Making it in showbusiness is notoriously hard. Therefore it comes as little surprise to hear of quite how many stars have struggled. This week, as news of Ncuti Gatwa being the new Doctor Who broke. We are reminded that not that long ago he was technically homeless.
At MoneyMagpie we love a hustler and wanted to take a look at some of some of our heroes, who alone with Ncuti have risen from abject poverty. We hope that some of these stories help to inspire.
- Ncuti Gatwa
- Nicola Coughlan
- Quentin Tarantino
- Chris Pratt
- James Cameron
- Jim Carrey
- Halle Berry
- Daniel Craig
- Jennifer Lopez
- Our conclusion
With Doctor Who fans still reeling from the announcement of the return of original showrunner Russell T. Davies- who shepherded the sci-fi show to success when it returned to our screens in 2005 – it was an extra special treat when the new Doctor was announced as popular Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa.
Gatwa is due to take over from current Doctor Jodie Whittaker this year when she regenerates, and just as Whittaker’s casting was a first for the show, so – as a black, gay actor – is Gatwa’s. With his super-popular ongoing turn as Eric in Sex Education fresh in everyone’s minds, and almost 3M Instagram followers, Gatwa’s star status is undeniable.
But it’s not been the smoothest of rides for the Rwandan-born actor: Gatwa has overcome extreme events such as the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and moving from Scotland to London when he was 21, where he faced five months of living on the streets if it hadn’t been for friends letting him couch surf until he made it.
The cost of living in London was overwhelming for the young actor, and he couldn’t afford rent or food despite working constantly – a common story among struggling actors – so he hasn’t taken his casting in Sex Education for granted. Most young people in London will be all too aware of the necessity of having friends and family willing to help.
Such stories are so common when investigating the early lives of actors and stars who finally make it.
Derry Girls and Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan has had quite a few years too, recently posting that not so long ago she was working at her local Spar to pay her bills, until Derry Girls became a huge hit.
Quentin Tarantino worked for seven years as a video store clerk and actor before he finally sold his first script. As the director puts it, “an overnight success takes about seven years.”
Pratt is said to have dropped out of community college halfway through the first semester and, after working as a discount ticket salesman and daytime stripper, he ended up homeless in Maui, Hawaii, sleeping in a van and a tent on the beach. He told The Independent, “It’s a pretty awesome place to be homeless.
The staggeringly successful director of Aliens and Titanic – and the forthcoming Avatar sequels – lived in his car while he attempted to convince producers to direct his screenplay of The Terminator, but production companies, while they liked his script, resisted Cameron directing until he eventually won them over.
“Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them.” – Jim Carrey
The Ace Ventura actor was born and raised in Canada, and had to drop out of high school to work as both a janitor and a security guard when his father lost his job, followed by the family home, and were forced to live in a van. Carrey then struggled for years on the LA comedy circuit and in small module roles until his big hit with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in 1994.
When she moved to New York as a hopeful young actor at age 21, Berry rapidly ran out of money, but her mother refused to send money in the hopes that it would encourage her daughter to find her own feet. At one point, Berry was forced to stay in a homeless shelter.
The James Bond superstar spent time as a waiter and even had to sleep on park benches until his acting career slowly started to take off.
Hard to believe that one of the world’s most famous, successful and glamorous women had to endure sleeping on the sofa of a dance studio, but Lopez fell out with her mother over he intended career when she was 18, and packed her bags to travel Europe as a dancer, before returning to the US for her big break as a Fly Girl in In Living Colour.
The common thread from Ncuti Gatwa to J.LO, is that all these hopefuls-turned-heroes asked for help while they worked hard to make it in what seem like impossible-to-crack industries. If you look at most Hollywood CVs you’ll find, in most cases, a decade or so of struggle before they made it in their defining role.
If you are just starting out in acting, we have a look at how to make money as a film or tv extra here.