EXCLUSIVE: Idris Elba Calls the Debate Between Black British Actors Taking American Roles An 'Unintelligent Argument'

·2 min read
Photo:  Courtesy of Springhill Company
Photo: Courtesy of Springhill Company

Idris Elba is weighing in on the discourse and concern some folks have about Black British actors taking away roles from Black American actors.

The Beast star shared his thoughts on the matter on the newest episode of UNINTERRUPTED’s The Shop, the popular talk series from Maverick Carter and LeBron James’ Springhill Company. In an exclusive clip provided to The Root, Elba explained his personal feelings on the matter and why the entire debate is an “unintelligent argument.”

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Using the upcoming portrayal of Whitney Houston by Black British actress Naomi Ackie in the forthcoming biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody as the jumping off point, Carter questioned Elba about the notion, explaining that Black American women might feel a type of way about an English woman donning the role of such an iconic figure.

That’s when Elba challenged the framing of the whole idea itself: “You know what I noticed? You said Black women in America versus an English woman. Like being English makes you less Black? To me, that defines how unintelligent the argument is. No disrespect to anyone who has that feeling, it is what it is.

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He continued:

But the fact is: we’re all Black. You get a Scottish actor playing an Irish character or an English actor—you don’t hear about a debate. But amongst ourselves we want to point fingers because we come from a conditioning that makes people just make sure ‘where’re you from?’ and ‘are you authentic from where you’re from? How Black are you?’

And it comes down to the caste system and it’s annoying to me, really annoying. My grandfather fought the second World War for this country, the U.S. [He] comes from Kansas City. I come to this country and someone says to me ‘you ain’t American’ and I’m like, ‘huh?’ How dare you.

He concluded, “It’s acting. Cultural appropriation, no. That’s definitely something we should pay attention to. But in the acting profession, one should be allowed to play.”

Elba joins a handful of other actors and actresses who’ve previously given their two cents on the debate as well including fellow Black British actor and Snowfall actor Damson Idris, his costar from Netflix’s The Harder They Fall Regina King, Anthony Mackie, and Samuel L. Jackson.

You can watch the newest episode of The Shop, featuring Idris Elba, Kyrie Erving and more exclusively on UNITERRUPTED’s official YouTube channel.