‘Selma’ star David Oyelowo speaks out on UK acting inequality
Last week British ‘Selma’ star David Oyelowo ignited a fierce debate on the state of the UK media industry. Doing the press rounds for the UK release of the Martin Luther King Jr drama Oyelowo held nothing back in a damming critique on the opportunities afforded to non-white performers. Some of his choice quotes included:
“I’d never get to play a character akin to Dr King living and working [in the UK]”
“If I looked like Benedict [Cumberbatch] or Eddie Redmayne, I could do the films they have done that are being celebrated now.”
“Myself, Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor had to gain our success elsewhere because there is not a desire to tell stories with black protagonists in a heroic context within British film.”
“The class system in the UK is very real. The old boys’ club is very real.”
“We make period dramas here [in Britain], but there are almost never black people in them, even though we’ve been on these shores for hundreds of years.”
To anyone with a TV in the UK or anyone who has seen a few locally made films this information should come as no surprise. White people and their stories/history dominate our media and as Oyelowo says our best black performers of modern times first achieved success abroad. Oyelowo has openly admitted to exploiting his new found fame to try and help improve opportunities for actors of all races and seems to be really putting his money where his mouth is and channelling his on screen alter ego in the process.
Unfortunately like all the other recent ‘controversies’ (#oscarssowhite etc) this news will likely be forgotten by next week with nothing done, to make room for the latest thing to be angry about that will also result in the more status quo. It seems like the only place we’ll get to see Oyelowo make real change is on the silver screen.