Taking the stage at the annual Newport Beach UK Honors event in London, in association with Variety, on Wednesday night, where she was named a Breakthrough Artist, Mbatha-Raw said the film and TV industry can be a “very discouraging business.”
“At this time, when many of our most high-profile ceremonies and very prestigious awards are potentially showing a very stark lack of inclusivity, being here and seeing…what an incredibly diverse and wonderful talented group of people we have, it encourages me that those other ceremonies are not for want of talent,” she told the room.
Mbatha-Raw, who was named one of the annual event’s 10 Brits to Watch in 2011, says the industry was a “different era” back then, when disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was in attendance at the L.A. ceremony.
“This can be a discouraging business at times and we all need these moments to remember that we’re part of a community.”
“Belle” star Mbatha-Raw most recently starred in Brenda Chapman’s “Come Away,” which bowed at Sundance last week, and will also be seen in Jessica Swale’s “Summerland” with fellow Brit Gemma Arterton.
Her comments join a chorus of criticism lodged against the BAFTAs this month for shutting out actors of color, resulting in the hashtag #BaftasSoWhite. The awards also failed to nominate a single female director. Earlier this week, Time’s Up UK launched a social media campaign with actors such as Arterton, Carey Mulligan and Himesh Patel compiling their alternative BAFTA nominees.
Elsewhere in the ceremony, “1917” producer Pippa Harris, who founded Neal Street Productions with director Sam Mendes, accepted the Best U.K. Picture prize with actors George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman.
The veteran film and TV producer revealed she has known Mendes for 40 years, and reminded the room of the film’s role in celebrating peace.
“Sam’s grandfather taught (his family) of the horrors of trench warfare, and the camaraderie of the army and he talked about the arbitrary nature of conflict and the fact that he had survived and so many others had died,” she said.
“I know Sam would want to dedicate this to his grandfather Alfred, but also to those who fought in the last century to protect the freedoms we all hold dear. At this time when there is conflict and tension around the world, we should not take that peace for granted.”
During the ceremony, Variety honored its annual group of 10 Brits to Watch, which this year includes Honor Swinton Byrne (“The Souvenir”), Dean-Charles Chapman (“1917”), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (“Angels in America”), Jodie Turner-Smith (“Queen & Slim”), Zawe Ashton (“Velvet Buzzsaw”), Sheila Atim (“Girl From the North Country”), Jessica Henwick (“Underwater”), Chance Perdomo (“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”), Laura Solon (“Back to Life”) and rapper Stormzy.
Other Breakthrough Artists include Sophie Cookson (“Greed,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service”), Erin Doherty (“The Crown,” “Les Miserables”), Ncuti Gatwa (“Sex Education”), George MacKay (“1917,” “Captain Fantastic”), and Bel Powley (“The Morning Show,” “White Boy Rick”).
Artists of Distinction included Asa Butterfield (“Sex Education”), Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”), Alice Eve (“Bombshell”) and Mbatha-Raw.
Finally, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” star Richard E. Grant and “Lord of the Rings” actor Sir Ian Holm won the Icon award.