FROM struggles with depression and homelessness to Netflix stardom and now Doctor Who, the path to fame has been a long and winding one for Rwandan-Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa.

The Sex Education star is set to take on the role of the Time Lord previously filled by Matt Smith, David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker.

It is the role of a lifetime and a dream for thousands of young actors. Gatwa will become the fourth Scot to take up the post, following on from Sylvester McCoy, fellow Conservatoire graduate David Tennant and Peter Capaldi.

From Rwanda to Scotland

Born in Rwanda, Gatwa's family escaped from the Rwandan genocide in 1994 before settling in 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," he told the BBC last year.

The National:

The family lived in both Edinburgh and Dunfermline, with Gatwa going to Boroughmuir High School and Dunfermline High before studying acting at Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire.

Journey to TV stardom

After leaving the course with a BA in Acting, Gatwa got a position on Dundee Repertory Theatre’s graduation scheme. Gatwa then kicked off his TV career as an extra on the 2014 sitcom Bob Servant.

In 2016, he played Demetrius in a production of A Midsummer’s Nights Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe.

His big break came when he was cast in Sex Education as Eric Effiong, a young gay British-Nigerian who is best friends with Otis, the show’s lead character.

The Netflix show’s three series document Eric’s growth as he deals with his family’s acceptance of his sexuality while he embraces his Nigerian heritage.

He also falls in love with Adam, who bullied him in the first series.

Speaking on depression

Despite 29-year-old Gatwa’s seemingly meteoric rise, his life has been far from plain sailing.

Writing in The Big Issue in May 2020, he said he ended up homeless after running out of savings in the months before he landed his role in Sex Education.

“Being a 25-year-old man with no money or job affected my sense of self-worth,” he wrote.

“Rejection became unbearable. Auditions weren’t just acting jobs, they were lifelines.”

He continued: “One friend gave me money towards paying off the prior month’s rent and offered to let me move into their spare room rent free for a while.

“Great, I thought. An opportunity to get back on my feet and start paying people back.

“On moving-in day, he changed his mind. As I was standing on the street with my suitcases, one thought came into my head: ‘I’m homeless.’”

READ MORE: Sex Education: Ncuti Gatwa on his role in the hit Netflix series

While everything appeared fine to the outside world, Gatwa was losing weight because he could not afford to eat properly.

“To the outside world everything seemed fine. I was temping at Harrods,” he wrote.

“I’d wake up from the double bed I shared with my best friend, leave the house without a hair out of place in a slick-looking trench coat and polished brogues.

“I would get compliments for looking so presentable. When I lost weight due to eating only one meal a day, people told me how lean and healthy I looked.”

In reality, Gatwa had developed depression, though he kept it from his friends out of fear of being a “burden”.

He was able to turn his life around and has since shot to stardom.

Praise for Gatwa's new TV role

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, the principal of the Conservatoire where Gatwa studied, welcomed the BBC's announcement on Sunday. 

“We’re thrilled and incredibly proud of Ncuti taking the helm of the Tardis and with it one of the best-loved roles in British TV," he said.

“He’ll be such a brilliant role model and it’s lovely to see him join fellow RCS alumnus David Tennant in the famous Dr Who footsteps.”

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old was also congratulated by Scottish Culture Secretary Angus Robertson, who said on Twitter: “Congratulations to Ncuti Gatwa on becoming the new Dr Who.

The National:

“Great to see success of this young Scottish acting talent and graduate of Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.”

Fife Council said that Gatwa’s success will inspire others. Carrie Lindsay, the council’s executive director of education and children’s services, said: “Congratulations to Ncuti on his continued success! It’s always exciting to see the positive journeys our young people take as they move on from school.

“I know Ncuti has spoken before about some of the difficulties he faced growing up after moving to Scotland from Rwanda, and his determination and achievements will be an inspiration to many.”