Departing Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffatt has revealed that despite the series only featuring a white male lead in the role of the titular Doctor for the past 53 years, during his time on the BBC series it was once offered to an unidentified black actor - but that the person turned it down.
"For various reasons, it didn't work out," Moffatt told BBC's Doctor Who magazine (via The Hollywood Reporter). "I certainly don't think there's ever been a problem with making the Doctor black, which is why it should happen one day. "
This is something Neil Gaiman, who wrote for Doctor Who briefly, has stated on several occasions going back to to 2013. Neither he nor Moffat identify the actor that turned down the part, but Peep Show actor Paterson Joseph said in 2014 that he had auditioned in 2008 for the role. Gaiman stated Joseph was passed over for the role, with the BBC instead going with Matt Smith.
The long-running BBC series recently added actress Pearl Mackie, who is of West Indies descent, in the role of the Doctor's new companion, Bill. Moffat is quoted as saying it would be "amazing" for both the companion and the Doctor to be played by non-white actors. In the past, Doctor Who has shown black Time Lords - however, not the actual Doctor himself.
"We decided that the new companion was going to be non-white, and that was an absolute decision, because we need to do better on that. We just have to," said Moffat. "I don't mean that we've done terribly – our guest casts are among the most diverse on television – but I feel as though I could have done better overall."