Idris Elba is having an impactful week.
He won a Critics’ Choice Award on Sunday night and addressed Parliament on Monday (January 18).
The British actor spoke to over 100 MPs, including Ed Vaizey, Minister of State at the Department for Culture, about diversity in British television, reports The Guardian.
Elba moved to the U.S. in the 1990s having faced the glass ceiling between him and challenging roles in the U.K., saying, “I was very close to hitting my forehead on it.” Elba’s move landed him a career-changing role on the crime drama The Wire in 2002.
He considers the U.K. home and made his way back to take on the character DCI John Luther in the groundbreaking Luther in 2010. But it could have easily gone a different way: The U.K. could have lost him permanently.
Elba took a detour, coming full circle, landing himself back on British TV. He explained the roundabout path, saying in yesterday’s speech, “I knew I wasn’t going to land a lead role (in the U.K.). I knew there wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead.”
He made a tough decision, expanding on the above, saying, “In other words, if I wanted to star in a British drama like Luther, then I’d have to go to a country like America. And the other thing was, because I never saw myself on TV, I stopped watching TV. Instead I decided to just go out and become TV.”
Elba has a theory on why roles are limited, saying, “People in the TV world often aren’t the same as people in the real world. And there’s an even bigger gap between people who make TV and people who watch TV.”
He gets how it works because he’s in the middle of it, but he is hopeful, saying, “I should know, I live in the TV world. And although there’s a lot of reality TV, TV hasn’t caught up with reality. Change is coming, but it’s taking its sweet time.”
You can watch part of his speech in the below clip:
Channel 4, who organized the talk, has the full transcript here.
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