Hollywood actor Idris Elba has opened up about his experiences with racism and profiling as an actor. Elba claimed in a recent interview that although racism is real, it is only as powerful as one allows it to be.
The “Beast of No Nation” star said he does not refer to himself as a “black actor” anymore, explaining that it comes with many limitations and hindrances.
He also spoke about why he took up acting as a profession, pointing out that he wasn’t trying to prove a point but believed he could do a great job at it from the onset.
Read on for more details.
Why Idris Elba No Longer Describes Himself As A ‘Black Actor’
During a recent interview with Esquire, Elba discussed his background, his rise in the industry, and the profiling and racism he’s faced as an actor with African roots.
The “Luther” star pointed out that he has stopped describing himself as a “black actor” because of the many embargoes it comes with, saying it “put me in a box.”
Elba, while pointing out that humans are excessively obsessed with race, explained that it is disempowering on its part as it hinders people’s growth and aspirations.
The 50-year-old actor also acknowledged the presence of racism in the system and how important it is to be discussed but added that it is only as powerful as people allow it to be.
“We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: It’s just skin,” Elba noted. “If we spent half the time not talking about the differences but the similarities between us, the entire planet would have a shift in the way we deal with each other.”
He Was A Victim Of Racism
According to Elba, one of the major topics people want to know about him is whether or not he has been a victim of racism in the past, to which he divulged that he has. He explained that when he encounters racism, he does not “go to my black friends in conversation and ask them to tell me about racism.”
The actor said, “I’m not any more black because I’m in a white area, or more black because I’m in a black area. I’m Black.”
“And that skin stays with me no matter where I go, every day, through black areas with white people in it, or white areas with black people in it. I’m the same black,” he added.
The “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” star explained that, while he may be the first to do something, he does not want his legacy to be limited to only black people but to show others that anything is possible regardless of one’s background.
Idris Elba Reveals Why He Chose An Acting Career
Elsewhere in the Esquire interview, the Golden Globe award-winning actor spoke about the reason he decided to follow a career as an actor, especially in Hollywood.
Elba said his intention from the onset wasn’t to be a frontline black man changing the narrative on representation in the industry but that he thought it was a “great profession.”
“I did it because I thought that’s a great profession and I could do a good job at it. As you get up the ladder, you get asked what it’s like to be the first Black to do this or that. Well, it’s the same as it would be if I were white. It’s the first time for me. I don’t want to be the first Black. I’m the first Idris.”
For him, coming to America to chase his dreams was a no-brainer, regardless of the success he attained before making the switch. He noted that the opportunities the country afforded, the culture, the music, etc. helped him make the decision.
“…You just felt the opportunities. You could start off with a dollar, in New York, and rise. That was real. That’s why I went. Is that the same America we’re looking at today? Perhaps not. Things have changed. But I’m looking at it through 50-year-old eyes now,” he said.
Idris Elba Discusses His Fears And Insecurities
During his conversation with Esquire, Elba shared that he has fears and insecurities just like other people. Referring to Stringer Bell, a character he played in “The Wire,” the actor pointed out that his life and the character’s life are somewhat similar.
“I identified with him a lot. He was an underdog, right? I was an underdog. And the feeling that I’m not the guy, I’m the guy next to the guy. Or, I’m not the guy yet, but I could be the guy.”
He then went on to explain that he feared that someday he might end up like Stringer Bell.
Elba said, “I always felt like, damn, this guy was going places, he was fucking smart, everyone liked him, and he got moped out. I always feel like, that could be me. I could get run over, I could get stabbed, I could get shot. I could get an illness. Nothing’s permanent.”
The “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” actor then revealed that his insecurity is imposter syndrome, explaining that it messes with his personality. He shared that imposter syndrome makes one not stand up for himself because “you feel you shouldn’t be in the room.”