*Idris Elba may be known more for his work on the big and small screen, but the “Luther” actor stepped into the political arena as he spoke to members of Parliament about diversity on television.
According to Independent.ie, Elba touched on the importance of the creative industries to the British economy while calling for “imagination and “diversity of thought” in his speech, which lasted about 30 minutes. Items highlighted in the speech include skin color, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and social background.
“The Britain I come from is the most successful, diverse, multicultural country on the earth,” said Elba. “But here’s my point: you wouldn’t know it if you turned on the TV. So many of our creative decision-makers share the same background.”
Reflecting on his path to stardom, Elba revealed how he’s “a product of my imagination.”
Along the way, the entertainer recalled going from working as a tire fitter to making movies in Hollywood.
“And the difference between those two lives is opportunity,” Elba said.
As the speech continued, Elba reemphasized the importance of opportunity as he pointed out the need “need to start doing things more fairly.
“It’s not so much a peace treaty; but an opportunity treaty,” the former “The Wire” star expressed. “We need to count up what everybody has, see the lay of the land, and see who has which careers in TV.
From there, Elba launched into a series of questions in an effort to get the leaders thinking on who decides what as far as the portrayal of diversity on TV.
“Who makes TV? Who’s allowed on TV? And when they get the opportunity, which roles do they play, off and on screen, “ he said. “Are black people normally playing petty criminals? Are women always the love interest or talking about men? Are gay people always stereotyped? Are disabled people ever seen at all? Do some people have their careers taken away on a whim? Is their talent unfairly ignored?”
Wrapping up his speech, Elba brought his points home with summing up the intent of his message, saying, “… let’s just get more professional about this whole area.
“Our economy depends on it. Our future actually depends on it,” he said as he referenced the following quote from Nelson Mandela:
“Anything difficult always seems impossible until it’s done.”
“… the good news is, we’re not trying to put a man on the moon,” Elba added. “We’re trying to redesign the face and character of British television.”
Elba’s speech to Parliament comes as the BBC initiates efforts to bring more diversity to the network. Independent.ie notes BBC director general Tony Hall’s announcement that “four of the BBC’s flagship measures to increase the representation of ethnic minorities on and off-screen have been given funding to continue for a second year.”
In addition, the corporation stated that various programs have “brought talent from a diverse range of backgrounds to the BBC and helped ensure that existing formats better reflect the diversity of the UK.”
For more on Elba’s speech, click here. To see a clip of Elba speaking to Parliament, check out the video below: