Idris Elba doesn’t want to be placed in a box, and he’s shedding his “Black actor” identifier to make the change.
During an interview with Esquire UK, Elba spoke about his career and how much the “Black actor” label began to restrict his growth as an entertainer. He began by speaking to humankind’s “obsession” with race and declaring that racism is only “as powerful as you allow it to be.”
“As humans, we are obsessed with race,” the Luther actor expressed. “And that obsession can hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth. Racism should be a topic for discussion, sure. Racism is very real. But from my perspective, it’s only as powerful as you allow it to be. 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.
“Of course, I’m a member of the Black community,” Elba went on. “You say a prominent one. But when I go to America, I’m a prominent member of the British community. ‘Oh, U.K.’s in the house!’ 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.”
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As the conversation continued, Idrissa Akuna Elba OBE, 50, discussed his disinterest in being the “first Black.” Elba doubled down, stating he much rather be “the first Idris.”
“I didn’t become an actor because I didn’t see Black people doing it, and I wanted to change that. I did it 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. 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.
Elba is set to return to our screens in Luther, as the film launches in select theaters on Feb. 24 and on Netflix Mar. 10. Luther originally ran as a tv series for five seasons from 2010 to 2019, sending the UK actor’s career into global stardom. As a result, Luther earned the acclaimed actor a Golden Globe.