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Forest Gate actor Idris Elba calls on MPs for more diverse roles

PUBLISHED: 19:36 18 January 2016

Idris Elba urged MPs and TV industry executives to tackle the lack of diversity in British media

Idris Elba urged MPs and TV industry executives to tackle the lack of diversity in British media

PA/Press Association Images

Luther star Idris Elba, who was born in Newham, has criticised the TV industry for its lack of multiculturalism on screen.

The actor, famous for his role as Stringer Bell in hit US show The Wire, made the comments during a speech at Westminster in front of 100 MPS and senior television executives, organised by Channel 4 bosses.

Elba accused TV industry executives of not properly reflecting the society we live in, resulting in talented performers being “thrown on the scrapheap”.

“People in the TV world often aren’t the same as people in the real world,” the 43-year-old said. “And there’s an even bigger gap between people who make TV, and people who watch TV.

“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.”

Born in Forest Gate, Elba grew up in Canning Town and has since rocketed to stardom with roles as Nelson Mandela in The Long Walk to Freedom for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination.

“I used to fit tyres in Forest Gate, now I make movies in Hollywood,” he said. “The difference between the two is opportunity”

Citing his own example, Elba said the lack of diversity has forced many black UK actors to move to the US for work to avoid becoming trapped playing “best friends” and “cop sidekick parts”.

His commments come after this year’s nominees for the Academy Awards failed to include any black or minority ethnic talent in the lead or supporting actor and actress categories for the second year in a row.

In 2014, Elba and Sir Lenny Henry were among signatories on a letter to broadcasters calling for money to be ringfenced for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) programmes.

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