Ncuti Gatwa Says Black Actors Have to Be ‘Excellent’ While ‘White Mediocrity’ Is ‘Celebrated’

Ncuti Gatwa is reflecting on racial double standards within Hollywood.

The “Doctor Who” star and “Barbie” actor told Attitude magazine that the pressure to “be excellent” as a Black actor is disproportionate to the level of “white mediocrity” that is still pervasive onscreen.

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

The “Sex Education” alum 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 shit. You deserve love just for existing.’ And that has taught me to be a lot more loving as well, in a weird way.”

Gatwa additionally addressed the initial backlash to his “Doctor Who” casting, recalling how some viewers were “so angry over something so inconsequential” despite a gradual “shift” in cultural acceptance for colorblind casting. Gatwa makes history as the first Black Doctor in the series.

“We do see a shift happening in casting, in positions of power and in the status quo,” Gatwa said. “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.”

Gatwa previously told British Vogue that during the first season of “Sex Education,” producers tried to shut down his ad-libbing as they felt it could potentially isolate white viewers.

“There were producers coming up to me like, ‘This ad-lib, I don’t feel like white people will understand it,’” Gatwa said. “And I was like, ‘It’s not for white people to understand. There are many white people in this show for white people to understand, but I want this other group of people to understand Eric. And that’s what you want, too.’ And they got that. We were all constantly learning on that job.”

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