Doctor Who Offered a Black Actor the Role and He Turned Them Down, Says Neil Gaiman
In which Gaiman knows more than us and has very well-informed opinions about everything.
Neil Gaiman, acclaimed fantasy writer and love of my life, has had quite a bit to say about the new Doctor. If you’ve been under a rock for the past few days, spoiler alert: it’s Peter Capaldi. And while Gaiman has only written two episodes of the show, he’s got some pretty compelling insider knowledge that we’ve been missing out on.
While many question Steven Moffat’s decision to stick to the British-white-male trend — yes, I know he kind of has to be British, but that Misha Collins tweet did get a few people questioning — Gaiman does have something to say about a Doctor of color: namely that this type of casting has got to happen soon, and that it actually almost did this time. “I know one black actor who was already offered the part of the Doctor, and who turned it down,” he wrote the other day.
So who the hell would turn down the role of the Doctor? Let’s speculate wildly!
Here are our parameters — One: he is black. Two: he knows Neil Gaiman. Three: he is totally crazy to give up this role. This leaves us with two likely candidates (minus the crazy part; having never been lucky enough to meet either of the gentlemen in question, I can make no authoritative comments on their sanity).
The first and most obvious guess is Paterson Joseph, who played the Marquis de Carabas in the 1996 miniseries of Neverwhere and who had a brief appearance in Russell T. Davies-era Doctor Who. Gaiman has even come forward saying that he was deeply disappointed Joseph didn’t get the role of Eleven, and added that his audition for Neverwhere easily beat all the other (primarily white) actors. Were Gaiman the show runner of Who, Paterson is exactly who he would want in an audition for the Doctor.
The second main possibility is Keith David, with whom Gaiman has collaborated several times. Gaiman adapted the script of Princess Mononoke for the English dub, and David played the minor role of Okkoto. They collaborated again for the 2009 film Coraline, in which David provided the voice of the Cat and reprised that same role for the video game. He’s also Keith David. Do we have to say more about that? Keith. David.
Will we ever get a confirmation as to who this mysterious actor was, though? Unlikely. “You can ask,” Gaiman said, “but seeing that it was something I was told in confidence by the actor in question, you won’t get an answer.”
Gaiman has also said on several occasions that he would love to see a woman Doctor (as would many Whovians), but didn’t think the Twelfth would be the right moment to introduce her:
Some of that is stuff I’d find hard to articulate, mostly having to do with what kind of Doctor you follow Matt Smith’s Doctor with: someone harder and much older and more dangerous and, yes, male feels right to me, as a storyteller. Where you go after that, ah, that’s a whole new game…
It doesn’t have to feel like that to you, nor am I telling you what to think. We’re talking stories here, and opinions after all, and your opinions are, obviously, as valid as mine.
When asked to clarify, he offered up this: “women can be old, and hard, and dangerous. I do not believe that I said they couldn’t be these things. I’d rather see a female Doctor as a reaction to whatever Peter Capaldi is, than as a reaction to Matt’s creation.”
Regardless, Gaiman is certainly excited to see what Capaldi will do with the role, and so are we — though we’re definitely also wondering exactly how foul-mouthed his new catchphrase will be. Hopefully very.