Idris Elba’s portrayal of DCI John Luther in the hit BBC crime drama Luther “doesn’t feel authentic” because has no Black friends and doesn’t eat Caribbean food in the series, a diversity and representation manager at the public broadcaster said Wednesday.
BBC’s diversity manager Miranda Wayland discussed diversity in television and specifically Luther in a prerecorded session for digital MIPTV. Wayland praised the show for featuring a “really strong, Black character lead” but said it was “superficially diverse.”
“When it first came out everybody loved the fact that Idris Elba was in there — a really strong, Black character lead,” Wayland is quoted as saying. “We all fell in love with him. Who didn’t, right? But after you got into about the second series you got kind of like, OK, he doesn’t have any Black friends, he doesn’t eat any Caribbean food, this doesn’t feel authentic.”
She added that television bosses at the BBC and elsewhere must ensure that Black characters are supported by an environment and culture that is “absolutely reflective” of their background.
Luther was created and is written by Neil Cross, a white man, and stars Elba as an on-the-edge, relentless and ingenious London detective who solves horrific crimes by bending the rules. First airing in 2010, the show has run for five seasons and scored a string of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, with Elba winning a SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie in 2016.
Wayland was hired by the BBC in February 2020, as part of the corporation’s push to increase the diversity of on-air talent and she reports June Sarpong, who joined the BBC as its first-ever director of creative diversity in late 2019.
Last June, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, the BBC pledged to commit $124 million (100 million pounds) of its existing budget toward diverse and inclusive content over three years, starting in 2021.