Although there is a whole universe to explore, some Doctor Who storylines are a little closer to home, and filming last series’ Rosa proved challenging for Tosin Cole, the actor who portrays Ryan Sinclair.
The story is set in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, in the day leading up to Rosa Parks’ decision not to vacate her bus seat for a white passenger on December 1, going against the segregational laws of the time.
Within the episode Ryan is confronted with the realities of life as a black person at the time, which includes being physically assaulted by a white man and being barred from white-only spaces such as a motel. Cole told Metro.co.uk:
“It’s crazy the stuff they were going through at the time; for example when Ryan got slapped. That was kind of infuriating and it was a struggle for me as well to put yourself in that position. You don’t really understand how it feels, whoever you are, because our time is different in the modern day we live in now.”
Parks’ actions resulted in her arrest, and instigated the Montgomery bus boycott by black passengers. She was an important part of the Civil Rights Movement, and built up a legacy that included an asteroid being named after her in 2014.
“It was frustrating for the character but to put yourself in those shoes, having to tone yourself down and abide by the rules was quite frustrating. It was tough and crazy but it was a good story to tell. Filming about an iconic person and helping her story get told was overwhelming.
“We saw Ryan meet Martin Luther King and just be star-struck as you would be. You wouldn’t even know what to do because of the sacrifices they’ve made and the choices they’ve made which paved the way for black people today. It was hard for me. It was a really special episode but I’m grateful I was a part of it.”
Highlights in future episodes for Cole’s character included saving the world using Stormzy’s catalogue of grime music, acting as a birth partner, striking up a friendship with King James I, and reuniting with his estranged father.
Tosin is currently in Cardiff filming Doctor Who Series 12.