Why Idris Elba Is Encouraged About Black Characters In Cinema

There’s been a lot of buzz about writer and director Jeymes Samuel creating a Black Western and how Blacks have been left out of the Western genre for years. Samuel’s Netflix original film, The Harder They Fall, which features a star-studded cast led by Idris Elba, does something new and does it brilliantly. As one with a long and successful career in the industry, Elba has shared why he is encouraged about Black characters in cinema. 

When it comes to diversity and representation in the film industry and the media, the conversation is often focused on what’s not being done, who’s being left out, what we need more of, etc. and I think it’s equally important to stop and acknowledge the work that has been done and the positive changes that are being made. I sat down with Idris Elba in support of The Harder They Fall, and he said that he’s an optimist and has seen positive changes through his career. In Mr. Elba’s own words:

I'm an optimist, okay? So my answer might be annoyingly, for some, optimistic. I’ve definitely seen some changes. I've seen a lot of changes in fact, and not only have I seen changes from essentially the door being locked on us and the door being open, but I see the people on the outside creating their own doors, creating their own paths, going, ‘you know what, we're not knocking on the door no more’ they’re doing their own thing. And that's super encouraging. That's like, okay, someone's thinking here, we don't have to keep knocking here. I also think there's a lot to go, you know, this cannot be the first Western that shows historically Black characters for the first time, but it turns out it is the first Western that's done that. And we have to get past that cycle. So I am encouraged. There is movement in the right direction.

So Idris Elba acknowledges both sides of the coin, that there have been positive changes and that there is more change to be done, but overall he is encouraged and chooses to focus on that, which is encouraging in itself. He mentions above people creating their own doors and paths, and Jeymes Samuel is a prime example of that in the way that he creates things. Featuring historically Black characters in the Western genre provides a nuance with cultural elements that elevate the story.

The Harder They Fall tells the story of outlaw Nat Love (played by Jonathan Majors) who discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck (played by Idris Elba) is being released from prison. Nat rounds up his gang including his former love Stagecoach Mary (played by Zazie Beetz), hot-tempered Bill Pickett (played by Edi Gathegi), and fast drawing Jim Beckwourth (played by R.J. Cyler) to track Rufus down and seek revenge. Rufus Buck has his own fearsome crew that includes “Treacherous” Trudy Smith (played by Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (played by LaKeith Stanfield). The film is now playing in theaters and streams exclusively on Netflix November 3.

Samantha LaBat

Obsessed with Hamilton and most things Disney. Gets too attached to TV show characters. Loves a good thriller, but will only tolerate so much blood.