Everyone knows that Netflix releases somewhere along the lines of 40 billion new television shows every year, so it can be hard to find the one that really connects with you, even if you've actually heard good things about a series through word of mouth. Well, one of the shows that debuted last January, Sex Education, managed to break through and hit all the right notes for many, many people, who helped to make the coming of age dramedy one of Netflix's most watched shows in 2019. We know now, though, that series star Ncuti Gatwa was actually homeless before booking his role.
Ncuti Gatwa has embodied a breakout character in the openly gay Eric, who's bullied at school and feels out of place in his traditional (and religious) Ghanaian family, as well as the small town he lives in. Gatwa opened up recently to talk about what his life was like before he nabbed the gig on Sex Education, and it sounds like things weren't going too well for him with juggling acting work with enough other paying jobs to keep his head above water. Here's what he had to say:
But you have to feed yourself, you have to get to work, with rent, bills, travel, days off from temping to go to an audition, I couldn’t seem to handle it all financially. I was supposed to move into a new place and it fell through. So for five months before Sex Education, I was couch-surfing among all my friends. I didn’t have a home. I was homeless.
Well, as much as I have imagined that the life of a non-famous actor who has trouble finding work or is just getting started on his career must be difficult, what Ncuti Gatwa told The Big Issue really drives that point home in a new way. Even though Gatwa had a job selling perfume at fancy London department store Harrods during this time, trying to work in enough solid-paying acting gigs in between his time behind the perfume counter, along with other, more standard, everyday responsibilities, just became too much for him.
We all know that there are a lot of people who have trouble balancing all that comes with adulthood, living on their own, careers and so forth, but this type of situation does seem to plague actors and other creative types who are looking to work in those creative fields more so than, say, those who decide to use their talents to do people's taxes or get an HVAC repair license.
Ncuti Gatwa knows he got lucky, though. Not only did he nab a part on a successful series when he got Sex Education, but it happened pretty quickly into his couch surfing days, and he was able to lean on friends during his difficult time whereas he realizes that many others either cannot do that, or simply won't:
The only thing stopping me from being on the streets was the fact I had friends. But you can use up that goodwill. Or you feel scared to ask people for help. Your pride kicks in. … So my life before Sex Education was SO different. To go to my audition, I had to get my friend to transfer me 10 quid so I could top up my Oyster [public transportation] card.
Thankfully, not only did Ncuti Gatwa have friends who were willing to let him stay with them for a bit, but he was willing to ask and didn't have to do it for very long, because the awesome Sex Education came along.