His speech to the British Members of the Parliament came on the same day Spike Lee announced he would not attend the “lily white” Oscars
Idris Elba is the latest actor to address diversity in entertainment after the Oscars snubbed non-white actors for the second year in a row, but the “Beasts of No Nation” star focused his energy across the pond instead.
Elba, who is among the black actors left out of the Oscar nominations this year, said that the lack of non-white actors isn’t just a problem in Hollywood, but extends to the United Kingdom too, and urged the country’s lawmakers to look at how many non-white actors are on British screens.
“We need to count up what everybody has, see the lay of the land and see who has which careers in TV,” Elba said in front of a group of British Members of the Parliament on Monday, according to the BBC. “Who makes TV, and who is allowed on TV, and when they get the opportunity, which roles do they play, on and off screen?”
However, his speech didn’t just focus on the lack of racial diversity in the entertainment industry. He also talked about the need for a better representation of women and disabled people.
“You have to ask the question – 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 ever seen at all?”
In his speech, Elba remembered why he came to America to act — because the United States has “the most famous diversity policy of all.”
“This is what every young British actor asks me – black, white, male, female – should I go to America to become a successful actor?” Elba said. “And I’m always in a quandary because its not always true that the grass is greener. The reason I went to America is because the U.S.A. has the most famous diversity policy of all and it’s called the American dream.”
“The problem is the gap between the dream and reality,” he added. “Now the gap is what Martin Luther King set out to fill in his dream. To champion diversity is to champion the American dream.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acknowledged Monday that the group is “heartbroken” over the lack of diversity among this year’s acting nominees, and pledged to make “big changes.”
“I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of AMPAS.
Hollywood has come under fire for the second year in a row for failing to nominate a single actor of color in any of the Academy Awards acting categories. On Monday, director Spike Lee announced that he would not attend what he called the “lily white” Oscars, while leading entertainment figures such as Jada Pinkett Smith and “Straight Outta Compton” producer (and Oscar voter) Will Packer criticized the persistent status quo.