Any time there’s an opening for the coveted role of the BBC’s Doctor Who, the names of a few black actors get tossed around as possible candidates.
This time around (with the impending departure of current Doctor, Matt Smith) is no exception.
For the unfamiliar, Doctor Who has managed to enjoy 50 years of relevancy thanks to the character’s ability to regenerate and take another form, rather than die like the rest of us. You see, he’s an alien Time Lord, with two hearts, who travels in a time machine called a TARDIS, and . . . ok, ok– I’ll restrain my inner geek for now.
Anyway, what this little character trait allows the BBC to do is keep the series fresh with a new lead face every few years, and essentially allow the show to go on forever if desired.
So when Smith exits the role next Christmas, and Doctor Who regenerates, it’s anybody’s guess who will step into his shoes. And guessing is exactly what fans and writers the world over are doing right now, with several familiar names being touted as strong and long-shot candidates for the job.
Last week we told you about the recent accusations of racism against the Doctor Who franchise, to which the BBC countered by citing their “strong track record of diverse casting”. Now, this week, there are names of a few actors-of-color floating around in speculative commentary on Smith’s replacement (there are also some who have openly campaigned against the idea). Here are a few of the names being mentioned:
David Harewood: Hot off the heels of his stellar performance in Showtime’s Homeland, Harewood’s isn’t really a name that I would expect to hear being considered for the role of The Doctor. However, The Hollywood Reporter cites bookie odds which have Harewood as a 4/1 favorite.
Chiwetel Ejiofor: The unofficial word is that he has a pretty good shot at getting the job. THR’s bookie source only lists Ejiofor as a 7/1 favorite. I think he’d be a great fit, if he wanted the role. But as someone who’s established himself as a consistent, reliable Hollywood player, I wouldn’t imagine that he’d have the time to fit Who into his busy work schedule.
Idris Elba: When I saw his name mentioned, I laughed. Doctor Who is still somewhat of a family/children’s show, so I seriously doubt that the same man known to most as Stringer Bell and DI John Luther would get a serious look from BBC heads for this role. Don’t get me wrong– I think he’d be great. I just don’t see it happening.
Zawe Ashton: There’s been a lot of speculation that The Doctor could regenerate in a female body this time around. If that were the case, and if Ashton was tapped for the part, it would be an excellent move. She’s funny, quirky, and has the necessary acting chops to make such a dramatic (and potentially traumatic for The Doctor) change believable.
Ashley Walters: He’d be a long-shot selection, but it definitely would be interesting to see the Top Boy star handle some lighter fare than what we’re currently used to. Best known for his grittier roles, Walters has the versatility necessary to pull it off, as displayed in his 2009 performance in the BBC’s Small Island adaptation.
Thandie Newton: At this point, I think folks are just throwing names out there to be provocative. I think Newton’s a good enough actress, but this is not the role for her. Nor do I believe anyone involved with the show ever seriously considered her for the part.
Personally, while I’d be pleased if Ejiofor was selected as the 12th Doctor, if the decision was mine, I’d tap funnyman Lenny Henry to replace Smith. With his newfound dedication to dramatic acting, he’d be perfect at displaying the varied range of emotions the character experiences in the series’ bizarre storylines. And after three consecutive Doctors who have been relatively young in age, it would be nice for the show to return to the days when The Doctor was a wily old man (or woman).