Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa opens up about his depression and homelessness

Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa has told how he became homeless and developed depression before finding fame in the hit Netflix show.

The Scottish actor, 27, stars as Eric Effiong in the series about socially awkward high school student Otis (Asa Butterfield) and his sex therapist mother Jean (Gillian Anderson).

Gatwa said he spent four months without an acting job, ran out of savings and was forced to give up his flat while living in London.

Sex Education stars Gillian Anderson, Asa Butterfield, Emma Mackey and Ncuti Gatwa
Sex Education stars Gillian Anderson, Asa Butterfield, Emma Mackey and Ncuti Gatwa (Ian West/PA)

Writing in The Big Issue, he said: “Being a 25-year-old man with no money or job affected my sense of self-worth.

“Rejection became unbearable. Auditions weren’t just acting jobs, they were lifelines.”

Recalling the moment he realised he was homeless, he said: “One friend gave me money towards paying off the prior month’s rent and offered to let me move into their spare room rent free for a while.

“Great, I thought. An opportunity to get back on my feet and start paying people back.

“On moving-in day, he changed his mind. As I was standing on the street with my suitcases, one thought came into my head: ‘I’m homeless.’

“To the outside world everything seemed fine. I was temping at Harrods.

“I’d wake up from the double bed I shared with my best friend, leave the house without a hair out of place in a slick-looking trench coat and polished brogues.

“I would get compliments for looking so presentable. When I lost weight due to eating only one meal a day, people told me how lean and healthy I looked.

“I developed depression. But I never let people know how down I was feeling.

“That would have been another burden for my friends to take on. My mind became my biggest enemy.”

Gatwa said he would have been “screwed” during lockdown if he had not landed a role in Sex Education.

He said: “My lockdown, for the most part, has been quite pleasant. This is something I can say from a place of privilege.

“But I keep discussing with my flatmate how I would have managed to survive during Covid-19 if Sex Education hadn’t come into my life. I would have been screwed.

“As an actor you have good spells and bad spells. My career had been going pretty well until I took a job touring America.

“When I returned, it took time to remind people I was back in town and available.

“For four months – actually a short time for an actor to be out of work – I couldn’t book any jobs.”

The Big Issue’s vendors are not working amid the coronavirus outbreak but people can support the magazine by subscribing online at bigissue.com.

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