Black actors in protest over Bafta awards

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The Independent Online

Arts Correspondent

Leon Herbert, who starred in Alien III, Scandal and The Paradise Club, will lead a demonstration against the absence of black actors from nominations for the Bafta awards tomorrow night.

The protest, coinciding with the awards ceremony, has the support of Jesse Jackson, the black civil rights activist. The actress Vanessa Redgrave is set to attend with her Oscar.

Other black actors joining the demonstration include Gordon Warnecke, the Asian star of My Beautiful Launderette, Steve Toussaint, of the ITV customs drama The Knock and Danny John-Jules, of the BBC sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf.

In the 27 years since the Bafta awards have been televised only a handful of awards have gone to black actors.

Mr Herbert said he was angry with directors and film-makers who were members of the academy yet refused to cast black actors in leading roles. "We are part of society yet we are not being given the opportunity to be part of the media."

Although he had enjoyed some success in Hollywood films, Mr Herbert said that each time he was typecast as a villain and had only been on screen for a matter of minutes.

"After I got famous in Aliens III, no one called me any more. That is what the industry does. When blacks get successful they drop them and get another young kid along," he said yesterday. "That is why there are no famous black actors and why they never get to the stage of a Bafta nomination."

Mr Herbert, who says lack of work led to him setting up a television production company, added: "The industry won't give black people leading roles unless they are blowing someone's head off. There's a big piece of cake and it's enough for everybody. All we're asking for is a slice of the cake - because we're starving."

A Bafta spokeswoman said it was impossible to find many black actors in leading roles over the past year. "This is a problem for the industry, not the academy," she added.