Black actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Oyelowo, and Idris Elba have all achieved recent success in American film and television despite concerns about the lack of diversity in entertainment. However, what makes their successes especially curious is that all three are not American — they are all English. Fellow Brit Benedict Cumberbatch, who starred with Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave, spoke about the lack of diversity in UK film and why he sees the United States as a better place for black actors on the TV show Tavis Smiley.
Cumberbatch expresses surprise that black actors get fewer roles in the UK than they do in the United States. He says, “I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK, and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in the US]than in the UK and that’s something that needs to change. Something’s gone wrong, we’re not being representative enough in our culture of different races and that really does need to step up a pace.” (Cumberbatch later apologized for using the term “coloured,” but it’s fair to say he meant no offense considering his position on the issue).
He later added that he didn’t see himself as any kind of expert on the subject, but he feels that something is clearly amiss. He continues, “I don’t want to get into any debates about that, but it’s clear when you see certain migratory patterns that there are more opportunities here than in the UK.”