Ncuti Gatwa, International, Global

Ncuti Gatwa Discusses White Mediocrity, Expectations, Black Excellence

Gatwa, who has faced some backlash from “fans” of "Doctor Who" for just being a Black, queer man, pushed back against the idea that he is required to subscribe to Black Excellence in order to be appreciated.

Ncuti Gatwa, the first Black male doctor in the history of Doctor Who, the long-running British sci-fi television program, recently discussed his thoughts on the expectations that Black entertainers must be at least twice as good as mediocre white entertainers to receive acclaim.

Spoiler alert: Gatwa is not a fan of this arrangement. 

Gatwa, who has faced some backlash from “fans” of Doctor Who for just being a Black, queer man, pushed back against the idea that he is required to subscribe to the concept of Black Excellence in order to be appreciated in an interview with Attitude Magazine. 

“We’re trained to be like, ‘If I’m not exceptional, I won’t be loved.’ Certainly, I think that was my thing,” Gatwa told the outlet. “So, yeah, I think I’m just learning now like, ‘Oh, you are allowed to be loved.’ You don’t have to be excellent or aspire to that term, ‘Black excellence’. What the hell?”

Gatwa continued, “There’s so much white mediocrity that gets celebrated and Black people, we have to be absolutely flawless to get half of [that] anyway. So, I’m slowly training myself out of that and being like, ‘No sh*t. You deserve love just for existing.’ And that has taught me to be a lot more loving as well, in a weird way.”

Gatwa also discussed the connection of backlash directed at diverse castings of characters that used to be white and the “meltdown” that accompanies the backlash.

“The hate? It is kind of fascinating to me because there’s so much energy they’re putting into it. You are so angry over something so inconsequential that you can’t be an interesting person. You can’t have much in your life. I don’t have the time to do that. And so, I think they need to go find a hobby is one thing. But another thing is that we do see a shift happening in casting, in positions of power and in the status quo. I mean, not a fast shift; things could tip over the other way a little bit quicker, but you see people kind of malfunctioning because things are changing.”

In 2023, Gatwa told the Hollywood Reporter that his experience working on Sex Education prepared him to step out of that role and into the role of The Doctor. “Being on it (Sex Education) fast-tracked me into the downsides of this industry,” Gatwa said. “I remember being told by an executive producer that white people wouldn’t understand my character, Eric, which incensed me. There’s an entire show there for white people to understand.”

Gatwa also discussed his intersecting identities with Attitude. “I feel like I’ve kind of reached a place in my personal journey where I just am who I am, and that doesn’t have to change wherever I go. I just have to exist. And it’s a privilege to do so in my position because there’s many people that are in my intersections that don’t get a chance to just exist.

“Just because I’ve now been cast as Doctor Who, all problems of inequality are now fixed? Things don’t work like that. But yeah, now personally, I don’t feel like they’re in conflict with each other, but they can do for people and have done for me in the past. But I’m now just learning not to care what other people think. “

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