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Idris Elba: "The Less I Talk About Being Black, The Better"

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act May 29, 2012 at 1:49PM

Brit import Idris Elba has a reputation for being fairly candid in interviews, and never backing down on comments he makes; two character traits that I think amp up his appeal to his ever-expanding body of fans, as more audiences become familiar with the man and his talents.
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Idris

Brit import Idris Elba has a reputation for being fairly candid in interviews, and never backing down on comments he makes; two character traits that I think amp up his appeal to his ever-expanding body of fans, as more audiences become familiar with the man and his talents.

He's consistent too, as demonstrated in the snip from an Uptown Magazine piece printed today titled The Question About Black Hollywood That Idris Elba Won’t Answer - on the "shortage of roles for black actors."

Idris' full answer:

"Next question... I’m so bored of answering that. Are there differences between black actors’ opportunities and white actors’ opportunities? Yes, there are. It’s been said. I’d rather a young black actor read about success as opposed to how tough it was. I get these roles because I can act and that’s it. Hopefully that’s it. The less I talk about being black, the better."

The point there (whether you agree with it or not) being that he's an actor, not a "black actor" - at least, that's how he'd prefer to be perceived; a sentiment shared by several of his comtemporaries. As if to say, "relieve me of that burden of representation; am I not a man and not a color?"

That's obviously my interpretation of what he said; I'm sure you have yours.

But Idris exists in both worlds, we could say; he takes on secondary roles in big-budgeted mainstream movies (Thor, Ghost Rider, Prometheus, most recently) - roles in which skin color is really of no bearing on the characters; and then he'll star in a *black film* (or lead a film with an all-black cast) like the upcoming No Good Deed; but he's also proactive in the sense that he'll seek out and produce projects for himself, like the critically-acclaimed Luther, and the upcoming Nelson Mandela biopic; in fact, he was doing just that before most of us knew who he was. 2+ years ago, he produced and starred in an indie thriller many still haven't seen, titled Legacy, directed by Thomas Ikimi.

The man is doing what he has to do to survive in this cutthroat business environment, and whatever he's doing seems to be working for him. 

But I'm sure some will take offense to his "the less I talk about being black, the better" comment; or maybe not. It could be seen as naive on his part, especially when paired with the sentence that comes right before it - this idea of a movement towards a post-racial America specifically, colorblind casting, etc.

Some might say that we should never stop discussing the lack of diversity in film and TV in the USA - at least, not until that discussion leads to change. Although, I'll say that I too am over talking about the shortage of roles for black actors, as I've already said on this site many times in the past. I prefer action over words. My question during these discussions, whenever I'm involved in them, is always, so what do we do about it? 

It all depends on your interpretation I suppose, so I'll leave you folks to it...

This article is related to: Idris Elba


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