British actor Idris Elba addressed the film and television industry’s diversity problem in a speech to the UK’s Parliament this week, calling for better representation of certain communities including the LGBT community, and more inclusive characters that reflect the industry’s diverse viewing audience.
Elba called the speech “the most important” he’s ever made, and though he wrote it weeks ago, it ironically coincides with the current uproar over an all-white list of nominees for the Best Actor categories at the 2016 Academy Awards.
Elba is among one of the snubbed actors who didn’t make the list — his performance in last year’s Beasts of No Nation is one that many have said deserved a nomination.
“I’m not here to talk about black people,” Elba said Monday. “I’m here to talk about diversity. Diversity in the modern world is more than just skin colour– it’s gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and – most important of all, as far as I’m concerned- diversity of thought.”
— Idris Elba (@idriselba) January 18, 2016
Elba referred to the diversity problem as one that affects the world, not just America and Britain.
He recalled his own experiences as a young black actor and described how actors who represent minority communities frequently “get locked inside boxes,” and that it’s the industry’s duty to find better ways to represent these people both on screen and off.
“You have to ask the questions; 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?”
Check out a clip from the speech below. You can read a full transcript at courtesy of Channel 4.