Ncuti Gatwa, a star in the Netflix series “Sex Education”, will be the 14th actor and the first black man to play the title role in “Doctor Who”, the long-running British science fiction series about a time-traveling adventurer. This was announced by the BBC on Sunday.
He replaces Jodie Whittaker, who announced her retirement last July after three seasons as the series’ first female doctor.
Mr. Gatwa, 29, a Rwandan-Scottish actor, plays Eric Effiong, a gay man navigating his sexuality and identity in a religious Nigerian family, in “Sex Education”, the popular British teen comedy-drama series on Netflix.
“It feels really amazing, it’s a real honor,” Mr. Gatwa told the BBC on Sunday when he arrived at the EE British Academy Film Awards, commonly known as BAFTAs, where he was nominated for Best Male Performance in a Comedy Program for his work on “Sex Education”.
“This role is an institution,” he said of “Doctor Who.” “It’s so iconic and it means a lot to so many people, including myself, and then it makes everyone feel seen too. It is something that everyone can enjoy, so I feel very grateful to have been handed the baton, and I will try to do my best. ”
“Doctor Who” fans celebrated the news on Twitter on Sunday, with many expressing their excitement at seeing a doctor who looks like them. Others noted the low-key nature of the message: a tweet followed by a press release that the BBC shared on social media. In July 2017, the BBC announced Ms. Whittaker’s choice in a commercial that aired after the Wimbledon men’s final.
In a statement, shared by the BBC, Mr. Gatwa emphasized the importance of “Doctor Who” – both the character and the show itself – to fans around the world, and acknowledged feeling “a mix of deeply honored, more than excited and, of course, a little bit intimidated.”
“Unlike the Doctor,” he added, “I may have only one heart, but I give it my all for this show.”
The BBC has broadcast 39 seasons of “Doctor Who” over almost 60 years. The show, about a time-traveling alien known as the Doctor who travels through time and space in an old-fashioned British police telephone booth called TARDIS, has grown a legion of dedicated fans calling themselves “Whovians”.
The Doctor regenerates into new people, and in return, the series changes its protagonist every few years. Although transitions to new doctors are expected and eagerly anticipated by fans, the series’ previous attempts to change and diversify have not been universally embraced. Da Ms. Whittaker’s turn as the doctor was announced in 2017, some fans adopted the hashtag #NotMyDoctor and questioned why the character had suddenly changed gender.
Ms. Whittaker’s final episode has not yet come, said Russell T. Davies, the series’ showrunner, in a statement. It will be shown this autumn during the BBC’s centenary celebrations, according to a trailer showing the episode.
Mr. Gatwa will make his debut as Time Lord in 2023.