Ncuti Gatwa Says ‘Sex Education’ Producers Tried to Shut Down Ad-Lib Because ‘White People’ Wouldn’t ‘Understand’ Slang

Ncuti Gatwa is opening up about bringing authentic culture to “Sex Education.”

The actor, who plays Eric in the Netflix series, told British Vogue that during the first season of the critically acclaimed show, producers tried to shut down his in-character ad-libbing as 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.’”

Gatwa added, “And they got that. We were all constantly learning on that job.”

The “Barbie” actor continued of playing the gay Nigerian-Ghanaian teen, “When the show first came out, I was living in Tottenham, and the amount of young boys from the block that would come up to me and be like, ‘Oi, I love Eric you know!’ I was like, ‘Wow.’ I used to train at this gym with a lot of ex-cons and bodybuilders, and these guys would come up to me like, ‘Eric’s my favorite character,’ or ‘You’re my girlfriend’s favorite character,’ and I’m like, ‘Don’t lie!’ It was so cool because I could see the show opening up people’s minds.”

The upcoming fourth and final season of “Sex Education” gives Eric “the ending I wanted for him,” Gatwa said. “Things get tied up. And there was one scene that I particularly fought for, and I managed to get it in, which was great,” he said.

“Aimee [Lee Wood] and I wrote it, and we were redrafting it until like 3 a.m. the day before. I’ve never written for Eric before so that felt big, and it was a scene that meant a lot to me in terms of Eric’s journey and relationships. It felt very necessary.”

Gatwa reflected on Eric’s character arc as a whole, saying, “The jester is always the most powerful person. And with Eric, he’s been bullied and he’s kind of at the bottom of the pile, so there’s just this joy that lives within him because he has nothing to lose. He can only be himself, and that’s so fun to play. He sits within all of these intersections – being gay, West African, religious, all these things that are not the norm at his school, which have given him so many different perspectives on and insights into the world – and that’s his power. Queer people are outsiders, and that’s why they’re all-powerful.”

Gatwa is next making history as the first Black Doctor in BBC’s “Doctor Who.” Co-star Neil Patrick Harris announced that Gatwa will be playing a gay Doctor as well.

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