Idris Elba says Ford Dagenham was more diverse than TV industry today
PUBLISHED: 19:00 18 January 2016 | UPDATED: 18:08 21 January 2016
PA/Press Association Images
Idris Elba told MPs today that “there is more diversity in Ford Dagenham” than in the TV industry.
The Luther star, who was born in east London, made the comments during a speech in Westminster which highlighted the lack of multiculturalism.
“My Dad worked in a car factory, so before I could get work as an actor, I ended up doing night shifts at Ford Dagenham,” Elba said.
“In fact Ford Dagenham turned out to have more opportunity, and more diversity, than the TV industry I was trying to break into.”
He accused TV industry executives of not properly reflecting the society we live in, resulting in talented performers being “thrown on the scrapheap”.
“People in the TV world often aren’t the same as people in the real world,” the 43-year-old said. “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.”
The Wire star said the main difference between both was down to “opportunity”.
He said: “Talent is everywhere, opportunity isn’t. And talent can’t reach opportunity.”
The actor delivered his speech in front of 100 MPs and senior television executives at a meeting organised by Channel 4 bosses.
Citing his own example, Elba said the lack of diversity has forced many black UK actors to move to the US for work as a result because many had been trapped playing “best friends” and “cop sidekick parts”.
His comments about greater work opportunities existing in the motor industry than in the creative industries were backed by ITV journalist and newsreader Charlene White.
She said: “Yep! My dad and his mates were all Ford Dagenham workers...”
Elba’s commments come after this year’s nominees for Academy Awards failed to include any black or minority ethnic talent in the lead or supporting actor and actress categories.
In 2014, Elba and Sir Lenny Henry were among signatories on a letter to broadcasters calling for money to be ringfenced for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) programmes.
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