- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2016

As the boycott against the Academy Awards for its all-white Oscar nominees continues to grow, black British actor Idris Elba addressed Parliament this week, praising the United States for its diversity and calling on the U.K. to follow its lead.

“I’m not here to talk about black people,” the “Luther” star, 43, told a packed hearing room in Parliament Monday. “I’m here to talk about diversity. Diversity in the modern world is more than just skin color, it’s gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and — most important of all, as far as I’m concerned — diversity of thought.”

Mr. Elba spoke about what made him want to move to the United States as a budding actor in Britain. He said he grew tired of being cast as a “best friend” or “gang leader.”

“I knew I wasn’t going to land a lead role. I knew there wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead,” he said. “In other words, if I wanted to star in a British drama like Luther, then I’d have to go to a country like America. … If I aspired to be on a level with the Denzel Washingtons, and the Robert de Niro’s, I had to reinvent myself.I had to transform the way industry saw me. I had to climb out of the box. In other words I didn’t go to America because I couldn’t get parts. I went to America because I was running out of parts. They were all the same sort of parts.”

Mr. Elba went on to say that the reason he came to America “is because the USA has the most famous diversity policy of all: It’s called the American Dream.”

“The problem is the gap between the dream and reality. That gap is what Martin Luther King set out to fill with his dream. To champion diversity is to champion the American dream. It’s to say that if you work hard and you have great talent, you will have the same chance as anyone else to succeed,” he said. “It guarantees no more than that, but that in itself is a golden guarantee. And I want that guarantee here in Britain. I want that British dream.”

Mr. Elba called for a “Magna Carta moment” in British broadcasting.

“Let’s make things fairer. And let’s see who’s got what,” he said.

His speech comes as Spike Lee, Michael Moore and Jada Pinkett Smith revealed plans to boycott this year’s Oscars ceremony after an all-white list of nominees was announced for the second year in a row, reviving last year’s Twitter campaign #OscarsSoWhite.

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs responded with a lengthy statement saying the Academy is taking “dramatic steps” to increase diversity in its membership.

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