The absence of a black middle class in Britain is to blame for the lack of screen opportunities for actors from ethnic minorities, David Harewood, the star of Homeland, has claimed.
The British actor enjoyed a breakthrough role as the CIA director in the acclaimed US drama series. But whilst he is now in demand for Hollywood films, Harewood, the first black actor to play Othello at the National Theatre, said he was unable to find regular screen work in Britain.
"It's taken me 26 years and a couple of trips to America to convince people in the UK I can carry a show and be a leading man," said Harewood, who has completed shooting on the second series of Homeland, which will be on Channel 4 in the Autumn.
Asked why the opportunities were greater in the US, the actor told the Radio Times: "I think perhaps it's to do with economics. There is a black middle class in America – you have a black president, black CEOs, you've got black political analysts and you turn on CNN and you have black anchors. In the UK, we don't have a growing, viable, strong, aspirational black culture.
"Commissioning editors and advertisers don't see us as a target market and because of that we're not really part of the fabric of society."
Harewood, awarded an MBE in the 2012 New Year's Honours List for his services to drama, added: "We're still only seven, eight per cent of the population, and it will take a very long time, if it's going to happen at all, for us to be on a similar footing to our black counterparts in America."
The actor, who has played Nelson Mandela in a BBC drama, admitted: "It's not some kind of racial utopia in the US. There are still a lot of problems in terms of racial integration. I think in certain aspects we're better in the UK than they are – in terms of interracial relationships, blacks and whites coming together and forgetting about colour."
Harewood will soon star in a new British thriller, The Man Inside, in which he plays a ruthless gangster, alongside Scottish actor Peter Mullan and Michelle Ryan.
Harewood was in the UK when his British Homeland colleague Damian Lewis met Barack Obama at the White House, but he said he still hopes to meet the President, who is reportedly a fan of the show.