Not an easy subject. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is under fire after nominating solely white actors for the second year in a row. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee have already called for a boycott of the acclaimed awards show, and now actors Idris Elba and David Oyelowo are lending their voices to the controversy.
Luther star Elba, 43, spoke with U.K. Parliament on Monday, January 18, about the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry.
“We need to count up what everybody has, see the lay of the land, see who has which careers in TV, who makes TV, who’s allowed on TV,” he said, addressing the British leaders. “You have to ask the question, ‘Are black people always playing petty criminals? Are women always the love interest or always talking about men? Are gay people always stereotyped? Are disabled people ever seen at all?’”
Elba, who was snubbed by the Academy this year for his critically acclaimed role as an African warlord in Beasts of No Nation, also acknowledged that the diversity problem lies outside of America, in his home country of England.
“The reason I went to America is because the USA has the most famous diversity policy of all, and it’s called the American dream,” he told Parliament. “The problem is the gap between the dream and the reality … to champion diversity is to champion the American dream. That’s the guarantee I want here in Britain. Where’s the British dream?”
Fellow Brit Oyelowo, who was snubbed by the Oscars last year for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, also spoke out against this year’s all-white list of nominees at the King Legacy Awards on Monday night in Los Angeles.
“A year ago, I did a film called Selma, and after the Academy Awards, [Academy president] Cheryl [Boone Isaacs] invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then,” he told reporters. “We had a deep and meaningful [discussion]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable.”
Boone Isaacs released a statement after this year’s nominations, noting the lack of actors and actress of color in recent years.
“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees,” Boone Isaacs shared in her statement to Us Weekly. “While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”
Oyelowo, 39, went on to note that the actions of the Academy, the majority of whose members are white, is not Boone Isaacs’ fault.
“This institution doesn’t reflect its president,” he recently told the BBC. “I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me. It doesn’t reflect this nation.”