“Luther” star Idris Elba says he no longer refers to himself as a “Black actor” because the label put him in a “box” and an “obsession” with race can hinder aspirations and growth.
Speaking to Esquire UK, in an interview published Wednesday, the Golden Globe winner said that while he is a prominent member of the Black community, such separatism in Hollywood can hold entertainers back.
“If we spent half the time not talking about the differences but the similarities between us, the entire planet would have a shift in the way we deal with each other,” Elba told the publication.
“As humans, we are obsessed with race. And that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth.”
Elba is best known for his portrayals of drug lord Stringer Bell in the HBO series “The Wire,” as well as DCI John Luther in the BBC crime series “Luther.” His film credits include “Beast,” “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” and “The Suicide Squad.”
For Elba “racism is very real,” but he believes that “it’s only as powerful as you allow it to be.”
“I stopped describing myself as a Black actor when I realized it put me in a box. We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: it’s just skin. Rant over,” he said.
Elsewhere in the interview, Elba discussed his reasons for pursuing a career in entertainment, saying it was never to break barriers as a Black man.
“I did it because I thought that’s a great profession and I could do a good job at it,” he explained. “As you get up the ladder, you get asked what it’s like to be the first Black to do this or that. Well, it’s the same as it would be if I were white. It’s the first time for me. I don’t want to be the first Black. I’m the first Idris.”
Elba can next be seen in Netflix film, “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” the big screen follow-up to his beloved crime series “Luther”, when it hits theaters on February 24.