Idris Elba was born in London, but the actor is a star on both sides of the pond. Not only has he starred in several U.K. films and TV projects, but he is also a big hit in Hollywood. This fact has rubbed some Black American actors the wrong way as they argue jobs that could go to them are going to Black British actors.
During a recent interview with “The Shop,” the 50-year-old actor, who has appeared in such American films as “The Mountain Between Us,” “The Dark Tower,” “The Harder They Fall,” defended Black British actors working in Hollywood.
“The Shop,” is the talk series launched by business partners Maverick Carter and LeBron James.
Here are seven takeaways from Elba’s Sept. 2 interview.
When asked his opinion about Grenadian-British actress Naomi Ackie portraying Black American pop star Whitney Houston in the upcoming biopic “I Wanna Dance Somebody,” it sparked a debate about lack British actors taking roles away from Black American actors, The Root reported.
“You know what I noticed? You said Black women in America versus an English woman. Like being English makes you less Black? To me, that defines how unintelligent the argument is. No disrespect to anyone with that feeling, it is what it is,” challenged Elba, whose father is from Sierra Leone and his mother from Ghana.
Elba went on to say there is not much of a difference between Black actors from America and Black actors from the UK.
“But the fact is: we’re all Black,” he said. “You get a Scottish actor playing an Irish character or an English actor—you don’t hear about a debate. But amongst ourselves, we want to point fingers because we come from a conditioning that makes people just make sure ‘where you from?’ and ‘are you authentic from where you’re from? How Black are you?’”
He added, “And it comes down to the caste system, and it’s annoying to me, really annoying.”
According to Elba, he actually has family ties to the U.S.
“My grandfather fought the Second World War for this country; the U.S.U.S. [He] comes from Kansas City. I come to this country, and someone says to me, ‘you ain’t American,’ and I’m like, ‘huh?’ How dare you,” he explained.
Over the decades there have been a number of Black British actors playing Americans in Hollywood films. Elba is just one of many.
Black Londoner Cynthia Erivo starred as revered abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the 2019 film “Harriet.” She received an Oscar nomination and backlash for being British.
The discussion about Black British actors taking jobs from Black American actors is not new. In 2017 Black American actor Samuel L. Jackson called out Black British actor Daniel Kaluuya’s casting in “Get Out,” for which Kaluuya was nominated for an Oscar.
I tend to wonder what that movie would have been with an American brother who really feels that,” Jackson said at the time, Variety reported.
For Elba, the debate seems to hold no merit, that it is an “unintelligent argument.” .
He pointed out, “I come to this country, and someone says to me ‘you ain’t American,’ and I’m like, ‘huh?’ How dare you. It’s acting. Cultural appropriation, no. That’s definitely something we should pay attention to. But in the acting profession, one should be allowed to play.”
Elba is currently starring in the film “Beast,” a survival thriller film directed by Baltasar Kormákur and starring Idris Elba, Iyana Halley, Leah Sava Jeffries, and Sharlto Copley.
Photo: Idris Elba at “Beast,” Aug. 24, 2022 in London (KGC-247/STAR MAX/IPx) / Damson Idris at the BET Awards, June 26, 2022, Los Angeles. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP) / Daniel Kaluuya, a producer of “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” at the premiere, Aug. 22, 2022, Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello) / The Hollywood, Los Angeles, Oct. 16, 2021, (AP/Damian Dovarganes)