Some actors are just pretty faces, content to recite the scripts of others. Some actors try to keep their politics and opinions to themselves, afraid they may offend. Idris Elba, star of “The Wire,” the “Thor” movies and “Luther,” is proving again that he is neither.
On Tuesday (Jan. 19), Elba addressed the UK’s Parliament, powerfully discussing a topic that is as hot across the pond as it is here in the United States: The need for greater diversity on film and TV screens.
The English actor then posted his comments online, and they’re a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of the Oscars, Hollywood and the film industry as a whole.
“I’m not here to talk about black people,” the 43-year-old star told those assembled in the House of Commons. “I’m here to talk about diversity. Diversity in the modern world is more than just skin color –- it’s gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and — most important of all, as far as I’m concerned — diversity of thought.”
Marking a year since an initiative launched by the UK’s Channel 4 sought to increase diversity, Elba ties the word into a bigger theme that affects everyone, regardless of race.
“We’re not far from where I grew up in East London, but as a young man, I never thought I’d come here,” he explains.
Elba continues, “When you get out more, you see there’s a disconnect between the real world and TV world. 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.”
Reflecting back on his own experience, Elba insists that it’s time pop culture catches up with the stories people want told.
“None of us are just one flavor or one color. If we were, we’d be one-dimensional. And that’s what used to drive me mad as an up-and coming-actor,” he explains. “My agent and I, we’d get scripts and 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 was describing a skin color.”
Continuing the thought, he adds: “A white man –- or a caucasian –- was described as ‘a man with a twinkle in his eye.’ My eyes may be dark, but they definitely twinkle.”
The full text of Elba’s comments are highly recommended, especially for anyone invested in the current ongoing debate about Hollywood diversity. But the most important reason to read the comments of an actor proud to express his opinion might be his subtext: Things are going to get better.
“Change is coming, but it’s taking its sweet time,” Elba says. “Let’s think outside the box. In fact, let’s smash the box.”