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While the past week has seen the Academy called out for a lack of diversity among the nominees for its acting honors, Idris Elba — who failed to make the shortlist — will on Monday speak out against a particular area of the entertainment industry considered problematic in terms of diversity: British TV.
The Beasts of No Nation star, who first broke through in The Wire and went on to take on the title role in the BBC’s ongoing series Luther, is set to deliver a speech during a meeting set to be attended by over 100 members of parliament and TV executives, in which he will slam U.K. TV for not offering enough opportunities for black actors.
“People in the TV world often aren’t the same as people in the real world. And there’s an even bigger gap between people who make TV and people who watch TV. I should know, I live in the TV world. And although there’s a lot of reality TV, TV hasn’t caught up with reality,” Elba will say in his speech, as published by The Guardian.
Elba will point to his own experiences, arguing that he had to move to the U.S. to avoid “hitting my forehead” on the glass ceiling and, eventually, securing himself a lead role and not be stuck playing “best friends” or “cop sidekick parts.”
“I knew I wasn’t going to land a lead role [in the U.K.]. I knew there wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead,” he will tell members of parliament. “In other words, if I wanted to star in a British drama like Luther, then I’d have to go to a country like America. And the other thing was, because I never saw myself on TV, I stopped watching TV. Instead, I decided to just go out and become TV.”
Elba adds his weight to a growing list of critics of diversity issues on British screens. Former Homeland star David Harewood has previously suggested that he wouldn’t have been handed his key role in the Showtime series had it been produced in the U.K., while David Oyelowo has said on several occasions that he had to move to the U.S. to further his career.
“Change is coming, but it’s taking its sweet time,” Elba will conclude.
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