Idris Elba to warn MPs over startling lack of diversity on British TV

Idris Elba OBE, from Hackney. Credit: Press Association.

Hackney actor Idris Elba will warn MPs of the dire consequences of the startling lack of diversity visible across British television.

In a speech later today the 43-year-old star of Luther, who made his name in the US hit crime series The Wire, will say the lack of opportunity for black actors in the UK is causing talented performers to be thrown on the scrapheap.

He is due to deliver his speech at a meeting organised by Channel 4, which will be attended by more than 100 MPs and senior television executives, and will describe his own experience of having to move to the US to get starring roles - and break free of being the "sidekick" or "best friend".

The criticism follows similar accusations from other black UK actors who have moved to the states to get major roles.

Former Homeland star David Harewood suggested a few years ago he would not have been handed the “authoritative” role of head of intelligence David Estes in the hit US series if the show had been produced in the UK.

In 2014, Elba and Sir Lenny Henry were among signatories on a letter to broadcasters calling for money to be ringfenced for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) programmes.

The comments come after this year's nominees for Academy Awards failed to include any black or minority ethnic talent in the lead or supporting actor and actress categories.

Speaking at the London Critics' Circle Film Awards, five-time Oscar nominee Sir Kenneth Branagh said he believed the film industry "had to do something" about the lack of recognition for black or ethnic minority actors.