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According To Neil Gaiman, A Black Actor Was Offered 'Doctor Who' But Turned It Down. Who?

by Tambay A. Obenson
August 6, 2013 5:59 PM
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Doctor Who

“I thought I’d said that I was disappointed that it didn’t happen this time, and that there are some amazing actors out there. I was rather disappointed that Paterson Joseph didn’t get it last time, although I’ve loved Matt’s Eleven. And yes, I have no doubt there will be. (I know one black actor who was already offered the part of the Doctor, and who turned it down.)  Just as there will be a female Doctor.”

Words from Neil Gaiman, writer of a couple of episodes of the series (Doctor Who). The author shared his thoughts on the casting of a black Doctor Who, on his Tumblr page (thanks "Jug" for the heads-up). 

My comrade Emmanuel is much more equipped to comment on all things Doctor Who than I am, since he's the resident Doctor Who authority around here, while I just never really got into it, and abandoned it long ago.

So I'll defer to him here for any color commentary.

In the meantime... as was recently announced, Peter Capaldi will replace Matt Smith in Doctor Who

Recall Emmanuel's posts wondering whether a black actor would be chosen for the role. Well, that didn't happen.

However, if Neil Gaiman is to believed in his quote above, a black actor WAS indeed offered the part, but they turned it down! 

So let the speculation begin on who exactly that actor is. To help you narrow it down (assuming you need help) the actor is very likely British and male. So what black British actor would turn this down? Probably one that's already fairly busy, and isn't wanting for work, which narrows the list down even further.

Emmanuel's list included the following actors: David Harewood, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, Zawe AshtonAshley Walters, Thandie Newton and Lenny Henry.

He also added that, after 3 consecutive young Doctors, he would've liked to see The Doctor as an older man (or woman), as was once the case. In response to that, the BBC says that the 55-year-old chosen one - Peter Capaldi - is the oldest Doctor since the first Doctor, William Hartnell, began it all in 1963.

Well, I guess I'll try to catch up on my Doctor Who now, one way or another, in light of today's news.

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  • dancelover51 | August 8, 2013 2:37 AMReply

    I am sure they offered the part to a well known consistently working Black Actor. Everyone who has played Doctor Who has done it on the come up so they are not going to cast someone who is in major movies. It would be a step down.

  • Jug | August 7, 2013 2:20 PMReply

    And you can pretty much take Gaiman's statements to heart. When he was approached by Hollywood to turn his novel ANONZI BOYS into a movie or tv show about magic & Gods wherethe leads are African and they said "Can we make them white? No one wants to see Black People in Fantasy or can we take away the Magic"-he said Fuck Off. He got my vote on that one!

  • Jug | August 7, 2013 2:22 PM

    And look, he pulled Patterson Joseph out of the hat. How's THAT for knowing someone that ain't the usual suspects!

  • Emmanuel | August 6, 2013 10:55 PMReply

    Gaiman's comments are very interesting. The only way I'd imagine any actor turning down the role is if that actor was really working consistently. That instantly brings to mind Ejiofor and Oyelowo. But it also could be Adrian Lester or Idris Elba. Unless someone spills the beans, I guess we'll never know. What I do know is that Lenny Henry is still the best candidate, from where I'm standing. Over the past decade, he's made it a point to hone and showcase his dramatic skills on stage, all the while maintaining the same witty charm which made him a star in the first place.

  • Guest | August 6, 2013 10:18 PMReply


    Got me thinking -- David Oyelowo -- he seems like he would have been a prime choice as well. I wonder if he could have been the one to refuse.

  • Guest | August 6, 2013 10:15 PMReply

    Despite them not choosing a black actor, or whatever the case, I don't think I would be watching if they didn't choose Peter Capaldi. That man is brilliant. To me, he's the Scottish Sam Jackson. Close enough? LoL

    With that, it would have been awesome to see Lenny Henry, Ashley Walters (if they skewed younger), David Harewood -- (and I don't think they chose him for continuity reasons), or Chiwetel. They all have the gravitas to carry that role.

    Helen Mirren was even calling for a black female Doctor. Thandie would have been great for that, too. Or even an unknown along the lines of Matt Smith would have sufficed. Let's hope for the 13th it'll change.

  • sosgemini | August 6, 2013 6:21 PMReply

    His phrasing could also mean that a black actor was offered the role in the past...not necessarily this round.

  • Sean D | August 7, 2013 6:54 AM

    Yes, I read it like that too. Interesting.

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