Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors

British stars like Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor and David Oyelowo have found fame after crossing the Pond

Neela Debnath
Sunday 25 January 2015 13:29
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Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK

Benedict Cumberbatch has joined the debate on the lack of diversity on British screens, saying that Hollywood offers more opportunities to black actors than the UK.

“I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK, and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in the US] than in the UK and that’s something that needs to change,” the Sherlock star said on US talk show Tavis Smiley.

He went on to say, “Something’s gone wrong, we’re not being representative enough in our culture of different races and that really does need to step up a pace.

“I don’t want to get into any debates about that, but it’s clear when you see certain migratory patterns that there are more opportunities here than in the UK.”

There have been a number of Black British stars who have found fame across the Atlantic, including Idris Elba on The Wire, Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave and David Harewood on Homeland. David Oyelowo has also received critical acclaim for his portrayal as civil rights activist in the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma.

However, this year’s Oscar nominations have come under fire for being all-white. Oyelowo did not receive a nod despite being hotly tipped for one - neither did Selma director Ava DuVernay.

David Oyelowo plays Martin Luther King in 'Selma'

Meanwhile Cumberbatch and fellow Brits Eddie Redmayne, Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones are all in the running at this year's Academy Awards after the nominations were announced a week ago.

Cumberbatch also mentioned comedian Lenny Henry, who launched a campaign last year calling for a greater presence of people of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) in the British broadcasting industry. The 38-year-old actor described him as a “a real force for good”.

Henry also encouraged people to boycott the BBC licence fee until changes were made to levels of diversity both in front and behind the camera.

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Since Henry started his campaign, the BBC has announced a £2.1m diversity creative talent fund for the development of ideas from BAME individuals across all genres, along with traineeships.

Channel 4 have set out a new series diversity targets that must be met otherwise executives face bonus cuts.

Sky, too, pledged that by the end of 2015 20 per cent of the stars and writers of its UK-originated TV shows would come from a BAME background.

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