'Good old Prince Charles' gave me my break, says Luther star Idris Elba as he warns MPs over lack of black actors on British TV
- Luther star said 'good old Prince Charles' helped him land his break in TV
- He said the Prince's Trust helped him move into the entertainment industry
- It came during talk to MPs in which he warned of lack of black actors on TV
- He claims there is less opportunity for black actors to land lead roles in UK
Luther star Idris Elba has revealed how 'good old Prince Charles' (pictured together in April 2013) helped him get his big break in the TV industry
Luther star Idris Elba has revealed how 'good old Prince Charles' helped him get his big break in the entertainment industry as he warned MPs over the lack of black actors on British TV.
The star, known for his roles in Luther and The Wire, spoke in Parliament about the importance of creative industries to the British economy and called for 'imagination' and 'diversity of thought'.
He touched upon skin colour, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and social background in a speech that lasted about 30 minutes this evening and was full of witty remarks that drew laughs from the packed committee room in Westminster, central London.
Speaking about his own path to stardom, the 43-year-old actor said the Prince of Wales helped him land his big break, after he used the Prince's Trust charity for funding.
He said: 'I finally got my first break in the creative industries from the Prince's Trust. Yes, good old Prince Charles came in there.'
He said it helped him on his way into the theatre industry, and from there moved into TV and film.
'The Prince's Trust subsidised one of my first jobs with the National Music Youth Theatre' he said.
'They gave me £1,500, because my parents didn't have enough money.
'There were hardly any black kids, because none of us could afford it.
'And although back then I didn't get to meet Prince Charles, we had one thing in common. We both fell into the same line of work as our parents did.
'It's true. My dad worked in a car factory, so before I could get any work as an actor, I ended up doing night shifts at Dagenham.
'In fact, Ford Dagenham had more opportunity and diversity than the TV industry I was trying to break into.'
Pondering over his humble upbringing, Elba highlighted the fact that he used to fit tyres and now makes films in Hollywood. 'And the difference between those two lives is opportunity,' he said.
'By the way, I got my tyre-fitting job through the Youth Training Scheme.
'Before that, for a while I went to a disabled school because I had severe asthma.'
The star, known for his roles in Luther and The Wire, spoke in Parliament this evening (pictured) about the importance of creative industries to the British economy and called for 'imagination' and 'diversity of thought'
The actor touched upon skin colour, gender, age, disability and sexual orientation in a speech that lasted about 30 minutes and was full of witty remarks that drew laughs from the packed committee room in Westminster
He added: 'I'm a product of my imagination.
'Made in Hackney. Made in Newham. Made in Dagenham. But above all, I was made in my mind: I'm seeing it, thinking it, doing it.'
Elba was speaking on the eve of a major TV industry conference on diversity.
During his speech, he warned MPs that a lack of opportunities for black actors on British TV is leaving talent 'on the scrapheap.'
The actor hit out at the situation saying he had to move to the U.S. just so he could be considered for more leading roles in shows. He landed the role of crime boss Stringer Bell in the series The Wire, as similar roles weren't available in the UK.
He added that people in the TV world often aren't the same people as those in the real world and that television screens are at risk of not properly reflecting society.
He is also said that Britain has a glass ceiling for black actors and that if he had stayed in Britain he would have been side-lined to supporting parts, rather than lead roles.
He said: 'The Britain I come from is the most successful, diverse, multicultural country on the earth.
'But here's my point: you wouldn't know it if you turned on the TV. So many of our creative decision-makers share the same background.'
Elba told MPs that in order for him to make his name, he had to travel to the States where he landed the role of drug kingpin in the crime series The Wire (pictured) as similar leading roles weren't available to him in the UK
Since appearing in The Wire, Elba has gone on to land leading roles including playing Nelson Mandela in the film 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' and in BBC crime drama Luther.
His speech came as both the entertainment industry on both sides of the Atlantic came under criticism for the lack of diversity.
Just last week, when the nominations were announced for the Academy Awards, there were no black actors or directors included on the Oscars shortlist.
This is despite Elba being tipped to earn a nomination for best actor for his performance in Beasts of No Nation.
And just last night, before the Critics' Choice Awards, Jada Pinkett Smith tweeted that 'people of color are always welcomed to give out awards . . . even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments.'
Meanwhile, fellow British black actors have also spoken out in the past about the lack of opportunity, including Homeland star David Harewood - who has been tipped to be the next James Bond.
He suggested that he wouldn't have landed the role of intelligence agency head David Estes in the political thriller Homeland if the show had been produced in the UK.
Fellow black British actors, David Harewood (left) who made his name in Homeland, and Sophie Okonedo (right) have also spoken out about a lack of opportunity for black actors in the UK compared to the U.S.
Sophie Okonedo, best known for her portrayal as Winnie Mandela in Mrs Mandela, has also previously said she that receives far more scripts from the U.S. than she does from Britain.
And it is not just black actors that have bemoaned the problem, last year Benedict Cumberbatch also said he thought black British actors had a better chance of success in Hollywood than the UK.
The 39-year-old, who last year appeared in 12 Years A Slave, told a U.S. talk show: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK, and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here (in the U.S.) than in the UK and that's something that needs to change.
'As long as we pay our taxes over here when we work, I think it's fair game. Meryl Streep can come over and play Margaret Thatcher.
'Why can't we come over and play in your sand pit?'
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