A Black Actor Already Turned Down Doctor Who, According To Neil Gaiman

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You may have heard the Doctor Who news by now – Peter Capaldi has been cast as the twelfth Doctor in the long-running BBC sci-fi drama. While some fans may not have been that happy about it, overall the reaction seems to have been very positive.

Before we all knew he’d been cast, however, there was a list of actors going round, including two black actors – Idris Elba and David Harewood. But if the producers had their way, we may already have had a black Doctor,  if not for the refusal of the person offered the role.

A Q&A session on Neil Gaiman’s tumblr page resulted in this exchange:

snuffles44: Thank you very much for your explanation of why you think it was not time for a female doctor (though I respectfully disagree). What about someone of another race than white playing the doctor? As someone who understands casting/storytelling, do you think there will ever be a non-white doctor?
Neil Gaiman: Of course. (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.

This initially caused some consternation, as people assumed that he was referring to the most recent casting of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Some attempted to get more information, to no avail:

papercranechronicles: Can I ask you who the black actor who turned down the role was?
Neil Gaiman: You can ask, but seeing that it was something I was told in confidence by the actor in question, you won’t get an answer.

After several users pointed out that according to executive producer Steven Moffat, Peter Capaldi was the only person offered the role, Neil Gaiman pointed out that he didn’t actually mean the 12th casting:

misanderingthroughthewoods: Did the unnamed black actor turn down the role for the 12th Doctor? Because Stephen Moffat has said that he only considered Peter Capaldi for that role.
Neil Gaiman: No, he didn’t turn down the role of the twelfth Doctor. There have been many Doctors cast over the years.

It says a lot about how willing the producers of the show to go outside the pre-conceived notions of the fans in terms of casting – the casting of Peter Capaldi is adventurous, but ultimately inkeeping with the show as a whole, as most of the earlier Doctors were comparatively old, when placed next to the newer incarnations. One thing’s for sure – Peter Capaldi will be fantastic, and that’s all that matters right now.