Idris Elba speaks out!Friday, February 05, 2016
AS another week in Hollywood’s award season comes to an end, the red carpets continue to be flooded by actors, directors, producers and many who are just taking every last moment about their films and performances.
But it seems that the conversation around the lack of diversity in Hollywood’s entertainment industry, coupled with the lack of opportunity in film and TV overall, is far from being over and is spreading well beyond the shores of the United States of America.
Golden Globe nominee and Screen Actors Guild Award winner, Idris Elba, OBE (Order of the British Empire) who is still receiving accolades for his riveting performance as Commandant in Cary Fukunaga’s critically acclaimed Netflix film
Beasts of No Nation, recently addressed the diversity issue in jolly old London.
Elba, a UK citizen, had been touted as a possible favourite to play the next James Bond. But he has been dismissed by some, including Anthony Horowitz, author of the new James Bond novel,
Trigger Mortis, for being "a bit too rough, a bit to street" — or should we just say too black to be Bond?
Elba told an audience at Britain’s Parliament: " I’m not here to talk about black people. I’m here to talk about diversity. Diversity in the modern world is more than just skin colour; it’s gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and most important of all, as far as I’m concerned, diversity of thought."
Now here’s the line that I like: "If you have genuine diversity of thought among people making TV and film, then you won’t accidentally shut out any of the groups I just mentioned."
I like the way you think Idris.
Powerful words coming from an actor, especially when most actors are very careful not to share their thoughts on touchy subjects such as race, politics and sex. Actors who are still on the rise don’t usually want to ruffle any feathers for fear that they might offend someone, anyone. But Idris wasn’t to be silenced.
The only child of a Ghanaian mother and Sierra Leonean father, Elba shared that Britain was successful, diverse and multicultural, but "you wouldn’t know it if you turned on TV". In his powerful self-written speech, he said that British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) needed to be overhauled and needed to ask itself questions such as: "Why are Black people normally playing petty criminals? Are women always the love interest or talking about men? Are gay people always stereotyped? Are disabled people seen at all?"
Having just won a second Screen Actors Guild Award in the United States as Best Actor in a Limited Series, for his role as John Luther in the British TV series Luther, Idris is one of many UK actors who left the United Kingdom for America in search of the ‘American Dream’ (the most famous diversity policy of all) and better acting opportunities.
"None of us are just one flavour or one colour. If we were, we’d be one-dimensional and that’s what used to drive me mad as an up and coming actor in the UK… My agent and I would get scripts for which we were always asked to read the ‘black male character’ or the ‘athletic type’. But when a script called for a black male, it wasn’t describing a character, it described a skin colour."
I believe that talent, like cream, when given the chance will rise to the top, and Idris has certainly experienced rising success as an actor in America with roles such as Stringer Bell, his breakout TV role in the HBO series The Wire and in the title role in the film Mandela: Long walk to Freedom.
Still, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side or across the pond. For Idris, it wasn’t hard for him to see that in America or London opportunity is the key to success in show business, especially when "a white man or a Caucasian was described as a man with a twinkle in his eye", but not a Black man like him.
In what he called the most important speech of his lifetime, Idris closed by saying: "...although there’s a lot of reality TV, TV hasn’t caught up with reality. Change is coming but it’s taking its own sweet time."
Sometimes you’ve just got to say what needs to be said, especially when people don’t expect you to do it. And so let me borrow some of Idris’s words and in closing say, "Let’s think outside of the box! In fact let’s smash the box!" Given we’re in Jamaica, let’s mash di box. Mash it up!
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