Idris Elba ignited a firestorm on social media after he told Esquire UK that he has stopped calling himself a “Black actor” because it creates limitations for his career. While some accused Elba of renouncing his Blackness, others came to the “Luther” actor’s defense and agreed with him regarding Hollywood’s penchant to put labels on and stereotype Black actors. “Star Wars” alum John Boyega recently took to Twitter to tell his followers that Elba’s detractors were having the wrong takeaway from his comment.
“I think we should fixate on who is typecasting and putting actors in boxes because of this,” Boyega wrote. “Not on making weird adjustments for them. We continuously focus on what we have to do so they don’t do this or that. Very worrying. We BLACK and that’s that.”
Elba himself took to Twitter to tell off his detractors, writing, “There isn’t a soul on this earth that can question whether I consider myself a BLACK MAN or not. Being an ‘actor’ is a profession, like being an ‘architect,’ they are not defined by race. However, If YOU define your work by your race, that is your Perogative. Ah lie?”
In his original interview, Elba noted that “as humans, we are obsessed with race and that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth. Racism should be a topic for discussion, sure. Racism is very real. But from my perspective, 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,” the actor said. “We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: it’s just skin. Rant over.”
For Boyega, the big takeaway from Elba’s comment is that more people should be questioning the Hollywood typecasting that exists and puts Black actors into boxes. The actor recently starred opposite Viola Davis in Sony’s “The Woman King,” and he’s headlining Netflix’s “They Cloned Tyrone” opposite Jamie Foxx later this year.