reacts to you differently depending on your situation is wild.”

He explained the lasting impact of the time.

“To this day I still wake up and check my bank balance and that there’s food in my fridge. And that’s because of that brief, brief, brief period where I was struggling.

“So for someone like Suella, with that platform, to say that homelessness is a lifestyle choice? The levels of privilege that speaks to is really quite crazy.”

In the wide-ranging new interview, Gatwa also talked about joining Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film – “I am still very much in love with Ken and with being a Ken” – as well as sharing his feelings about following in the footsteps of David Tennant, who he so admired as a teenage Doctor Who fan.

“It feels like it’s come full circle – because David was my Doctor and such a great inspiration to me as an actor, Gatwa said.

“I would have been 13 – a pivotal time. So for him, of all people, to be handing the baton over – it just feels really surreal. Because I just loved his Doctor so much…”

Read Ncuti Gatwa’s full interview in The Big Issue, on sale until 10 December.

The Big Issue magazine exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work, buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today. Or give a gift subscription. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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