Idris Elba Tells Parliament Just How Close the United Kingdom Came to Losing Him

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Idris Elba. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Idris Elba, national treasure of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is speaking to Parliament Monday in an effort to warn British legislators that the systemic racism of the U.K. television industry is robbing the nation of talent like himself. In the speech, published by The Guardian, Elba recalls how he “came very close to hitting [his] forehead” on the glass ceiling for black British actors. “There wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead,” he explains; he was destined to play “best friends” and “cop sidekicks” for the rest of his career. And so, like many British actors before him, Elba fled to America, where he received the career-making part of Stringer Bell in The Wire. Only then, once he had received a seal of approval from the Americans, did the British TV industry consider him for the lead in something like Luther. “When you don’t reflect the real world, too much talent gets trashed. Thrown on the scrapheap,” Elba argues. “Talent is everywhere, opportunity isn’t. And talent can’t reach opportunity.”

Idris Elba Speaks to Parliament on U.K. Racism