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Idris Elba says he no longer calls himself a Black actor because it puts him in a ‘box’

Fellow actor John Boyega has appeared to criticse Elba’s decision as a ‘weird adjustment’

Annabel Nugent
Monday 13 February 2023 10:41 GMT
Luther: The Fallen Sun trailer

Idris Elba has said he no longer calls himself a “Black actor” because the label puts him in a “box”.

The Luther star said that “as humans, we are obsessed with race” and that the “obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations” and “growth”.

Elba, 50, made the comments during an interview with Esquire UK.

He said: “If we spent half the time not talking about the differences but the similarities between us, the entire planet would have a shift in the way we deal with each other.”

The actor went on to say that while “racism is very real”, his perspective is that “it’s only as powerful as you allow it to be”.

Elba said: “I stopped describing myself as a Black actor when I realised it put me in a box. We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: it’s just skin. Rant over.”

The actor – also known for his role as Stringer Bell in HBO’s The Wire – said that he entered the industry because “I thought that’s a great profession and I could do a good job at it”.

“As you get up the ladder, you get asked what it’s like to be the first Black to do this or that,” he said. “Well it’s the same as it would be if I were white. It’s the first time for me. I don’t want to be the first Black. I’m the first Idris.”

Idris Elba in ‘Luther: The Fallen Sun' (Netflix)

Elba said that he is aware that in “many cases, I might be the first to look like me to do a certain thing. And that’s good, to leave as part of my legacy”.

He continued: “So that other people, Black kids, but also white kids growing up in circumstances I grew up in, are able to see there was a kid who came from Canning Town who ended up doing what I do. It can be done.”

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Fellow actor John Boyega has responded to the remarks on Twitter, appearing to call Elba’s decision to not refer to himself as a Black actor a “weird adjustment”.

“I think we should fixate on who is typecasting and putting actors in boxes because of this,” replied Boyega. “Not on making weird adjustments for them. We continuously focus on what we have to do so they don’t do this or that. Very worrying. We BLACK and that’s that.”

In 2020, Boyega was outspoken about the racism he faced over his role in Star Wars.

The actor – who played Finn in Disney’s sequel trilogy – said that he spoke out about his experience in the franchise in the hope that it would open doors for other actors.

John Boyega (Getty Images)

He criticised the franchise and said that white characters were given more nuance and attention than his or Asian-American actor Kelly Marie Tran’s character.

In a later interview, Boyega revealed that he was contacted by a Disney executive after his comments were published, which led to a “very honest, very transparent conversation”.

Elba can next be seen in the highly anticipated film, Luther: Fallen Sun.

The film, directed by Jamie Payne, will be available to see in cinemas for one week from 24 February before its Netflix arrival on 10 March.

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