Daniel Kaluuya: ‘I wasn’t getting roles in England because of the colour of my skin’

'Get Out' star recalled one instance where he went to an audition only to discover another actor had been given a coach to prepare for the role

Roisin O'Connor
Sunday 12 January 2020 10:22
Daniel Kaluuya gives emotional interview after winning Rising Star award at BAFTAs

Actor Daniel Kaluuya has said he works more in the US after struggling to land roles in the UK due to the colour of his skin.

The Get Out star, whose new film Queen & Slim is out on 31 January, spoke with The Sunday Times about his career to date.

Asked why he works more in the US, Kaluuya said he used to audition for more roles in England but became frustrated with producers’ apparent prejudice in favour of white actors.

“I was going for a lot of stuff [in England],” the 30-year-old said. “But I wasn’t getting roles because of the colour of my skin. It wasn’t fair. It was a trap.

“For example, I went up for this show. It was 10 rounds of auditions. There was me and a white guy for the lead. It was about aliens. And I realised as I was going to one audition that the other guy had been given an acting coach. They didn’t love me like they loved him.”

He continued: “In any other profession, that would be weird, but it was accepted in mine. It happened a few times, and I went, ‘Nah. I’m not an idiot.’”

Kaluuya’s comments come amid a backlash surrounding the 2020 Baftas, after it emerged that not a single non-white actor had been nominated at this year’s ceremony.

Among the stars snubbed despite collecting awards and nominations in other ceremonies this year were Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers, Eddie Murphy for Dolemite Is My Name, Lupita Nyong’o for Us, Antonio Banderas for Pain & Glory and Cynthia Erivo for Harriet.

Kaluuya, who grew up on an estate in Kentish Town, London, also suggested that he is “confusing” to people in the US because Americans are used to being sold British exports such as Downton Abbey and The Crown.

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“There’s Brand Britain, so there’s an awareness that I’m British, but they don’t know me. I’m just seen as privileged because I have an English accent,” he said.

“That story [of coming from an estate] isn’t sold. It isn’t sold internationally. They only sell Downton Abbey. What was being sent abroad was a certain brand of Britain that, maybe, is what Americans want it to be. Then someone goes to London and realises it’s similar to New York — but that story’s not sold.”

Kaluuya was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars, Golden Globes, Baftas and Screen Actors Guild Awards for his performance in Get Out.

Among his forthcoming projects are Queen & Slim – a film about a black couple who go on the run after shooting a police officer in self-defence – and a currently untitled movie about murdered activist Fred Hampton.

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