David Oyelowo: Britain's class system is still insidious

 

Spooks star David Oyelowo has complained that working class actors still hit a "glass ceiling" in Britain.

The 36-year-old, who was born in Oxford to Nigerian parents and now lives in Los Angeles, said Britain was not as forward thinking as people liked to think and that the class system was "insidious".

Since making the move to Hollywood six years ago, Oyelowo's credits have included Tom Cruise movie Jack Reacher and Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated Lincoln.

The actor lived with his parents on a north London council estate before hitting the headlines in 2001, playing Henry VI for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He told the Radio Times: "There are all kinds of opportunities there (in the US) - I can play civil rights activists, I can play fighter pilots, I can be in a film like Lincoln. But it's not just to do with being black.

"It's also about the scope of the industry. Judi Dench has to go to America, Ralph Fiennes has to go to America, because it's the zenith of our industry. And it feels genuinely meritocratic."

The Last King Of Scotland star added: "America has its own class system, but it's about money. The more money you have, the higher up the ladder you are.

"Here, you can have talent and money and still be deemed working class. That means there are certain glass ceilings.

"So the world in which we could have a black prime minister feels eons away. We like to think we are as progressive, as forward thinking, as America, but it's this class system that feeds into everything. It's very insidious."

Oyelowo played officer Danny Hunter in Spooks and is set to star as an MI5 agent in new Channel 4 feature-length drama Complicit.

He said of his latest role: "I was very keen not to just do a film version of Spooks. Spooks was basically Bond for the telly. Complicit is way more indicative of what MI5 officers actually do. It is slow work. It's laborious. And it's a very selfless job. This is a more realistic depiction."

The married father-of-four added: "The world has changed post-9/11. Certainly post-Guantanamo Bay, the level of scrutiny on the security service has, quite rightly, changed. And it has made their job very hard.

"No one wants to be seen making any more gaffes. But when these guys are in the field, they have to make quick decisions. And I am, daily, grateful that these are not my decisions to make."

Kevin Toolis, who produced Complicit, said the drama aimed to show a more "complex" portrayal of the professional life of an MI5 agent, with its endless "bureaucratic constraints".

"Sadly, the glamorous life of the spy normally depicted on screen bears little resemblance to the mundane reality of intelligence work," he said.

"If James Bond operated in the real world, before he got round to firing his gun, he would have had to fill out in triplicate his exact travel plans, who he was meeting, and what the potential health and safety risks were."

Toolis added: "If movie-makers were more truthful, they would be making Jane Bond, rather than James. Most of the employees of MI6 and the CIA are actually women analysts, who work nine to five in offices that hum with the sound of air conditioners rather than handguns being readied for shoot-outs."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions